Tulare County (Tulare taken from the Mexican tular meaning tule swamp) was suffering great depredations at the hand of hostile Indians. The Four Creek tribe of Indians believed they were being treated unfairly by the whites and decided to take matters in their own hands. They attacked some of the settlers and ran off their stock. The Honorable John Cutle, County Judge of Tulare County, appointed S. G. George on March 18, 1856, to proceed with the enrolling of members for an independent company of mounted riflemen. The meeting for the organization was to be held at the Court House in Visalia between the hours of ten and three o'clock on Saturday, the twenty-ninth day of March.
There had been a dispute between the two settlements of Woodville and Visalia over the county seat, and finally an election was held which determined Visalia as the victor. This first Court House was a log cabin surrounded by a fence and the jail, which was in this enclosure, consisted of four tree stumps which had iron rings stapled into the stumps to which culprits were chained., The county officials at the time carried records and public documents in their hats and pockets because of the ill-feeling among many of the residents.(1) Dr. S. G. George acted as emissary for the district to meet Governor Johnson who granted him permission to recruit two additional companies of mounted riflemen. The Governor also gave his permission for the filling of a requisition for eighty stand of arms and 5,000 rounds of ammunition.(2) The meeting held in the Court House was called to order by Dr. George who presented the roll bearing fifty-six names. The members then proceeded to the election of fifteen officers with Foster Demaster elected as Captain and John T. Pemberton, First Lieutenant. At this election W. G. Poindexter was elected as the Fourth Corporal. Although there was no record to show the fact, there must have been another election as Mr. Morris mentioned in his letters Captain Poindexter being in command of the volunteers. After the election it was unanimously resolved that the company adopt the name of Tulare Mounted Riflemen. The company adjourned to meet at the same place in two weeks.
With the completion of the organization of the company, the unit immediately went into active service against the Indians in what became known as the Tule River War. Captain Demaster, commanded the sixty men of the Tulare Mounted Riflemen who took after the Indians, and following a strenuous engagement was compelled to withdraw his troop into camp until reinforcements arrived, owing to the superiority of the Indians in numbers (there being about 500 of them). A party of nine men under John W. Williams, afterwards City Marshal of Visalia, also aided in subduing the Indians and finally Mr. Williams left the party to go back for reinforcements he was joined on the way by William Lynn. A force of approximately 140 men under W. G. Poindexter,(3) Sheriff of Tulare County joined to make the second advance on the hostiles.The Indians had built themselves a breastwork that would have done credit to the best of military engineers, and with their over-powering numbers, the whites were at a disadvantage against the shower of arrows and few guns of the hostiles. Mr. Lynn invented a padded armor which would be impervious to the arrows, and about a dozen of the most aggressive young men were chosen to don the armor which became known as the "petticoat" or "cotton bag parade". However, after several days of maneuvering no opportunity arose to try out the efficacy of the armor.(4)
The Indians usually came off "second
best" after these skirmishes, but not, however, until they
had forced several ranchers in the Tule River country to abandon
their homes and fall back on Visalia and Woodville,the two,largest
settlements in that section of the country. In this campaign the
volunteer forces of the State were given help from the troops
stationed at Fort Miller. In one of
these engagements under the command of Lieutenant Livingston
of the United States Army, the troops were forced to retreat and
a messenger was sent to the fort with a request that a cannon
sent to the front. A field piece had already been started on the
way, however, besides an additional squad of twenty-five men.
What was believed to have been the deciding engagement of the
uprising was fought near Four Creeks on May 21, 1856, when Captain
Demaster, commanding the Tulare Mounted Riflemen and some of the
Federal troops effected the complete rout of the Indians and totally
destroyed their supplies. During the engagement several Indians
were killed and a large number wounded. Three white men, two of
them volunteers and one a member of the Federal troops, were
The frontiersmen of this district had suffered severely at the hands of the Indians. Following is a list of property destroyed by the Indians, and the probable value of the same:
7 Dwelling houses average value
1 Saw mill and 100 feet of lumber
75 to 100 Head of cattle
Becoming alarmed over the existing Indian difficulties Governor J. Neely Johnson instructed Brigadier General E. F. Beale, (5) First Division, First Brigade, to proceed to the scene with all possible haste in an effort.to effect a peace treaty with the several Indian tribes in the locality. General Beale left San Francisco on the twenty-eighth of May accompanied by his aide-de-camp, Colonel Edward Byrne, arriving at the Kings River territory a. week later where he met W. J. Campbell, Sub Indian Agent, and learned that in consequence of the continuous excitement of the whites, rumors had reached the Indians that active hostilities would be at once resumed against them, causing the hostiles to flee to the mountains. The General dispatched Mr. Campbell early the next morning with five bullocks for a Council feast, and a message to the Indians to appoint the meeting place for the Council. In the meantime General Beale proceeded on to Elbow Creek where he found Dr. Livingston commanding