By Mrs. W.R. Loosley
When John Loosley, with his good wife Lucy and his eight children, arrived on the west bank of the Link River in 1871, he had little or no cash, but he did have goodly supply of wheat, as he had bought up much wheat before the financial panic of 1870, thinking to make a “killing,” but instead had gone broke, as had happened to so many speculators.
He had used wheat as collateral to trade for necessities on the trip from the Willamette Valley and now he “dickered” with the owner of the ferry, trading wheat for his toll across the river.
In two more days he had reached Klamath Agency, his destination, where he was to run a grist mill for the United States government. He had learned the miller’s trade in England, and it has been told that he started a mill in Chicago in the 1840s when Chicago was still a swampy village.
He had erected and run several mills in the Willamette Valley, where he had met and married Lucy Walling Buffum, whose first husband had died one short year after her marriage, leaving her with a baby. (When the baby was about a year old, the infant fell into a wash boiler of hot water and scalded to death.)
Lucy had long been troubled with asthma and John’s health had become much impaired, both of which they blamed on the dampness in the Willamette Valley, so when the government wanted a man to run a grist mill at the Klamath Agency he decided to apply for the position.
The site of the agency has been chosen because of the facilities for water power furnished by a fine spring which flowed from the mountainside over a reef which, through the years, had a developed a fall 12 feet high. It was said that the Indian name for this spring was Cola-Chuck, meaning “Spring of the Little People” or “Fairy Song” as the Indians, listening to the sounds of the water gurgling out of the hillside, imagined they heard voices of little people underground.
The waterfall furnished excellent power for running both a grist mill and a sawmill, the product of the latter being used first in the buildings at the agency and later for homes of the Indians on the reservation.
John and Lucy were delighted with the beautiful country—green meadows, broad expanses of timber, crystal clear streams and to the west, the high Cascades, crowned with snow half the year.
A few miles north of Klamath Agency, in the Wood River Valley, was Ft. Klamath, established in 1863 to keep peace, not only between the Indians and whites, but between various Indian tribes. The Klamaths had always been a peace loving tribe, but some of the neighboring tribes were fierce and warlike.
The fort was first garrisoned by Oregon volunteers, inasmuch as the Civil War was at its height. But with the ending of the war, regular troops were sent in. The first volunteers spent the winter in tents, but in 1864 a primitive sawmill was build and all buildings completed that year.
John Loosley was “taken” with the level grassland in the Wood River Valley and in 1872 filed on a homestead on the west bank of the crystal clear stream. John built a large house of boards, the first board house in the valley, excluding those at the fort—house of box construction. The front part was two-story, the upper story all in one room—the boys’ room. There was a one story addition on the back for kitchen and dining room.
The whole house was cold and drafty. The only method of heating the big front part was a fireplace. It was often said, “One side of you freeze while the other side roasts.” On cold winter nights the counterpanes on the beds were covered with a thin sheet of ice from the freezing of the occupants’ breaths. Notwithstanding, the family of John and Lucy were a strong and healthy lot, who seemed to thrive on the rigors of severe winters and short summers. John’s health was much improved. Lucy never again suffered from asthma.
Soon after John and Lucy were settled in their new home the Modoc war broke out. As the theater of this conflict was some 75 miles away, across the California line, it should have had had much impact on the family and probably would not have had, if 10-year-old John Frederick had not been asked to carry messages from Ft. Klamath to General Cany, who was leading the attack against the Modocs.
Fred told in later years of how frightened he became when darkness came on, especially when a herd of cattle, south of the present Klamath Falls, became alarmed and stampeded. He was sure he was being attacked by a band of savages. However, he continued on and completed his mission. It was said he was selected for this dangerous feat by an officer at the fort who had taken a liking to him.
“I tell you this lad would be our best bet. The Injuns wouldn’t think of him carrying a message.”
Fourth of July
The Loosley family, as did all families in that day, laid “great store” on Fourth of July celebration, and the one held at old Ft. Klamath was one to long remember.
The Indians of the reservation soon learned to celebrate the independence of the United States. Once the idea was introduced to them, they eagerly accept the white man’s day of celebration; and, in fact, soon became the principal attraction of the festivities during the early pioneer days at old Ft. Klamath.
With all their worldly possessions they encamped on the bank of Wood River near the fort. They gave a nomadic appearance with their wigwams, open fires and horses. Squaws and children scurried about the temporary settlement.
The actual celebration was very picturesque. The soldiers from the fort marched, and the Indians entered the parade, some marching, others riding their best horse. A huge dinner was served in which the Indians partook. In the evening there was much dancing and gaiety.
After the dancing had quieted down, and the campfires added light to the moon overhead, the Indian braves sat cross-legged around their fires, gambling far into the night. The strange chant that accompanied their odd type of gambling would be the only audible sound in the stillness of the night, except when some stalwart gave a grunt of satisfaction.
The Indians seemed craze by their gambling with these little sticks and would continue this sport until they had lost everything, including their fine horses, their squaws, children, and household goods, which often included many beautiful baskets the squaws had brought to sell or barter. An Indian often left very poor when he had come with much.
Source: Klamath Falls Herald and News, March 17, 1960.