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In the Heart of the Sierras by James M. Hutchings (1888)



Ill habits gather by unseen degrees.
As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.
Dryden’s Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk. XV
Guilt’s a terrible thing.
Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair.
Angels for the good man’s sin
Weep to record, and blush to give it in.
Campbell’s Pleasures of Hope.

Chafing under the restraint attending his residence at the reservation, in addition to many tribal squabbles, and the ostensible lack of dignity showed him by his fellow-captives, Ten-ie-ya implored permission to return to his home in the mountains, promising faithfully to conform to every requirement asked of him by the Commissioners. This permission was eventually conceded, under certain conditions, and the old chief, with his family, was once more allowed to return to the Yo Semite. Other members of his tribe, shortly after Ten-ie-ya’s departure, silently stole away from the reservation and joined him; “but as no complaints were made by their chiefs, it was understood that they were glad to get lid of them; therefore no effort was made to bring them back.”

After the severe lessons already taught these renegades, it was reasonable to suppose that they would have accepted the situation, and kept upon their best behavior, but with the return of winter came also the Indians, and with them their old bad habits. Numerous animals being missed from their pasture-grounds, it was presumed that the Yo Semites had stolen them; “but as some of them were found in the possession of Mexicans, who were promptly executed for the theft, no charge was preferred against the Yo Semites.”

Initial Letter O—A Mining Scene. N or about May 28th, 1852,* [* Elliott’s “History of Fresno County."] a party of five prospectors for gold, consisting of Messrs. Tudor, Grover, Sherman—or Sherbon—Babcock, and Rose, left Coarse Gold Gulch, Fresno County (now used as one of the stage routes between Madera and Wawona), for the Yo Semite Valley. They had scarcely entered it before they were attacked by Indians, that lay in ambush among the rocks, at the foot of the old Indian trail. Rose and Sherman—or Sherbon, as Dr. Bunnell gives it—were instantly killed. Tudor was seriously wounded; but he and the others secreted themselves among the rocks, and fought the Indians, until darkness enabled them to make good their escape.

The Attack.

The arrival of the survivors in Mariposa with the exciting news of these murders, and the renewal of Indian hostilities, very naturally stirred up the old defiant hate, and the Indian Commissioners were blamed for permitting Ten-ie-ya’s return. It was, moreover, feared that this would be a signal for the wholesale desertion of Indians from the reservation. Instead of this, however, those living on the outside fled within for protection, fearing that the guilt of others would be visited upon their own heads.


The officer in command at Fort Miller, on the San Joaquin River, was informed, by special courier, of these murders; when a detachment of regular soldiers, under Lieutenant Moore, U.S.A., was immediately sent out against the enemy, accompanied by scouts and guides that had formed portions of the first and second expeditions, and a few friends of the murdered men. They surprised and captured five of the Indians; the others, led by Ten-ie-ya, fled and escaped. The naked bodies of the murdered men were found, and buried, near the Pohono, or Bridal Veil Fan. Satisfied of the proof being conclusive that the Indians caught were the blood-stained murderers of the whites, the clothing of the murdered men being found upon their persons, Lieutenant Moore ordered them to be shot upon the spot.

These effectually disposed of, Moore and his forces, after searching for the remaining Yo Semites in their hiding-places about the valley, pursued them into, and even across the mountains to, the Mono country; but as the Indians had every advantage, both in the start, and in their knowledge of the ways and by-ways of escape, they were never overtaken, and the command reluctantly returned to Fort Miller, without a single prisoner as a trophy.


Nothing more was heard of the Yo Semites, after their successful flight to, and hiding among, the Monos, with whom they found shelter and protection, until the early summer of 1853, when, being dissatisfied with their dependent position, and more so with the locality assigned them, they returned once more to the Yo Semite Valley. Fearing the just retaliation of the whites, however, they made their abiding places among the talus, whence they could notice every movement of the enemy, without themselves being seen. There are several of these places of shelter still to be found among the rocks near Indian Cañon, and elsewhere.

Life, in their old home, unspiced with mischief, became unbearably monotonous to them after the habit had been acquired, and learning through their runners that the Monos had stolen a large band of fine horses from the vicinity of Los Angeles, the Yo Semites became jealously uneasy, and planned a foraging excursion, to obtain some of this living plunder for their own use; indulging the impression that it would be safer, under present circumstances, to steal from the Monos than from the whites. The raid was accordingly executed with masterly cunning, and their arrival with the stolen horses successfully accomplished. By this time they had mustered sufficient courage to form an encampment down in the valley, near the mouth of Indian Cañon, where, according to Dr. Bunnell, who is probably the best informed of any man living, on such topics:—

After a few days’ delay, and thinking themselves secure, they killed one or more of the horses, and were in the enjoyment of a grand feast in honor of their return, when the Monos pounced down upon them. Their gluttony seemed to have rendered them oblivious to all danger to themselves, and of the ingratitude by which the feast had been supplied. Like sloths, they appear to have been asleep after having surfeited their appetites. They were surprised in their wigwams by the wronged and vengeful Monos, and before they could rally for the fight, the treacherous old chief was struck down by the hand of a powerful young Mono chief.


Ten-ie-ya had been the principal object of attack at the commencement of the assault, but he had held the others at bay until discovered by the young chief, who, having exhausted his supply of arrows, seized a fragment of rock and hurled it with such force as to crush the skull of “the old Grizzly.” As Ten-ie-ya fell, other stones were cast upon him by the attacking party, after Pai-ute custom, until he was literally stoned to death. All but eight of Ten-ie-ya’s young braves were killed; these escaped down the valley, and through the cañon below. The old men and women who survived the first assault were permitted to escape from the valley. The young women and children were made captives, and taken across the mountains to be held as slaves or drudges to their captors.

Thus substantially ended the once famous tribe of the Yo Semites. The few that escaped eventually found their way to “Hunt’s Store” on the Fresno. It was from these that we obtained our Indian guides in 1855, as related in the ensuing chapter.


Before closing this recital, it may not be deemed irrelevant to state that Major Savage, the chosen officer of command for the Mariposa Battalion, fearing that the best interests of the Indians were being jeoparded by the course of speculative and unscrupulous men, denounced some of the leaders in unmeasured terms. This brought on a personal altercation, and re-encounter, between Savage and a man named Harvey, which ended in the death of Savage, August, 1852.

The Indian tribes represented in the Peace Treaty were as follows: The Howechais, Chookchancies, Chowchillas, Pohonoches, Nootchoos, Pitcaches, Capoos, Toomanehs, Tallinchees, Poskesas, Wachahets, Itaches, Choenemnes, Chokimenas, Notohotos, and Narmelches—16.* [* Elliott’s “History of Fresno County.”]

As Dr. Bunnell most graphically states: “It was a well known fact that these people [the Indians] preferred horse-flesh and their acorn jelly to the rations of beef that were supposed to have been issued by the Government;” and, moreover, as an ultimate sequence, the reservation on the Fresno gradually be came unpopular on this account, but mainly, from bad management; was afterwards abolished by the Government; and, finally, its lands and buildings were gobbled up by sharp-sighted, if not unprincipled men who, like many others of that class, became rich out of the acquisition.

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