Amanda and Bensell’s diary

If you’ve ever been on the Amanda trail in Yachats, you probably are somewhat familiar with the story of Amanda – a blind woman forcibly removed from her family and home, marched over rough rocks which gave her bloody feet.  It is a horrifying story.  You may not have ever read the source of her story.

Her story was recorded in the diary of a young man named Royal A. Bensell.  He was born in 1838 in Wisconsin.  The family moved to California when he was 16.  After the Civil War broke out, he joined the Army thinking he would be sent to fight the Confederates.  Instead, he wound up being assigned to Fort Yamhill in Oregon.  He kept a diary during those years and, lucky for us, did make some detailed notes on his experiences.  His diary was published in 1959 under the title “All Quiet on the Yamhill”.  Below is the section about the April and May 1864 expedition to Coos Bay to capture Indians who had fled or had never been to Yachats.  The odd spellings and racist terminology are his:

May 1, 1864. Clear. Pike, Plunkett, Clark, Mr. Harvey & Luce (Mill-man) [Henry Luse, operated sawmill in Empire] go up Coos River 25 miles to-day after some Indians. Filed at the head of tide water a small ranch owned by one De-Cuys [A. P. DeCuis]. He had a pretty little girl, some 8 years old. We got two [women] and a [man]. After getting in the boat I was surprised to hear one of the [women] (old and blind) asked me, “Nika tika nanage nika tenas Julia [Let me see my little Julia].” I complyed with this parental demand and was shocked to see this little girl throw her arms about old Amanda De-Cuys neck and cry, “Clihime Ma Ma [dear mama].” De Cuys promised the Agent to school Julia. We started back with the tide. Got home at midnight. Good night.

May 2, 1864. Clear. Yesterday, thro’ the influence of Ed Brin, Tyee Jackson’s band came in and expressed a “Close tum tum [peace].” ]Tyee Jackson appears to refer to Doloos Jackson and people with him, which would have included his wife Fanny]. One Charly Metcalf who run the Agent of last year tried the same game on Lt Herzer who after taking a reasonable amount of abuse took a musket and give Mr Metcalf one minute to leave in. Charlie left inside the time specified and some second to spare. Curless, Miller, I, and Shawk go up the north fork of Coos River. Didn’t find our game. Had a good square meal at Lendriths. [Lendrith ranch at forks of Coos River]. There is some fine Orchards on this stream… Comeing home we had a head wind all the way.

The lumbermen up these bayous and Sloughs are the roughest of men. Nearly all are married to [Native women] or else have a written obligation that will marry rather than allow the Ind Agt to deprive them of their concubines. They conceal the Indians, warn them, and otherwise enhance the difficulties of catching the red devils. There are yet some 60 Indians on North Bend Slough, Kitchen Slough, and Coquile River. We arrive after rough voyage across the Bay at camp by midnight. The fact of the business if, this rowing after Siwash is no part of a soldiers duty.

May 3, 1864. Clear. 6 men go to Capt Hamiltons or Marshfield to-day, all well armed, and raise two Indians (Coquile Bill & Lady). The “roughs” talked loud, but Sam’s Boys had the grewl and used it, fairly backing the roughs. Hamiltons [woman] was seen, and McPherson wanted to know where her “Buck” was when old Capt said, he was the “gentleman referred to.” McPherson was mistaken for the Captain commanding the Det, causing great sport….

Agent Harvey proves himself an old fogy. We have taken among the rest several infirm [women] which the Agent proposes leaving behind to die because he says “it will cost so far transportation.” Herzer informed the Agent if the [women] were left he (Herzer) would report him. This was the last thing desired by Harvey, and he is now making preparations to take the old Ladies…

May 4, 1864. Clear. 4 men go to South Bend Slough. They were well treated by the “Roughs”, particularly Mr. Metcalf who begged the Boys not to take Mrs. Metcalf, a very antiquated “clutchman [woman]”. He produced a small half breed, the fruits (he said) of “lawful wedlock.” Coming home, near Pierce Point, they came where the breakers were to heavy and layed too, just below town…

