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"The Great Yo-Semite Valley,” Hutchings’ California Magazine, Oct. 1859, by James M. Hutchings


HUTCHINGS’
CALIFORNIA MAGAZINE


Vol. IV.     OCTOBER, 1859.     No. 4.


THE GREAT YO-SEMITE VALLEY.

CHAPTER I.
How it Came to he Discovered.

“I see you stand like grayhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s a foot;
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge,
Cry “—Ho! for the Yo-Semite!

The early California resident will remember that during the spring and summer of 1850, much dissatisfaction existed among the white settlers and miners on the Merced, San Joaquin, Chowchilla, and Frezno rivers and their tributaries, on account of the frequent robberies committed upon them by the Chook-chan-cie,

THE YO-SEM-I-TE FALL. TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FEET IN HEIGHT. From a Photograph by C. L. Weed.
THE YO-SEM-I-TE FALL. TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FEET IN HEIGHT.
[From a Photograph by C. L. Weed.]
Po-to-en-cie, Noot-cho, Po-ho-ne-chee, Ho-na-chee, Chow-chilla and other Indian tribes on the head waters of those streams. The frequent repetition of their predatory forays having been attended with complete success, without any attempted punishment on the part of the whites, the Indians began seriously to contemplate the practicability of driving out every white intruder upon their hunting and fishing grounds.

At this time, James D. Savage had two stores, or trading posts, nearly in the centre of the affected tribes; the one on Little Mariposa creek, about twenty miles south of the town of Mariposa, and near the old stone fort; and the other on Frezno river, about two miles above where John Hunt’s store now is. Around these stores those Indians who were the most friendly, used to congregate; and from whom, and his two Indian wives, Eekino and Homut, Savage ascertained the state of thought and of feeling among them.

In order to avert such a calamity, and without even hinting at his motive, he invited an Indian chief, who possessed much influence with the Chow-chillas and Chook-chances, named Jose Jerez [Editor’s note: “Josť Juarez"], to accompany him and his two squaws to San Francisco; hoping thereby to impress him with the wonders, numbers, and power of the whites, and through him, the various tribes that were malcontented. To this Jerez gladly assented, and they arrived in San Francisco in time to witness the first celebration of the admission of California into the Union, on the 29th of October, 1850,* [*The news of the admission, by Congress, of California into the Union, on the 9th of Sept. 1850, was brought by the mail steamer “Oregon,” which arrived in the Bay of San Francisco on the 18th of Oct. 1850, when preparations were immediately commenced for a general jubilee throughout the State on the 29th of that month.] when they put up at the Revere House, then standing on Montgomery street.

During their stay in San Francisco, and while Savage was purchasing goods for his stores in the mountains, Jose Jerez, the Indian chief, became intoxicated, and returned to the hotel about the same time as Savage, in a state of boisterous and quarrelsome excitement. In order to prevent his making a disturbance, Savage shut him up in his room, and there endeavored to soothe him, and restrain his violence by kindly words; but this he resented, and became not only troublesome, but very insulting; when, after patiently bearing it as long as he possibly could, at a time of great provocation, unhappily, was tempted to strike Jerez, and followed it up with a severe scolding. This very much exasperated the Indian, and he indulged in numerous muttered threats of what he would do when he went back among his own people. But, when sober, he concealed his angry resentment, and, Indian-like, sullenly awaited his opportunity for revenge. Simple, and apparently small, as was this circumstance, like many others equally insignificant, it led to very unfortunate results; for, no sooner had he returned to his own people, than he summoned a council of the chief men of all the surrounding tribes; and, from his influence and representations mainly, steps were then and there agreed upon to drive out or kill all the whites, and appropriate all the horses, mules, oxen, and provisions they could find.† [† These facts were” communicated to us by Mr. J. M. Cunningham, (now in the Yo-Semite valley,) who was then engaged as clerk for Savage, and was present during the altercation between him and the Indian.]

Accordingly, early one morning in the ensuing month of November, the Indians entered Savage’s store on the Frezno. in their usual manner, as though on a trading expedition, when an immediate and apparently preconcerted plan of attack was made with hatchets, crow-bars, and arrows; first upon Mr. Greeley, who had charge of the store, and then upon three other white men named Canada, Stiffner,

BOATS LEAVING THE WHARF—THE ANTELOPE FOR SACRAMENTO, AND THE BRAGDON FOR STOCKTON.
BOATS LEAVING THE WHARF—THE ANTELOPE FOR SACRAMENTO, AND THE BRAGDON
FOR STOCKTON.
and Brown, who were present. This was made so unexpectedly as to exclude time or opportunity for defence, and all were killed except Brown, whose life was saved by an Indian named “Polonio,” (thus christened by the whites,) jumping between him and the attacking party, at the risk of his own personal safety, thus affording Brown a chance of escape, and which he made the best of by running all the way to Quartzburg, at the hight of his speed.

Simultaneously with this attack on the Frezno, Savage’s other store and residence on the Mariposa was attacked, during his absence, by another band, and his Indian wives carried off. Similar onslaughts having been made at different points on the Merced, San Joaquin, Frezno, and Chow-chilla rivers, Savage concluded that a general Indian war was about opening, and immediately commenced raising a volunteer battalion; at the same time a requisition for men, arms, ammunition, and general stores, was made upon the Governor of the State (Gen. John McDougal,) which was promptly responded to by him, and hostilities were at once begun.

Without further entering into the details, incidents, and mishaps of this campaign—as a full account of this Indian war will make a very interesting and instructive subject of itself, for future consideration—we have thought it necessary to relate the above facts as they occurred, inasmuch as out of them originated the Mariposa Indian war, and the discovery of the great Yo-Semite valley. Therefore, with these introductory explanations, and the reader’s consent, we will at once proceed upon our tour to that wonderful, mountain-bound valley of waterfalls.


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