Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: 12. Bunnell’s ExperiencesContentsPrevious: 10. Amusements

The Call of Gold (1936) by Newell D. Chamberlain


After the termination of the Indian war and the removal of the Indians to reservations in what is now Fresno County, Major Savage established two trading posts in the vicinity of the reservations and also engaged in farming on an extensive scale.

In the fall of 1851, he paid a visit to Colonel Fremont in Bear Valley. The Colonel had been in Washington at the time of the Indian war, so was very much interested in learning the details of the campaign and especially the routing of the Yosemite tribe.

“Major,” he said, “you handled the situation excellently. My experience has taught me that when dealing with Indians, quick action is necessary and any atrocities committed by them must be speedily avenged. Tell me, did Ten-ie-ya stay on the reservation?”

“No, Colonel, he and his tribe escaped on our first attempt to take them to the reservation. So, in May, I sent Captain Boling and his men again into the Yosemite, and this time, the old chief and his followers were delivered to the reservation. Ten-ie-ya, however, refused to adapt himself to the new surroundings, even refused to eat and begged to be allowed to return, so he and his family were allowed to return to the mountains. There has been no Indian depredations since.”

It was evident that a deep friendship existed between the two men, and many past experiences in which both had participated were talked about. During the visit, Moffat, the U. S. Assayer, who was a mutual friend of both, dropped in, for whose benefit, the Major requested the Colonel to narrate their experiences with Indians on the Oregon trip in May, 1845. [Editor’s note: this copy of the book has 1845 circled and “1846” written in pencil. Fremont was in Nevada and Utah in 1845. —dea].

“All right, my friends, I cannot refuse my old comrade, so I will, at least give you some of the high-lights. Shortly after my arrival in California on my third expedition, I decided to make a trip into Oregon territory for further exploration. We had reached the north end of Klamath Lake and had just pitched camp, when we were surprised by the sudden appearance of two former members of my force. They informed me they were a part of a guard of six men escorting Lieutenant Gillespie, U. S. N., who was bringing important news to me from the Secretary of Navy; that they had been over five months on the road since leaving Washington; that a few days previous, the Indians had become so threatening, it had been decided that four men should stay with the Lieutenant, fortifying themselves as best they could with natural barriers and that the two, who were now before me, should endeavor to locate me and bring assistance; they had now been gone two days and had escaped the Indians only by the swiftness of their horses.

“I knew that quick and decisive action would be necesary, so with six picked men, four of them Delaware Indians, early the next morning, I started for Gillespie’s camp. We travelled sixty miles without a halt, and then, just as darkness approached, we came upon the Lieutenant and his four men. In addition to personal mail for me and credentials proving Gillespie’s authority, he informed me that the Government desired me to return to California, to watch and counteract any foreign schemes on that territory and do everything possible to promote the good will of the inhabitants there toward the United States.

“That night, the Indians attacked our camp, killing three of my men and losing one of their chiefs. As quickly as possible, we returned to the camp by the Lake, when I informed all the men that for their own safety, the death of our comrades should be avenged. This we did on the next day by attacking and destroying the Indian’s principal village, killing a number of their warriors and routing the rest of them.

“Our entire party then started southward. I was riding a noble, iron-gray horse, named Sacramento, a gift to me from Captain Sutter. He was a high-spirited animal but sure-footed and a remarkable leaper, or I might not be here today. For on the second day, as I was riding at full speed abreast of Kit Carson and two others, I was crowded directly on to the top of a large fallen tree. Carson shouted ‘look out’, but Sacramento bounded clear over the entire stump, amid the cheers of the men.

“Very shortly, a party of Indians appeared and one of them, with bow fully drawn, held a deadly aim at Carson, who was in imminent danger for failure to fully cock his gun. Directing my horse toward the Indian and out of range of my men, I shot the redskin when my horse was almost upon him. That noble horse afterwards escaped with a drove of wild horses and probably became their leader. I will always feel that without his assistance, both I and Carson would have been killed on that trip.”

Major Savage then remarked: “Those were indeed thrilling days but were necessary, Colonel, and I feel the same about my campaign against the Indians here. From now on, I hope the Indians have learned the necessity of living in peace with the whites.”

The Major then informed Colonel Fremont that the Indian Commissioners were advertising for bids on large quantities of beef and advised him to put in a bid. His bid proved to be the lowest and he furnished several thousand head of cattle, but it took many years to obtain payment from the Government.

Major Savage prospered in his business ventures. He championed the cause of the Indians against encroachments of squatters and against abuses by certain whites, who were jealous of the Indian’s loyalty to him. As a result, he incurred the enmity of one of the leading politicians, by whom, after a heated quarrel, on August 16, 1852, he was killed.

Major James D. Savage had played a brief but very important part in the making of history. His daring courage, his great control and understanding of the Indians, were major factors in bringing the Indian war to a quick end, thus saving the lives of many of the whites and enabling quicker progress to be made by civilization’s advance.

Next: 12. Bunnell’s ExperiencesContentsPrevious: 10. Amusements

Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management