We have now 32 Indians in Conft, and 14 have gone ahead, total 46 Siwash. The Roll reads thus, 1. Pelican, 2. Tar-heels, 3. Lady Tar-heels, 4. Cultus Joe, 5. Mina haha, 6. Coquile Bill, 7. Mrs. Coquile Bill, 8. Fatty, 9. Stephen, 10. Amanda Decuys, 11. Mrs. Stephen, 12. Teas Iaace, 13. Luke, 14. George, 15. Mrs. George, 16 Jackson, 17. Betsy, 18. Kitty-Dees, 19. Yellow Jacket, 20. Buckshot, 21. Polly Crawford, 22. Gabriel, 23. Shag, 24. Mrs. Shag, 25. Clale, 26. Sixen, 27. Johnson, 28. Quinaby, 29. Fat Tom, 30. Mrs. Fat Tom, 31. Little Fat Tom, 32. Tenas Tom’s sister. Close Coyuoka [Amen].

May 5, 1864. Clear. Break camp and strike directly across the sand hills. One [woman] (Polly) carries all her “icktus (belongings)” and two children. Harvey furnishes one horse when we need four. This horse packs t[w]o old [women]; the packers made a Diamond Pack of them. At Ten Mile Creek (waist deep) the Indians wade. Miss Kitty and several of her stripe affected extreme modesty. I told them “hyac [hurry]” and up they pulled their flounces displaying “conaway squitch” [all vaginas/vulvas] to the great amusement of the Guard. [Bensell dismisses that here, but this did violate the Indian women’s sense of modesty. In Annie’s descriptions of culture to Jacobs, in his field notebooks, she talks about how women bathed away from men even their husbands and they were very modest about even letting other women seeing their genitals]. Some very fair legs got a good washing, a thing much needed. By 4 o’clock the advance reached Winchester Bay and from that time ’till dark they came in by twos & threes, the rear guard bringing in Old Fatty and Amanda…

May 6, 1864. Cloudy. Harvey proposes t[w]o expeditions up the Umpqua, one up Smith Fork, the other to Scotsburg. He intimated his inability to pay a Citizen a $ for rowing us up the River. I noticed Lieut Herzer Knock the ashes out of his immense German pipe. He then infomred the Detail I had just made, “not to pull a G__d oar.” Never was an order more cheerfully obeyed. Harvey, finding his game blocked, ordered a forward movement which Herzer countermanded…. Tyee Jim & Jackson with their tribes go ahead to-day, reducing our number at this place. The Indians caught a boat load of large crabs. Good eating. Throw them in the fire alive, and down they make the ashes fly.

May 7, 1864. Clear. Cross the stream with the Indians while the mules followed 3 hours after. Only make ten miles to-day. The whoel days travel reminded me of a funeral procession, so slow and solemn did we go. First one old “Lamia [old woman]” would curl up in the sand, then another, then a general halt, during which the mothers would suckle their children, the little youngsters slide down a sand hill on their “Opack [posterior]”, and the Bucks, not the least abashed, would stand “forminst” the ladies and relieve nature… Finelly, out of patience, I would cry, “Hyach, clatwa [hurry, go].” It generally took twenty minutes to get started. Some of the Guard, more irritabel then me, sware terrificly. Camped on Ten Mile Creek [Siltcoos Ck]. Bad place.

May 8, 1864. Clear. Start by 5, reach Syusla by 11. Cross and go 6 miles. Camp at our old camping place at the foot of the “Big Hill.” Traveled 16 miles to-day. Left two [women] at Garnier’s, gave out. Good night. [Gagnier ran the HBC Fort Umpqua at Elkton thru much of its existence, married to different Indian women over the years. By 1864, was living on Siuslaw with the Indian people, stayed there until he died some time in 1880s]

May 9, 1864. Clear. All hands afoot by half-past 8. We reach the foot of the Big Hill (north side), rest ’till the pack train comes up, after which we commence climbing the second Hill. Toilsome work, and it was well on to 4 o’clock, when we camped near a nice stream of good water. Harvey & Starr, having in charge Coquile Bill & Lady, goes on to the Alsea, distant 10 miles. I dread to-morrows journey, rough trail for lame Indians. Plunkett caught a young Seal, white, and had large black eyes. Ten minutes sufficed ot make the little rascal a pet. As we could get nothing to feed it on, we gave him to Garnier’s Son. I saw several star fish, jelly-fish, and on Stingeree, a singular looking pirate and a great distroyer of Oysters. The Siwash gagther plenty of muscles [mussels] here. What a blessing for the poor Devils to have such a well assorted Commissary. Harvey expects the Blind to see, the lame to walk, and all Siwash to subsist on nothing.

