Which took place in the edge of the Pacific Ocean in 1851,
and where nine men with four old muskets and an old signal
gun repulsed an attack of 150 Indians, killing 23 of them,
and getting away with their lives.
Roseburg, Oregon January 7, 1951
Survivors Of Indian Battle At Port Orford
Prominent In Lower Umpqua History
See also the story of Cyrus W. Hedden
A tale connected with the settlement of Scottsburg and concerning two residents who were to gain much prominence in the early days of Douglas county is told by Mrs. Anne Kruse in her book, “Yoncalla – Home of the Eagles.” In a chapter dealing with the early settlement along the Umpqua river, Mrs. Kruse writes: Cyrus Hedden arrived on the Umpqua in late September of 1851, naked, starving, weak and battered. He was a native of New Jersey, a member of a naval company engaged in making a survey of the Oregon coast that year. With a company of eight other men who were exploring along a river in the Port Orford area, they were attacked by Indians and five of the party killed. The four survivors scattered and escaped.
One of these, a youth by the name of L. L. Williams, shot through the body by an arrow, head split open to the bone, beaten and covered with blood, fought off his assailants with a clubbed gun, and managed to reach the forest where he found Hedden, who, except for being badly beaten, was uninjured. Williams’ pants had fallen down during the tussle, and he had no recourse but to kick them away so he could run.
For one long week Hedden struggled northward through dense forest, deep ravine, thick underbrush and across shifting ocean sands with a man so sorely wounded that death seemed likely to occur at any minute. They had nothing to eat but some three leaved sorrel, and a kind of snail which they found in the woods. Williams managed to partake of the snails, but Hedden was unable to stomach them. The weather at nights was cold and foggy. Hedden, sleeping in the lated afternoons, worked over his companion all night rubbing and striving to keep the circulation going. Williams, in his intense agony, begged his companion to leave him to die, and try to reach the settlements on the Umpqua, which he could have easily done. This Hedden refused to do. At last Williams was able to stagger only a few feet at a time, his body swollen, the pain so severe that he refused to go farther. Thereupon Hedden removed his own shirt, twisted it into a sort of rope, which he tied about Williams, looped it over his own shoulder, and half carried, half dragged the wounded man onward.
Quoting from Williams’ diary, Sept. 19, 1851, “Hedden, worn to a skeleton, working like a beaver all the time, day and night, kept me alive. In the morning I was bent forward much more, and my body more inflamed, swollen and discolored. No one could have believed that I could live another hour. Each step, carefully made, seemed like taking life, yet in obedience to Hedden’s command I was obliged to make an effort to proceed. For choice, I would have preferred to be left alone, and I begged Hedden to go on to the settlement and save his own life, but he preemptorily refused to allow me to even talk about it.”
Yet they pressed forward for two days more before they reached the Umpqua River and found help. They met some Indians who helped carry Williams to their camp where he was warmed and given water. Then came a party of men in a rowboat with Captain Gibbs and removed both Hedden and Williams, first to Gardiner and then to Scottsburg where they received every care and comfort. Hedden speedily recovered, and spent most of his long life in Scottsburg. He acquired the mercantile business of the Hinsdales’ which he operated for many years. He was succeeded in the enterprise by his son, John N. Hedden. Now a century after, the business is carried on by a granddaughter, Miss Emma Hedden.
This is the second installment on the story of Cyrus Hedden and you can read more and see even more pictures by buying the UMPQUA TRAPPER. Click here to find out how to get a back issue of the Umpqua Trapper!!