A FEW NOTES OF THE LIFE OF DAVID H. SEXTON, A
PIONEER OF 1847
Written by Charles D. Sexton, only child of David and Caroline Sexton.
Courtesy of the Josephine County Historical Society
Re-typed without any corrections by Karen Rose
David H. Sexton was born in New York State and
crossed the plains with ox teams, arriving in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, in October
1847. He removed south in the spring of 1852 to Jacksonville, Oregon.
The Rogue River Indians having gone upon the
"War Path" he joined a company of Volunteers under Captain Lamerick to help
fight them. The first Indian battle of the War of '53 was fought at the mouth of
Williams Creek, on the Applegate River, on the twelvth day of August. In this fight
two men were killed and Lieutenant Griffin was badly wounded but fortunately my father,
David H. Sexton, was unwounded, although he had three bullet holes through his clothing.
This was the last active fighting in which he was engaged during that year.
In 1856 he again joined the Volunteers at
Jacksonville, and started down the Rogue River. The first place they reached where
the Indians had done any killing was the Jones Place, above where Grant's Pass is now
situated. They found Jones had been murdered, and his wife was mortally
wounded. She died shortly after they had rescued her.
Having buried Jones and his wife, they hurried
on to the Harris place. The Harris family consisted of Mr. Harris, his wife, one
daughter named Sophia and one son, David, also a hired man by the name of Reed.
When the Indians had arrived there Mr Harris
was shaving shingles near the house. When he saw them he started to go into the
house, but just as he got to the door the Indians shot him, and also wounded his
daughter,Sophia, in the shoulder. Mrs Harris and the wounded daughter pulled Harris
into the house and fastened the door. Harris said to his wife, "I am mortally
wounded. Get the guns and sell your life as dearly as possible."
Mrs Harris having dressed the wounds of her
husband and of her daughter she continued firing at the Indians until midnight, when Mr.
Harris died. She then carried her wounded child upstairs, as she could defend the
house better from there, and fired upon the Indians until they withdrew just before
day-light. She then took her little daughter and slipped out of the back door and
ran to a bunch of willows, where she hid until late in the afternoon when the company of
Volunteers came and rescued them.
The little son, David Harris, was out in the
field with Mr Reed the hired man, when the Indians came, but neither of them have ever
been found since then, so that their fate is unknown.
Mr father and the rest of the company buried Mr
Harris, while an escort returned to Jacksonville with Mrs Harris and her wounded daughter.
The Volunteers next went to the Haines home,
which was located about where the townsite of Merlin is now. The Haines family
consisted of Mr. Haines, his wife, and four little boys, and one girl named Mary, who was
about twelve years of age.
When the Volunteers got to the Haines farm they
beheld a sight never to be forgotten even by the bravest of men. Mr Haines had been
murdered and scalped, and then his body thrown across a bench in the house. Three
of the little boys near the door on the outside of the house, their heads split open with
a tamahawk. The fourth boy, the baby of the family, lay at the east corner of the
house. The Indians had taken him up by the feet and had beaten his head off against
one of the logs of the house. The top of the little fellow's head lay at a short
distance from the body. The boys had not been scalped.
When my father beheld this sight he turned to
his captain and said. "Captain, I have been on the frontier a long time, I have
seen some hard sights, but I believe that this is the worst sight I have ever seen.
Haines and I were friends, I promise his dead body I will get revenge out of the
They could not find Mrs Haines or the daughter.
They buried Mr. Haines in one grave and the four little boys in another, in front
of the house, under three large pine trees.
The Indians made Mrs Haines and little Mary
Haines prisoners, and took them down Rogue River to Hellgate, where they scalped the
little girl and through her body over the bluff into Rogue River.
They took Mrs Haines on down Rogue River, and
then scalped her and threw her body also into the river, but my father was never able to
find out the point where this was done.
After having buried Mr Haines and his boys the
Volunteers took after the Indians and overtook them at Hellgate on Rogue River. The
main body of the Indians had crossed the river, but there were canoes filled with Indians,
who were crossing when the Volunteers came upon them. The Volunteers killed every
Indian in those canoes, except three who got away. There were two Volunteers wounded
in this fight, but not fatally.
In the Indian camp at Hellgate my father and
William Barton found the scalp of Mary Haines tied to a pole. My father took the
scalp and buried it.
The Volunteers not having enough men to follow
the Indians, went to Fort Leland, and together with Captain A.J.Smith of the United States
Army, fought the Battle of Hungry Hill. This battle commenced on October thirty
first. The soldiers fought for three days and nights without food or water.
The Indians had them entirely surrounded. They named this place "Hungry
Hill" In this battle thirty four men were killed or wounded, but it was never
known how many Indians were killed.
