War Clouds

Introduction: The following is an excerpt from The Story of Yelm , 1848-1948. It describes the violence that occurred in the counties surrounding Yelm in 1855.

War Clouds Over Yelm Prairie

War clouds began to gather. Indians forgot the food they had enjoyed at the white man’s table. White men forgot that in the earlier days Indians had frequently kept them from starving. By the last of September 1855, friendly Indians around Yelm Prairie, and other places as well, began warning the settlers that trouble was coming, and the surly demeanor of the chiefs was in itself a warning. McLean Chambers, Frank Goodwin, and Mr. Perkins began taking turns standing guard nightly at the Longmire cabin.

On Oct. 11, Longmire took his family to Olympia for safety. He rented a house, put the boys, Elcaine and David in school and returned to the prairie to work on a drainage ditch on what is now the Crossland place. John Mollhigh, a friendly Indian, was helping. One day while at work, Longmire sent Mollhigh to the cabin to start the fire, saying he would follow shortly and make coffee. The Indian started but immediately dropped back into the ditch, saying, “The Nisquallies are at your cabin.”

Longmire proposed to go and talk to them, but Mollhigh warned, “They are in war paint. They will not listen.”

Later he was forced to join the hostiles, but always insisted he had saved the life of his employer. This claim Longmire recognized by giving Mollhigh a horse every fall, in time for the great gambling games his tribe held on Nisqually Plains (now Ft. Lewis).

When the squaws [women] brought news of the White River massacre, McLean Chambers, Braille, the Hughes family, and apparently all other white people fled to safety. Mr. Longmire was the last to leave. All the horses had been stolen and he stopped for help at the George Edwards place. Edwards’ wife being a Nisqually, they had not fled. However, that night they took the precaution of hiding in the barn. The next morning Mr. Longmire rode on into Olympia on a horse borrowed from the Hudson’s Bay Co.

In Olympia, a company of militia was formed under the captaincy of Charles Eaton. About 67 offered to join the new company, but refused to take the oath of the American Army, so the company was formed with only twenty members. It was known as the Puget Sound Rangers. When the company ranged across Yelm Prairie looking for Indians, they found Longmire’s cabin burned. The oxen which he had driven across the plains had been killed and the meat cut from the carcasses.

The Rangers decided the hostiles were still in the near vicinity. They found a young Indian boy looking for horses on the White claim, and captured him. They tried to force him to tell him where the warriors were. The third time they placed a noose about his neck and threatened to hang him, he agreed to tell, on condition that they would spare his parents. The soldiers promised. The boy’s father turned out to be Old Chucknose, long a friend of the whites, who was later imprisoned. While in prison, he killed himself and was buried across the present road from the Mosman place, the last Indian to be interred in that plot. Old settlers will recall seeing the pile of bright tin buckets placed on his grave, all carefully punctured to destroy their usefulness in this world and so to deter thieves.

The Indians were routed from their camp along the Nisqually by the Rangers and fled to join the larger force. Some, from east of the mountain, under Qualchain, went home in disgust after the defeat at Connell’s Prairie, for, said the horse Indian, a chief rode into battle, he did not go on foot.

Ft. Stevens was started Feb. 19, 1856, soon after the battle of Seattle, which was in January, and before the battles of Connell’s Prairie and the attack on The Dalles, in March. On April 3, Gov. Stevens declared martial law. A short time later, several bands of Indians surrendered and the citizens of Yelm Prairie, tired of their long sojourn away, came back to their claims. Those who had cabins standing were lucky. McLean Chambers found his cabin intact and sold it to the Longmires.

But the roving bands were still attacking. Settlers were forced to flee to the fort or to the blockhouses. Sometimes the women and children were left at the shelters while the men and the boys went home to till the fields, put in the crops, tend the stock, and to bring back game and staples from the deserted homes. On one of these scares while the family

was forted up, on June 6, 1856, Melissa Longmire (Mrs. L. N. Rice), was


Queimuth Surrenders

The life of the settlers was thus unsettled until early summer, when Queimuth, chief of the Nisquallies, sent word by Ozah, a Frenchman living near where the Northern Pacific Railroad crosses the river, that he wished to surrender to Longmire.

"Bring him in at night." Said Mr. Longmire. "If he is seen he will be killed, even though he is a prisoner of war."

So after dark, Mr. Longmire, Ozah, Van Ogle of Puyallup, and Mr. Braille, with squaw Betsy Edgar [Betsy Edgar was the wife of John Edgar an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company. She was a Nisqually Indian woman] as guide, escorted Quiemuth to the governor’s office in Olympia. They arrived wet and muddy about three a.m. The governor offered them food, and the party dispersed, with the exception of Mr. Longmire and his prisoner, who prepared to spend the remainder of the night before the fire in the office.

Both were tired and went to sleep almost immediately. Before daylight, however, Mr. Longmire was awakened by the sound of a shot, the confusion of people running, and a groan. He found Quiemuth dying, not only shot, but stabbed in the heart. Longmire and the governor were both horrified and chagrined at the breach of faith.

Joe Buntin was known to have made threats against Quiemuth, and he was arrested, but at the trial he was acquitted. The death of Quiemuth seemed to put an end to the depredations. Soon the prairie was safe for anyone..

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