Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cascades Massacre, 1856, Cascade Rapids, Washington"
Includes ... Cascades Massacre ... Cascade Rapids ... Lieutenant Sheridan ... Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe ... Fort Rains ... Bradford's Store ... Mary, Wasco, Belle, Fashion
Image, 2005, Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad information signs, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information signs for Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad. Image taken February 26, 2005.

Cascades Massacre ...
On March 26, 1856, Native Americans of the Yakama, Klickitat, and Cascades tribes attack American settlers who were living along the Cascade Rapids. Ten settlers and 3 soldiers were killed.

"... The Indians attacked on the morning of March 26th, but failed to trap the two steamers Mary and Wasco above the rapids. However, the attackers managed to wound several of the crew and to kill other settlers in the area. Some settlers fled to the safety of a blockhouse near Fort Rains, on the Middle Cascades. Others took shelter in a sturdy, two-story store at the Upper Cascades, owned by brothers Daniel and Putnam F. Bradford. Settlers below the landing fled downriver in boats. By late in the day, some 40 men, women, and children were huddled in the Bradford store. As they watched, the Indians burned a sawmill and lumberyard owned by the Bradfords, along with several houses and a warehouse under construction. The Indians threw firebrands onto the roof of the store in an effort to burn it as well, but the refuges managed to douse the flames. ..." ["HistoryLink.org" website, 2006, written by David Wilma]

From the Memoirs of General Sheridan ...
On April 6, 1856, Lawrence W. Coe wrote to Putnam Bradford about the Cascades Massacre events at the Bradford Store.

"... On Wednesday, March 26, at about 8:30 a.m., after the men had gone to their usual work on the bridges of the new railway, mostly on the bridge near Bush's house, the Yakimas came down on us. There was a line of them from Mill Creek above us to the big point at the head of the falls, firing simultaneously on the men; and the first notice we had of them was their bullets and the crack of their guns. Of our men, at the first fire, one was killed and several wounded. ... Our men on seeing the Indians all ran for our store through a shower of bullets, except three who started down stream for the middle block house, distant one and a half miles. [Fort Rains] ...

There was grand confusion in the store at first ... Some of us then commenced getting the guns and rifles, which were ready loaded, from behind the counter ...

The steamer Mary was lying in the mouth of Mill creek, and the wind was blowing hard down stream. When we saw Indians running toward her and heard the shots, we supposed she would be taken; and as she lay just out of our sight, and we saw smoke rising from her, concluded she was burning, but what was our glad surprise after a while to see her put out and run across the river. I will give an account of the attack on her here-after.

The Indians were now pitching into us 'right smart.' They tried to burn us out; threw rocks and firebrands, hot irons, pitch wood --- everything onto the roof that would burn. ...

There were now 40 men, women and childen in the house --- 4 women and 18 men that could fight, and 18 wounded men and childen. The steamer Wasco was on the Oregon side of the river. We saw her steam up and leave for the Dalles. Shortly after the steamer Mary also left. She had to take Atwell's fence rails for wood.

So passed the day, during which the Indians had burned Iman's two houses, your saw-mill and houses, and the lumber yard at the mouth of Mill creek ...   they set fire to your new warehouse on the island, making it light as day around us. ...  They did not attack us at night, but the second morning [March 27] commenced as lively as ever. ...

By this time we looked for the steamer from The Dalles, and were greatly disappointed at her non-arrival. We weathered it out during the day, every man keeping his post, and never relaxing in vigilance. Every moving object, shadow, or suspicious bush on the hill received a shot. The Indians must have thought the house a bombshell. To our ceaseless vigilance I ascribe our safety. Night came again; saw Sheppard's house burn; Bush's house near by was also fired, and kept us in light until about 4 a.m. when darkness returning. ...

The two steamers now having exceeded the length of time we gave them in which to return from the Dalles, we made up our minds for a long siege and until relief came from below. We could not account for it, but supposed the Ninth Regiment had left The Dalles for Walla Walla, and proceeded too far to return. Morning dawned -- the third morning [March 28] -- and, lo, the Mary and the Wasco, blue with soldiers, and towing a flat-boat with dragoon horses, hove in sight. Such a haloo as we gave! As the steamers landed the Indians fired twenty or thirty shots into them, but we could not ascertain with any effect. The soldiers as they got ashore could not be restrained, and plunged into the woods in every direction, while the howitzers sent grape after the now retreating redskins. The soldiers were soon at our store, and we, I think may say, experienced quite a feeling of relief on opening our doors.

During this time we had not heard from below. A company of dragoons under Colonel Steptoe went on down. ... The block house at the Middle Cascades still held out. Allen's house was burned and every other one below, George W. Johnson's, S.M. Hamilton's, F.A. Chenowith's, the wharf-boat at Lower Cascades - all gone up. ...

