California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Trinity Rangers

Official or Other Titles:
Trinity Rangers, 2nd Brigade, 6th Division, California Militia
Location: Pardee's Ranch, Redwood Creek, Humboldt County
Mustered in: October 14, 1858
Mustered Out: March 16, 1859

Commanding Officers
J. G. Messic, Captain; Date of Rank: October 14; 1858

Official History

In September 1858, Governor J. B. Weller informed Adjutant-General W. C. Kibbe that a large number of the citizens of Trinity and Humboldt counties had reported to him that a band of Indians of the Redwood Tribe had recently killed several persons, and committed many outrages upon the road from Weaverville to Humboldt Bay. It was said that, communication between these points was almost suspended, and that traveling had become exceedingly dangerous. Under those circumstances the Governor was asked for a military force to, open the route, and give protection and security to those who desired to travel over it.

Unwilling as the Governor was to involve.the State in the expense of a campaign against the Indians unless absolutely necessary, he requested General Kibbe to proceed at once to Weaverville and make a detailed report of the existing conditions in that region. The General was to ascertain the number of Indians in the vicinity, and the character of the outrages that were committed by the hostiles. If the Indians still prevented travel on the road, and maintained a hostile attitude toward the people, the General was to organize a company of volunteer militia to suppress them. It was not the Governor's intention to call out a military force to chastise the Indians for past outrages, but if such acts were continued the hostiles were to be subdued, as it was necessary that communication between these important towns remain open, and protection given the citizens at all hazards. (1)

General Kibbe, acting on the Governor's instructions, went to Weaverville, Trinity County, to ascertain the facts relative to the conditions existing in that region of the country between Humboldt Bay and Weaverville, and to report on the depredations committed by the Indians. The General, failing to find what he deemed to be reliable information in that vicinity, proceeded in company with an old and experienced mountaineer, J.G. Messic, to the country inhabited by the hostile tribes of Indians, in order to satisfy himself fully as to the number of savages, and if possible to learn their future designs. These hostiles were from the Mad River and Redwood Creek Indian Tribes. (2)

He found that the number of warriors belonging to these tribes were estimated at from 250 to 300 besides fifty braves from the Hoopa tribe. The hostile tribe was generally well armed with rifles, and there was proof that at one time at least forty shots were fired by a party of them from as many guns, killing two white men and wounding two others. The warfare they were waging did not seem to be entirely a predatory one. The Indians cared little for plunder, and were seeking to destroy men and animals, but would shoot a man or an Indian for his gun, being anxious to obtain arms. They also sent the friendly Indians with gold dust to the camps to purchase guns and ammunition for them, and frequently offered $150 for a rifle worth only $10. General Kibbe under these circumstances was forced to the conclusion that it was the duty of the State Government to afford the frontier citizens the protection which justice and humanity demanded, and to enter at once upon this duty and if necessary to exterminate these savages.(3)

On October 14, 1858, at Pardee's Ranch, Redwood Creek, Humboldt County, General Kibbe's company of volunteer militia was organized, and sworn into service for the period of three months under the command of Captain Messic, and was designated as the Trinity Rangers. This company was composed of eighty mountaineers who were well acquainted with the mode of Indian warfare.

The ability of the Trinity Rangers was soon apparent. On November 1, 1858, they encountered the Indians a short distance from Humboldt County, killed four of their number and captured seven or eight prisoners. One of the Rangers was killed in the encounter, (4) Captain Messic again surprised a camp of hostile Indians near the new Trinity trail on November eighth. The Indians took to the brush as soon as attacked and made a running fight. Four Indian warriors were killed and only one of the members of the Ranger party was injured. (5) About a week later on November fourteenth, the Captain with about one-half of his command came upon a band of Indians at the head of Yager Creek, and in the encounter five or six warriors were killed and about eight women and children taken prisoners. A man named Allan, under Captain Messic, was wounded during the engagement by the accidental discharge of a companion's gun. The prisoners were sent to the Klamath Reservation. (6)

Soon after this action was taken the Indian depredations in Humboldt County, ceased and the Trinity Rangers, assured their mission was completed, on March 16, 1859, were mustered out of the service of the State. An Act was passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor, on April 16, 1859, for payment of expenses incurred in the suppression of the Indian hostilities in that section of the State. This Act illustrates the manner in which the State appropriated money for payment to various districts, for their efforts in.endeavoring to subdue the hostiles and maintain peaceful relation with the Indians. Quote: (7)



The Act

Section 1. The sum of fifty-two thousand five hundred and twenty-seven dollars and eighty-six cents ($52,527.86) is hereby appropriated, out any money in the General Fund not otherwise appropriated, for the payment of the indebtedness incurred by the expedition against the Indians in the Counties of Humboldt and Klamath during the year A.D. eighteen hundred and fifty-eight and eighteen hundred and fifty-nine.

Section 2. The following schedule of pay is hereby established, for the officers and men engaged in expedition, viz.:

For pay and allowances of Captain, one hundred dollars per month.

For Surgeon, one hundred dollars per month.

For First-Lieutenant, seventy-five dollars per month.

For Second-Lieutenant, Sixty-five dollars per month.

For Third-Lieutenant, Sixty dollars per month.

Orderly Sergeant, sixty dollars per month.

Three Duty Sergeants, fifty-five dollars. per month.

Four Corporals, fifty-two dollars and fifty cents per month.

Privates, fifty dollars per month.

Section 3. The Board of Military Auditors are hereby required to audit, and allow, all legal claims, for services rendered, supplies furnished, and expenses incurred, in the late Indian War, in Humboldt and Klamath Counties; and the Controller shall draw his warrant on the Treasurer, for such amounts as shall be audited under the provisions of this Act.

Section 4. This Act shall be exempt from the provisions of an Act entitled "An Act to create a Board of Examiners, to define their powers and duties, and to impose certain duties upon the Controller and Treasurer" approved April twenty-first, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight.

On disbanding the company, Captain Messic read them a letter from General Kibbe:

"In mustering your company out of service, the Commander-in-Chief and myself, give the volunteers our cordial thanks for the gallant manner in which they have conducted this very successful campaign, and we sincerely hope and believe that the people throughout the State will appreciate the valuable service rendered by the Trinity Rangers." (8)


Certificate of honorable discharge of Private Moses Davis from the Trinity Rangers (Bancroft Library)


(1) Letter from Governor J. B. Weller to General W. C. Kibbe, September 5, 1858, State Archives
(2) Letter from General W. C. Kibbe to Governor J. B. Weller, State Archives.
(3) Letter from General Kibbe to Governor Weller State Archives.
(4) San Francisco Daily Herald, November 1, 1858, page 3, column 4.
(5) San Francisco Daily Herald, November 10, 1858, page 2, column 5
(6) San Francisco Daily Herald, November 24, 1858, page 3, column 3.
(7) Act for Payment of Expenses incurred in the Suppression of Indian Hostilities, April 16, 1859; Original State Archives
(8) San Francisco Daily Herald, May 16, 1859, page 3, column 5.
This history was compiled in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the California NAtional Guard and the California State Library.
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Updated 8 February 2016