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Horse Thieves in Early Oregon

The following articles are taken from the Oregon Spectator. The first from the November 4, 1851 edition, page 2 column 6. The second article is from the November 11, 1851 edition, page 2, column 4.

"Horse Thieves--Exciting News!"

The exciting news contained in the subjoined extract from a letter, will take our readers by surprise. We regret exceedingly that there are such renegades in our land. It is only a development of the principles inculcated by the Statesman; it has sown the seed and the country is about to reap the harvest.

Dalles of the Columbia.

October 23, 1851.

Dear Sir:—Nothing new has transpired since we left Oregon City, only that there is a party of men here from Chasta City, of twenty, after horse thieves. I presume you know Antoine, the Indian that Rogers took through with him to California when we went through. He and another by the name of Joe, a Yacoma [Yakima] Indian, were concerned with the thieves. The thieves are Charley Smith, Reason Haynes, and Terwilliger, son of Terwilliger at Portland. They had got near Barlow's Gate [on the eastern slope of Mt. Hood], with their stolen horses, amounting to about 300, when these two Indians took it in their heads that they might as well own the property as the white men, and murdered those three men. The party that was in pursuit of them found the bodies and recognized each of the murdered men. It is supposed that there is a party of twenty-five men at the Grand Ronde with about 300 horses from the Chasta [Shasta—in northern California] mines, who intend to spend the winter there, these are a club that was formed at Chasta city this fall, of horse thieves, who are on their way to the States, but as yet we have not heard of them here.

P. S. Bye-the-bye, they have got Antoine the Indian in irons at the Garrison just at this moment. They have just god a white man by the name of Markham, a lad of 18 years of age; he has been selling horses for a mere song, stolen property by way of Willamette valley—There is a file of soldiers consisting of 10 men going with this party over to Yacoma after this companion of Antoine's, concerning the murder of these three men, they are going to start to-morrow morning. Antoine reports that this young man has $4,000 in gold dust with him, that he took from Charley Smith and party after they had murdered them. There is a great excitement here about this affair. I should not wonder if we would have a second Cayuse war. The Indians do not know what to make of it. This party of men have a sworn constable from Chasta City, with them, with the power to take all the horse thieves he may find east of the Cascade mountains, in the American territory. He has even taken up a man for selling a horse belonging to Rev. Mr. Rosseau, but Mr. R. has got the value of his horse. * * * * *


Wm. McKay,

To David McLaughlin

"Chasta Horse Thieves--Full Particulars."

We are informed by John D. Cook Esq. one of the party who has been in pursuit of the Chasta horse thieves, that during the summer horses have been frequently stolen, and pack trains stampeded, &c. by which means mules were supposed to be lost, but were in fact taken by this infernal band of scoundrels. That Reason Haynes, D. C. Smith, (generally known as Charley Smith,) and D. B. Hartley (commonly called Doc. Hartley), and Terwillegar son of Terwillegar at Portland, kept a rancho on Chasta river, 3 or 4 miles from Chasta City, during the latter part of summer, and were for some time suspected of being engaged in running off stock and stealing it in various ways; until, about the last of September, Smith, Haynes and Terwillegar left the country, taking with them the two Indians Antoine and Joe, leaving Hartley in charge of the rancho. Some animals being missed about the time of their leaving suspicions were aroused; Hartley, as well as Winslow, Stillman and James Pool (the latter three supposed to be interested in the rancho,) together with a many by the name of Thompson, were upon this arrested. Upon Hartleys' being arrested, great feeling was exhibited against him, arising from the satisfaction on the part of the miners of his guilt; and being called upon to do so, he made a statement relative to the matter as follows. Mr. Cook here informed us that the statements heretofore made, about a rope being placed around his neck, &c., is incorrect, no such means having been used. Hartley said that while keeping the rancho, some 16 horses were stolen by them, and that Smith, Haynes and Terwillegar took these horses with them when they left. They started with the intention of joining a company of Chasta Butte, who were a part of a company of twenty-five, engaged in stealing and herding animals at the Grande Ronde. Hartley stated that he got this confession from Haynes who was acquainted with several of the Grande Ronde company. That their intention was to remain in the neighborhood of the Butte--continue their depredations until about the last of December, and then leave with their animals for the rendezvous at Grande Rounde. But for some reason, fear of detection it was supposed, they kept on in the direction of the Dalles.

On the 3d of October they were pursued by a company of 26 men, 10 of the pursuers turning back on the fourth morning. The party of 16 continued their pursuit, and the first time they struck the trail of the thieves was to the north side of the Klamath lake, about 150 miles from Chasta. After two day's further pursuit, they reached the head waters of De Chutes river, and there found the bodies of the three men, under the following circumstances. Noticing an encampment, and the irons belonging to two or three saddles, the saddles having been burned, suspicion was excited that something must have occurred of an extraordinary character, and they immediately commenced a search. Seeing a trail through the grass with the appearance of something having been dragged over it, it was followed and the body of Haynes was discovered in the creek, about 125 yards from the encampment. About 25 yards below, the body of Smith was found partly out of the water. Their bodies were taken out and examined, and it was found that Haynes was shot with a rifle ball thorough the head. Terwillegar was also shot in the head and a deep wound in the back of the neck, breaking the neck—apparently done with an axe. Smith had received four blows with an axe on the head and face, either of which it is supposed by our informant, would have produced instant death. No signs of his having been shot discovered. His right arm was broken at the wrist. Their bodies were interred by the party and they then continued on in pursuit of the Indians. They followed three to the Dalles, where they found Antoine, and about 60 miles above among the Yacoma's Joe was found. The horses were in possession of the Indians.

The two Indians were arrested, and brought down by the pursuing party, accompanied by our informant as far as the forks of the road at Mr. Foster's where he left the party to come to this city, they continuing on with the Indians to Chasta. The Indians confess the murder, and five the following description of the manner in which it was done. Joe shot Haynes, at the same time Antoine commenced upon Smith with an axe. Joe then says he shot Terwilliger with a revolver, upon which Terwilliger attempted to raise himself up, when Antioine dealt him a severe blow in the back of the neck.

Our informant also informs us that they arrested a young man calling himself John Markham, who confessed having stolen seven horses from a Mr. Cooper, residing in the Willamette valley. The reason for the theft assigned by Markham was that Cooper owed him some $200, borrowed money, and refused to pay it--and that he thought he could sell the seven horses for that amount.

The above are the particulars of this horrid transaction as furnished us by Mr. Cook. It shows the most extensive combination of dastardly scoundrels to rob the traveller of his property, and we doubt not if need by, of his life. The most vigorous means should be used to bring the guilty ones to punishment, and check this growing evil at once.