some thirty men of the Third Artillery from Fort Miller. The unit was encamped at Elbow Creek following their recent defeat of the Indians at the Yocole Valley a few days past. Lieutenant Allston of the Dragoons of Fort Tejon, whose command of forty men was encamped some ten miles south, was also present in camp, and these two gentlemen corroborated the reports that the Adjutant General had received relative to the violent measures contemplated by the whites., and the pioneers determination to prosecute a war of extermination against the Indians. From the vicinity of Elbow Creek, General Beale traveled on to Visalia and Woodville where he called a general meeting of the residents, many of whom were at first of the opinion that nothing but a severe punishment the Indians would prevent further molestations of the whites, although after a discussion of the problem, a majority of the citizens were willing to accede to more humane counsels. Several of the well known residents were invited to attend the proposed Council. Prior to this meeting between the whites and the Indians, Mr. Campbell attended an Indian conclave and returned with the information that the hostiles had selected
a valley some thirty-five miles from Elbow Creek and had sent runner's out for the scattered tribes to assemble for the Council. Lieutenant Livingston and Lieutenant Allston with their commands escorted Brigadier General Beale and his party, which included Mr.O.K. Smith of Woodville, Dr. S. G. George of Visalia and Messrs. Campbell and Jennings, Sub Indian Agents, to the stated spot designated as Camp Easton.(6)
Some 100 or 170 Indians were present at the Council which was held June 10th, and the following tribes were represented by their Chief or Captain:
Monoes Wick-a-choum-nees Talumnees Choo-e-nim-nees Taches En Tempich Palonshios Corvillas Cho-kim-a-noes 0-pon-no-chees Noo-tu-ne-toos Yocolleo
Through Gregorio, his Indian Interpreter,
General Beale explained to the hostiles that he was sent by the
great "White Chief" and that the object of his visit
was to make peace, also that it was idle for them to attempt
to cope with the Whites and unless they would promise unconditionally
to go where it was deemed best for them to live, he had come
prepared to inflict summary and severe chastisement upon them.
All Indians living upon
the waters of Kings River were to go at once to the Reservation on that River, and those living South of the River were to go to the Yocole Valley and remain until the arrival of Colonel Henley who would make some permanent provision for their future subsistence.(7) The hostiles agreed to the terms. A list of articles which were distributed as "presents" at this gathering is-given: .
When the Indians were questioned as to why they had destroyed O. K. Smith's mill, the only one in the county, thereby causing a great loss to the community, they replied 'they did it as they were at war with the whites, and desired to do all the harm possible.'
A large tribe of Indians living on the Tule River were not represented at this Council; therefore, General Beale sent runners with a message for these Indians to meet him in Yocole Valley within five days.for the purpose of making a treaty, or he would consider them to be at war and would treat them accordingly. On the fourteenth of June accompanied by an escort of Dragoons the General went to the Corvilla Valley some ten miles from Woodville where he found some 300 Indians in camp representing the Olanches, Piqueminots, Coyotes, Wackoaches, and Corillas Tribes. They were pleased to meet him, perfectly willing to make peace, and agreed to remain in their present camp until the arrival of Colonel Henley. "Presents" were also distributed to these tribes which included the following:
- 1300 lbs. Flour
1000 lbs. Wheat
10 lbs. Tobacco
5 lbs. Sugar
1 Coffee Pot
- 60 spools thread
- 9 shirts
- 24 jumpers
- 7 pieces 224 yds. Calico
- 5 pieces 147 yds. sheeting
6 papers needles
(1) History Central California Tulare County, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Page 171.
(2) Sacramento Union,May 6, 1856, Page 3, Column 2.
(3) Sheriff Poindexter was mentioned as Captain Poindexter in Mr. Morris letter to the Governor on January 30, 1858.
(4) History Central California Tulare County, Lewis Publishing Company
(5) General Edward Fitzgerald Beale was appointed, November 11, 1852, by President Fillmore as General Supervisor of Indian Affairs for California. Congress accordingly-appropriated $250,000 for the better protection, subsistence and colonization of the Indian tribes within the General's superintendency. Edward Fitzgerald Beale (a pioneer in the path of an empire) 1822-1903. Author, Stephen Bonsal; Publisher, G. P. Putnam, 1912, Page 62.
(6) Edward Fitzgerald Beale, 1912. Stephen Bonsol, Author; S. P. Putnam, Publisher. Pages 192-193.
(7) Letter written to Thomas J. Henley, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, by M. B. Lewis June 14, 1856, on file State Archives, State Capitol.
(8) All information on Brigadier General Beale's participation in the Peace negotiations was obtained from a letter written to Governor Johnson on July 12, 1856, which is on file in the State Archives, State Capitol.
(9) William Gouvernear Morris is listed in San Francisco's Directories of 1856 and 1857 as an Attorney, 40 Montgomery Street. He died at Sitka, Alaska,of.pneumonia,where he had just completed three years as Collector of Customs for the District of Alaska. He was an old and prominent politician of California, had at one time been the United States Marshal and for many years was employed in the Treasury Department This extract of Mr. Morris' political life, was taken from the Sacramento Union dated February 18, 1884, Page 2, Column 2.
(10) An Act to audit and allow the Claim of Edward F. Beale, for senses incurred in the settlement of Indian hostilities in 1856. April 26, 1858--original on file State Archives. Photostatic on file Adjutant General's Office.