May 10, 1864. Clear. Get an early start. The Indians take the lower trail. This coast along our route to-day seems volcanic, rough ragged, burnt rock, here and there a light rock which I called pumice-stone. We crossed chasms running from the shore several hundred feet and some instances extended under the mountain. These chasms were thirty and forty feet deep. Every tidal wave rushes splashing and foaming white up these natural tail races. They were wicked looking places.

Amanda who is blind tore her feet horribly over these ragged rock, leaving blood sufficient to track her by. One of the Boys led her around the dangerous places. I cursed Ind Agents gnerally, Harvey particularly. By 12 we reached the Agency. The great gate swung open, and I counted the Indians as they filed in, turned them over to the Agent, and God Knows, we all felt relieved. Coquile Bill & Lady were locked up in the Potatoe House last night and this morning were “halo [gone]”. After Dinner we started of briskly and by 3 o’clock reach the Alsea River, camping near old camping place.

So ends Bensell’s account of this one episode of capturing Indians to return them to Yachats. This is all the information we have on Amanda. I haven’t found any notes from Jim Buchanan, Lottie Evanoff, Annie Peterson or others mentioned anyone by the name ‘Amanda’. I suspect she died soon after being taken to Yachats – weakened from a broken heart and an arduous trip, she was likely susceptible to the epidemics rampant at the time.

Whatever happened to her daughter Julia? In Lionel Youst’s biography of Annie Peterson (“Tricky Like Coyote”) he believes she survived and turned up in a 1910 census, then aged 54, and had children and grandchildren. She claimed not to know what her mother’s tribe was. By then, her father A. P. DeCuis was dead. DeCuis was part of the “Coos Bay Company” that was part of the first wave of white settlers in Coos Bay. He apparently remained in the region for many years – he turns up in the Coos County census of 1870 and 1880.  Per Orville Dodge (who wrote a pioneer history of Coos and Curry counties in 1898) wrote that DeCuis died in Puget sound, Washington.  

Youst also thinks Amanda was Julia’s grandmother, not mother.  I think he was wrong though – Amanda was Julia’s mother.  In 1864, Bensell was about 26 years old.  Even though he refers to Amanda as ‘old’, he also refers to her as the parent and calls her ‘Amanda DeCuys’, implying he thought of her as A P DeCuis’ wife, not mother in law.  I suspect Amanda had had a rough life, may have been around 40 years old in 1864 and to young Bensell’s eyes she looked old.  (He also called Mrs. Metcalf ‘antiquated’ and she too was the mother of a young child, so I am getting the impression he thought any Indian woman over the age of 30 was ‘old’).


Some of the names on Bensell’s list of captures people look familiar.

Kitty-Dees” might refer to a woman who was later known as Kitty Hayes, she was a daughter of Doloos Jackson (her mother was not Fanny but a different woman who eventually left Doloos). Kitty later married Chief Jack Rogers. She died some years after the closure of the Yachats reservation around the age of 40.

A man named ‘Fat Tom’ was mentioned as being married to 2 different women. Once he was married to a Lower Umpqua basket maker who had the Hanis nickname Xwalxwal, eyes; English name Kate. If it was the same ‘Fat Tom’ he was also married to a Coos woman named Shichils (myrtle nut) who was a doctor, although she retired from doctoring at Yachats because she said her power told her to no longer have sex with her husband. To stay married to ‘Fat Tom’ she gave up her power instead.

Gabriel” appears on the list of Coos signers of the 1855 treaty. Also sometimes called Gabel in English, Indian nickname was K’ayáya. Per Frank he was from the Coos village of Gahak’imodax (probably Gahakich, in North Bend) & Frank heard of a story where this village was attacked by some Lower Umpquas and they tried to kidnap Gabriel into slavery. Jim Buchanan said Gabriel (whose Indian name he pronounced K’haihai) was from the Empire village of Ntise’ich. He was a ‘poor doctor’ in Jim’s words and not a very good singer. Jim said he died on a beach while travelling, some time after the Yachats reservation broke up.