The last battle of the Rogue River Indian war
was fought at the Big Meadows on Rogue River, May 27th 1856. Chief John and his
Indians on one side and Captain Smith with a company of U.S.soldiers and Mike Busby with a
company of Volunteers, on the other side. My father was in the company of
The Indians attacked them on the morning of the
twenty seventh. Captain Smith realized that he did not have enough men, so he sent a
scout to Fort Lane to tell Captain C.C.Augur to come to his relief. They fought the
Indians all that day until dark.
The next morning the Indians attacked them
again, charging upon them and fighting a hand to hand battle. In this mix-up my
father was shot by an Indian, and as he fell to the ground another Indian struck him
between the eyes with a tomahawk, making a very bad wound.
The Indian raised the tomahawk again to strike
him, but before he could make the blow a man by the name of William Lewis rushed upon the
Indian and stabbed him to death with a butcher knife.
He then grabbed my father and dragged him to
one side, by the side of a rock. The soldiers drove the Indians back in this fight,
which occurred in the forenoon. In the afternoon the Indians charged the white men
again with hideous yells, thirsting for the white men's blood. They rushed upon them
and another hand to hand battle occurred. While this battle was going on Captain
Augur arrived from Fort Lane, and charged the Indians from the rear, and soon drove them
off and rescued Captain Smith's soldiers.
My father had lain all day long in the hot sun
until dark, when William Lewis and Abe Cole came to his rescue. Mr. Lewis said to my
father "Well Dave, are you dead yet ?" My father replied "No, but I
am pretty weak." Lewis then told him to get on his back so that he might be
carried to the camp. Father got upon his back and Mr Lewis carried him two miles up
a steep mountain trail. They reached the camp about midnight. The Army Surgeon
sewed up the cut on his head and dressed his wounds.
The next morning my father got on a mule and
rode to Fort Leland over a rough mountain trail, a distance of about forty miles. He
staid two days at Fort Leland, then went south to the hospital at Jacksonville where he
lay for six months before he was able to walk.
Father knew which Indian had shot him at Big
Meadow, on Rogue River, and said that if he ever were to meet him there would be another
When he got over his wounds and was able to
ride on horseback, he started from Jacksonville to Kerbyville, a distance of about sixty
miles. In the afternoon he was going along slowly on account of his being weak and
tired, when coming to a sharp turn in the trail he met the Indian who had shot him during
The Indian got the first shot, firing at my
father, but missed him. My father sat on his horse and shot and killed the Indian.
In his note book he wrote "A lucky shot for me. Another "good"
Indian to the credit of the Haines family."
After the war was over and the Indians had been
taken to the Reservation there still remained several small outlaw bands who would not
give up. These would hide in the mountains and watch the trails, and then murder the
white men. To get rid of these Indians my father organized a company of six men, one
of them being Indian Joe, who lived a short distance down the River from Hellgate, he
being the trailer and guide.
When there had been a murder committed by the
Indians, my father would get his little company of men together, and Indian Joe would
trail them to their camp, where they would be surprised and made into "good"
One day Indian Joe came to my father and told
him that he had found an Indian camp on Taylor Creek, below his house. My father got
his men together and went with Indian Joe. They surrounded the Indians during the
night, and at daylight the next morning they commenced making "good" Indians out
of them, and none got away.
Shortly after that Indian Joe again came to my
father and said "David, there was a white man killed by some Indians yesterday,
between my house and Taylor Creek. I have tracked them to their camp. Get the
boys and come to my house, and I will take you to their camp." There were
twelve Indians in this band. They killed eight of them, but four got away.
Press Frazell was one of my father's little
company, he came to my father one morning and said "Dave, I have found two men killed
on Grave Creek. We had better look about for those Indians or they may kill somebody
else". My father replied "That is a very good idea, you go get Indian Joe,
and I will get the other boys and we will see what can be done." They got
together and went to where the white men had been killed, and buried them. They then
started Indian Joe after the Indians. He followed them down Grave Creek and across
Rogue River and up on Pea-vine Mountains, where he located their camp about dark.
[After] dark my father and his men surrounded the camp and at daylight [the next] morning
they commenced shooting Indians. There were nine [Indians] in this band, and they
got all except one. This one started running down the mountain, and Indian Joe took
after him, and was about to catch him when the Indian turned and shot Indian Joe in the
shoulder making only a flesh wound. The shot did not stop Indian Joe who caught the
Indian and killed him with his butcher knife. This fight about cleaned up the
In 1857 my father married Caroline Niday and
settled on his farm near Hugo, Josephine County, at the foot of Mount Sexton which was
named in honor of him. He died on February 3rd 1908, aged eighty.
This was written by his only son,
CHARLES D. SEXTON.
Note: Defects in the original material caused some parts to be unreadable. I have
guessed as to the words and bracketed them in the second to the last paragraph above. KR