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History of Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas Counties, Washington

published in 1904

A Romance of Pioneer Klickitat

A reminiscence of H. C. Hackley, Bickleton, Washington:

"Having been requested to relate an adventure with the Indians in Klickitat's pioneer days, for the benefit of the readers of this history, I shall tell them about a most exciting incident which occurred at Bickleton in the spring of 1880.

"The town at that time consisted of one large building used as a store and dwelling, owned and occupied by Charles N. Bickle and his assistant, Lee Weaver. They (as well as myself) were tenderfeet. Our knowledge of the Indians had been acquired for the most part by reading blood and thunder stories of life on the frontier. We were not cowards, but at the same time, considered discretion the better part of valor in dealing with the Indians.

"In those days, as now, it was against the law to supply an Indian with liquor, but as the law was seldom enforced against those guilty of its transgression, and the profits were large, the Indians managed at times to get large quantities of intoxicants. Occasionally a score or more of them would hang around Bickleton a day or two, or as long as the whiskey supply lasted, making night and day hideous with their orgies. The Perkins murder was still fresh in our minds, aggravating our discomfort.

"One Sunday, two or three of us boys went up to Bickle's store. We found some half dozen white men and boys there and forty or fifty Indians, the latter under the influence of whiskey and in a quarrelsome mood. A few moments after we arrived, a young lady rode up on a spotted pony which she had borrowed from her brother, dismounted and went into the living rooms back of the store. A large, fierce-looking Indian immediately went over to the pony, a gelding, and remarked in English 'that's my spotted mare, by God.' An Irishman became greatly amused at this, and laughed outright at the expression, whereupon the Indian sprang at him, slapped him, and called him a dozen names. For a wonder, the Irishman took his punishment without a word of protest, thinking that the wiser course, though some of us were disgusted with his lack of courage. The Indian then proceeded to take possession of the pony. He was about to take off the side saddle, when I told him that the pony was claimed by a man who loaned him to the lady, and that he must allow her ride home. After a little talking, the Indian consented to this arrangement.

"We then went into the store, several of us whites and a few Indians. Among us was a lad who had a small cartridge in one hand. For some reason the Indian who was causing the trouble, slapped the boy. That was too much for me, and I promptly knocked him down. Another Indian jumped on my back, and together they would probably have done me up had not a friend come to the rescue. He was a powerful blacksmith, William Twitchell by name, who had just entered the room in time to see the fracas. Marching up to us he seized one Indian by the waistband, and pitched him out into the road. Then I succeeded in throwing the other and kicking him out the door. The room having been cleared of Indians, Bickle and Weaver locked the doors and barricaded them with kegs of nails, of which they happened to have about fifty on hand.

"Then commenced a scene that was true enough to the graphic descriptions I had read of frontier life. Imagine fifty Indians, nude to the breech cloth, dancing, shouting, yelling, shooting firearms and brandishing knives. It was enough to strike terror to the hearts of veterans, let alone a squad of inexperienced boys and young men. I have always thought that we would have been killed had not help arrived at an opportune moment. The Indians were well armed with the exception of one who had picked up a ploughshare on the porch. But just in the nick of time, as we thought, a posse of mounted police from the reservation rode up on the double-quick. As soon as the drunken Indians saw them coming, they ran for their ponies and, by separating and making toward the timber, all but a dozen made their escape. Capturing the unfortunate ones, the Indian Police tied them to ponies and rode away. We learned afterward that Father Wilbur, the Indian Agent, had sent the police to arrest that particular band for drunkenness. To this day I believe that we owed our lives to the opportune arrival of the police. I had the only gun in the crowd, a Smith & Wesson 32-calibre revolver.

"After the Indians had departed, I escorted the young lady home, and during that ride there commenced a friendship that rapidly developed into a warmer sentiment. She became my wife and lived happily with me for twenty years, but she is now in the unknown beyond."