I’ve seen mention of a Coos man named ‘Stephen’ who was related to the Jordan family.

“Mina haha” is the Minnehaha I wrote about here – the woman who mysteriously disappeared one day at Yachats.

Tarheel was a Milluk man, from the village of Dayaqwaq’w which was near Tarheel point. He and his wife Susannah appear in a census from 1880. At that time they were living near his old home village, and his birth year was estimated by the census taker to be around 1810.

Here are some stories about Tarheel, from the Joe Maloney notes (which he gave a copy to Jacobs and are in the Jacobs collection) Mrs. Nellie (Wasson) Freeman said of Tarheel:

“My grandmother told a story about Tarheel.  When he was at Meluk he saw a boat rowed by two men, soldiers, coming around the point from Empire.  He jumped into his canoe and paddled so fast they couldn’t keep up with him.  He rowed up South Slough to the island [this would be Valino Island, known in Milluk as Dle’eye per Lottie Evanoff] and pulled his canoe into the brush and ran into the underbrush where he remained for ten days living on berries and roots.  He was nearly starved when he came out.  He was called E-muck du-luc which means poor (thing) young man.  My father called him Tarheel because he was so black.  He was known by this name.  I do not know his real name.”

Then another note, heading under “Nellie Wasson Freeman, Daisy Wasson Codding, July 19, 1933”:

Our mother, Mrs. Susan Wasson was born at Miluk. Old Taylor, Emmy’s father, framed on our father [Milluk chief Kitsanjinum] and said “They want you at Glasgow”.  He went and the Indians killed him and Old Taylor became chief.  Nellie to Daisy-You remember Old Taylor.  He said at the treaty “I won’t sell my lands until they (the white men) fill my baskets full of their money.”  My mother’s father was killed before the treaty was signed.  Our mother’s mother was a chief’s daughter bought by the Meluk chief for his son.  She came from the headwaters of the Coquille.  [this was Gishgiyu]….[about Taylor’s daughter Emmy’s puberty ceremony] I remember this well for my mother took me to see the ceremony at Culver’s point.

They brought her from the house all decked out in beads and finery.  They brought her out and set her by the fireplace with much ceremony.  It was very sedate and strict for this was a religious ceremony.  The old women cried and made a noise.  Tarheels was master of ceremonies and wore the clothes he has on in the picture Joe has.  Emmy was very white and weak [after being shut in for 5 days as part of the puberty ceremony].  They had to help her.  They fed her with food from their hands, singing and talking all the time, a part of the ceremony.  This is the last puberty ceremony we ever heard of but all their lives Indian women refrain from eating fish, meat and particularly eels during the menstrual period.”


(Only known photo of Tarheel; date unknown)


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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10 Responses to Amanda and Bensell’s diary

  1. Pingback: Empire City, 1868 – when catching Indians goes wrong | Shichils's Blog

  2. I think the Tom family here is Bob Tom’s Family from Siletz. His mother was Kitty Tom.

  3. J. Scott Hovis says:

    …Is there any pictures of Amanda?…..Do we know what she looked like???????……Did woman from her area cut or braid their hair?????…….

    • shichils says:

      No, no photos or sketches are known to exist. As for the usual customs around hair, women usually had long hair and often braided it, but after the death of a near relative it was tradition to cut the hair short in mourning. (Men did same)

  4. Kathi Hanauer says:

    Since the last post of 6/28/17 has there been any new info into the final days and whereabouts of Amanda? I would like to pursue that if you could please direct me in the right direction….
    Thank you

  5. Barb y Luepke says:

    I have Nellie Wasson Freeman’s photo album. Contact me at if you have some interest in it. I have contacted the Oregon Historical Society and they, too are looking into what, if anything I should do with it. Thanks, Barby Luepke

    • Kathi says:

      If the historical society has no interest, I would love to pursue it if I may….thank you!

    • Mary Jo says:

      Please have that album digitized so it does not get lost to the world. I live in a community where one lady saved every newsletter that was published in our community back to the 1960’s. When she passed her son’s wife tossed everything into the recycling bin. You think you have something of value that is safe then a future person comes along and tosses it out. Another example: A story was passed along to me, that years ago someone tossed hundreds of glass plate negatives into a garbage bin. It does happen.

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