Next in order comes the attack on the Mary [March 26]. She lay in Mill Creek -- no fires -- wind hard ashore. Jim Thompson, John Woodard, and Jim Hermans were just going up from our store and nearly reached her as they were fired upon. Hermans asked if they had any guns. No. He went up to Iman's house, the rest staying to get the steamer out. Captain Dan Baughman and Thompson were ashore on the upper side of the creek, hauling on lines, when the fire became so hot that they ran for the woods past Iman's house. The fireman, James Lindsey, was shot through the shoulder. The engineer, Buckminster, shot an Indian on the gang plan with his revolver, and little Johnny Chance, Watkins' stepson, climbing up on the hurricane deck, with an old dragoon pistol, killed his Indian. Johnny was shot throught he leg in doing so. ...

Fire was soon under the boiler and steam was raising. ...   After sufficient steam to move was raised, Hardin Chenoweth ran into the pilot house, and lying on the floor, turned the wheel as he was directed from the lower deck. It is almost needless to say that the pilot house was a target for the Indians. After the steamer was backed out and, fairly turned around, he did toot that whistle at them good. Toot! toot! toot! It was music in our ears. The steamer picked up Hermans on the bank above. Imann's family, Sheppard and Vanderpool all got across the river in skiffs, and boarding the Mary, went to The Dalles.

Colonel George Wright and the Ninth Regiment, Second Dragoons, and Third Artillery, had started for Walla Walla and were out five miles, camped. They received news of the attack at 11 o'clock p.m. [first day, March 26], and by daylight were back at The Dalles. Starting down they only reached Wind Mountain that night, as the "Mary's" boilers were in bad order because of a new fireman the day before. They reached us the next morning at 6 a.m. [third day, March 28].

The steamer Belle returned next day, (third of the attack), and brought ammunition for the blockhouse. ...   Steamer Fashion with volunteers from Portland came at the same time. The volunteers remained at the loser Cascades; Sheridan took his command, and with a batteaux loaded with ammunitiion crossed to Bradford's island on the Oregon side, where they found most of the Cascade Indians ...   They were crossing and re-crossing all the time and Sheridan made them prisoners. ... ..."

Source:    L.W. Coe, April 6, 1856, The Cascades Massacre of March 26, 1856, IN: History of Clark County

On March 27, 1856, Lieutenant Philip H. Sheridan (later General Sheridan) and his men arrived and landed on the Washington shore below the downstream tip of Bradford Island (which, on his map, is labeled "Bradfort's Island").

"... I had it put upon the steamboat Belle, employed to carry my command to the scene of operations, and started up the Columbia River at 2 A.M. on the morning of the 27th. We reached the Lower Cascades early in the day, where, selecting a favorable place for the purpose, I disembarked my men and gun on the north bank of the river, so that I could send back the steamboat to bring up any volunteer assistance that in the mean time might have been collected at Vancouver.

The Columbia River was very high at the time, and the water had backed up into the slough about the foot of the Lower Cascades to such a degree that it left me only a narrow neck of firm ground to advance over toward the point occupied by the Indians. On this neck of land the hostiles had taken position, as I soon learned by frequent shots, loud shouting, and much blustering; they, by the most exasperating yells and indecent exhibitions, daring me to the contest.

After getting well in hand everything connected with my little command, I advanced with five or six men to the edge of a growth of underbrush to make a reconnoissance. We stole along under cover of this underbrush until we reached the open ground leading over the causeway or narrow neck before mentioned, when the enemy opened fire and killed a soldier near my side by a shot which, just grazing the bridge of my nose, struck him in the neck, opening an artery and breaking the spinal cord. He died instantly. The Indians at once made a rush for the body, but my men in the rear, coming quickly to the rescue, drove them back; and Captain Doll's gun being now brought into play, many solid shot were thrown into the jungle where they lay concealed, with the effect of considerably moderating their impetuosity. Further skirmishing at long range took place at intervals during the day, with little gain or loss, however, to either side, for both parties held positions which could not be assailed in flank, and only the extreme of rashness in either could prompt a front attack. My left was protected by the back water driven into the slough by the high stage of the river, and my right rested secure on the main stream. Between us was only the narrow neck of land, to cross which would be certain death. The position of the Indians was almost the exact counterpart of ours.

In the evening I sent a report of the situation back to Vancouver by the steamboat, retaining a large Hudson's Bay bateau which I had brought up with me. Examining this I found it would carry about twenty men, and made up my mind that early next morning I would cross the command to the opposite or south side of the Columbia River, and make my way up along the mountain base until I arrived abreast the middle blockhouse, which was still closely besieged, and then at some favorable point recross to the north bank to its relief, endeavoring in this manner to pass around and to the rear of the Indians, whose position confronting me was too strong for a direct attack. This plan was hazardous, but I believed it could be successfully carried out if the boat could be taken with me; but should I not be able to do this I felt that the object contemplated in sending me out would miserably fail, and the small band cooped up at the block-house would soon starve or fall a prey to the Indians, so I concluded to risk all the chances the plan involved. ..."

Source:    Project Gutenberg website, 2006, "The Memoirs of General Philip H. Sheridan, Volume 1., Part 1, by Sheridan", published 1888, New York

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 30, 1805 ...
A cool morning, a moderate rain all the last night, after eating a partial brackfast of venison we Set out [from their camp near Drano Lake and the Little White Salmon River]     passed Several places where the rocks projected into the river & have the appearance of haveing Seperated from the mountains and fallen promiscuisly into the river, Small nitches are formed in the banks below those projecting rocks which is comon in this part of the river, Saw 4 Cascades caused by Small Streams falling from the mountains on the Lard. Side,

[The possiblities in a two-mile area are - upstream to downstream - Starvation Creek and Falls, the seasonal Cabin Creek and Falls, Warren Creek and Falls, Wonder Creek and Lancaster Falls, Lindsey Creek and Falls, and Summit Creek and Falls.]

a remarkable circumstance in this part of the river is, the Stumps of pine trees [Submerged Forest]

[The Submerged Forest existed along the reach from above Dog Mountain/Viento Creek on the upstream edge and Wind Mountain/Shellrock Mountain on the downstream edge.]

are in maney places are at Some distance in the river, and gives every appearance of the rivers being damed up below from Some cause which I am not at this time acquainted with [Bonneville Landslide],     the Current of the river is also verry jentle not exceeding 1 1/2 mile pr. hour and about 3/4 of a mile in width. Some rain, we landed above the mouth of a Small river on the Stard. Side [Wind River] and Dined ...   :  here the river widens to about one mile large Sand bar in the middle, a Great [rock] both in and out of the water, large <round> Stones, or rocks are also permiscuisly Scattered about in the river, ...     this day we Saw Some fiew of the large Buzzard    Capt. Lewis Shot at one, those Buzzards are much larger than any other of ther Spece or the largest Eagle white under part of their wings &c. [California Condor] ...     The bottoms above the mouth of this little river [Wind River] <which we Call> is rich covered with grass & firn & is about 3/4 of a mile wide rich and rises gradually, below the river (which is 60 yards wide above its mouth) the Countery rises with Steep assent. we call this little river <fr Ash> New Timbered river from a Speces of Ash <that wood> which grows on its banks of a verry large and different from any we had before Seen, and a timber resembling the beech in bark <& groth> but different in its leaf which is Smaller and the tree smaller. passed maney large rocks in the river and a large creek on the Stard. Side in the mouth of which is an Island [Rock Creek near Stevenson, Washington], passed on the right of 3 Islands <on> near the Stard. Side, and landed on an Island close under the Stard. Side at the head of the great Shute [head of the Cascades Rapids], and a little below a village of 8 large houses on a Deep bend on the Stard. Side, and opposit 2 Small Islands imediately in the head of the Shute, which Islands are covered with Pine, maney large rocks also, in the head of the Shute. Ponds back of the houses, and Countrey low for a Short distance. The day proved Cloudy dark and disagreeable with Some rain all day which kept us wet. The Countary a high mountain on each Side thickly Covered with timber, Such as Spruc, Pine, Cedar, Oake Cotton &c. &c.     I took two men and walked down three miles to examine the Shute and river below proceeded along an old Indian path, passd. an old village at 1 mile [vicinity of Ice House Lake] ...     I found by examonation that we must make a portage of the greater perpotion of our Stores 2 1/2 miles, and the Canoes we Could haul over the rocks, I returned at Dark ...     a wet disagreeable evening, the only wood we could get to burn on this little Island on which we have encamped [near Ashes Lake, the island is now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir. Ashes Lake was near the head of the Cascade Rapids. Across from Ashes Lake is Cascade Locks, Oregon.] is the newly discovered Ash, which makes a tolerable fire. we made fifteen miles to daye

Columbia River GorgeReturn to




*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

  • "HistoryLink.org" website, 2006, "The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History";
  • Project Gutenberg website, 2006, "The Memoirs of General Philip H. Sheridan, Volume 1., Part 1, by Sheridan", published 1888, New York;
  • Washington Secretary of State website, 2006, "History of Clark County";

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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December 2006