The Benedict homestead

One wonders why the first settlers were attracted to places like this where there's just about enough flat land for a house and a small garden. The advantage of being located at the confluence of White Bird Creek and the Salmon River must have outweighed the lack of flat land for it was here that the Benedict homestead had been located since 1868.

Samuel Benedict's home doubled as a store. He had had at least one run-in with the members of White Bird's band.

. . . Motsqueh [Chipmunk] was found killed near the mouth of White Bird Creek, where a mean white man kept a saloon store. Chipmunk was not reckoned a bad Indian and I do not know for what reason he was killed. He would not have done anything for which he should be shot to death. This saloon man was always robbing Indians by keeping change money coming to them when buying anything from him. He never gave back their change no difference if cents or dollars.

Peopeo Tholekt
(Bird Alighting)

The first victim was a man who had a little store on the White Bird. They killed him but did not harm his family. It seems this trader had some difficulty with an Indian and had killed him some time before. I was a member of the Grand jury at Lewiston, when the case was brought before us, but from the evidence we judged the man not to blame and returned not a true indictment. This matter, however, had rankled in the minds of the Indians, and they sought revenge by killing him.

Frank Redfield
sub-agent of Nez Perce reservation

The trio of the first raiding party found Samuel Benedict out looking for his cows when they rode by on June 14. Benedict had wounded Sarpsis lippilp in the incident mentioned above. Sarpsis lippilp now returned the favor, shooting Benedict in the legs. He played dead, and the warriors rode on. Later in the day the second raiding party came to the Benedict house.

... I went into the garden for lettuce and onions for supper On my return, saw a body of mounted Indians approaching, and ran into the house, crying 'The Indians are coming!' August [Bacon, a Frenchman] saw them, and taking up the gun, placed himself in the door. In the meantime, they had dismounted, and some were in the yard. They had their arms, and were painted.... My husband ... told me to take the children and fly I said, "No, I won't leave you." He replied, "Think of the children, and save them!" I started, but on reaching the back gate, saw some Indians watching me from the hillside, and returned to the house.

Glancing into the front room, I saw August and at the instant I looked, he fell backward into the house. I flew to the creek, and rushed with my children into the water. Crouching low among the reeds, we escaped their observation.... When all was still, I cautiously crept to the house under cover of the night. August lay just as I had seen him fall.. I could find no clew to my husband's whereabouts.... He was never found.

Covering August's body with a quilt, I left all that once was home, and set out with my little ones for Mt. Idaho, where my two older children were in school.... I hid in the daytime and traveled at night. On reaching the Manuel home, I went in and found Mrs. Manuel alone with her children. She showed me her knee, and told me what the Indians had done. I tried to induce her to go with me, but she said she would not leave her husband and father, who were wounded and needed her aid. I went on, keeping near the creek, not daring to approach the road. At the least sound, I would wade into the creek, stand still, and listen. When it would grow quiet, I would go on again. In this way, I at length reached Whitebird grade, and was in hiding among the rocks below the grade when the main body of the Indians passed down, the night before the battle. I heard them passing all night and dared not move. I could hear their children crying, and the squaws talking. I had eaten nothing for three days. The Indians had eaten every morsel in the house before they left, and I could not get even a crust at Mrs. Manuel's. We were almost dead with fatigue, hunger and exposure. My babe could not retain even the drop of water that little Frankie carried from the creek in the heel of its tiny shoe. That morning, about dawn, after the Indians had ceased to pass, I was rejoiced to hear the voices of white men [the soldiers] who were approaching my place of concealment [near Battlefield Tour Stop 21, and sent Frankie to make our presence known.... They gave us something to eat.

I begged them to send us on to the Prairie. They said it would require a strong escort to do that with safety, and they had no men to spare, as they expected to engage the Indians in battle.... They left us and went on, with the promise to return in two days. They came in less than an hour, and in a hurry too, with, seemingly, the whole Nez Perce nation at their heels. They came — at first a few; then the way was lined with flying soldiers, and riderless steeds with turned saddles and flowing reins. As the poor animals bounded past my hiding place, I could hear their hard-drawn breathings and feel the flecks of foam thrown from their nostrils....

They seemed to have forgotten us, until one Charlie Crooks, a young man of Grangeville, said: "Halt, men, for God's sake! You are not going to leave that woman and her children! This is where we left them!" Springing from his horse, he reached the children one to each of two soldiers whom he succeeded in stopping on the steep hillside long enough to take them, and, catching up a flying horse that had left its dead rider behind, he lifted me into the saddle. Then, remounting, he rode off at a furious gallop before the fast approaching savages, telling me to cling tight and let the horse go. I hung to the saddle until it turned, then vainly tried to stop the animal by holding to the bridle. I was at length left on the road. Thankful that my children were saved, I again felt myself at the mercy of the Indians, who soon overtook me, and after robbing me, forced me to go back with them. An Indian tossed me on behind another mounted Indian, and they took me with them. They met some squaws, who compelled them to set me down. We were at the foot of the grade.

Isabel Benedict
White Bird resident

The warrior who carried Isabel Benedict on his horse told the story somewhat differently.

We now turned back toward camp lower down the White Bird. While going on the trail I looked back and saw a bunch of Nez Perces. They called to me, "Look ahead to the hillside. See what is coming toward you!' I looked. It was a white woman making her escape down the hillside. I rode to her She made a sign that I do not kill her. I motioned her to get on the horse behind me. She did so and I turned back to the trail where the other Indians met me. ... With the woman I rode on down the trail, but not in view of the camp. I continued along the hill out of sight of the rest of the people, down to the gulch where I stopped. I think she was scared when I told her to get off to the ground. I instructed her to escape with her life, and I shook hands with her. She went and I rode back to camp.

Husis Owyeen (Wounded Head)

The ground was strewn with men and horses, who had fallen in the first furious charge by the Indians who so completely surprised and defeated Perry's troops.

The Indians were already stripping the bodies of men and beasts, securing arms, accouterments, etc. Saddened and disheartened, I again set out to climb the grade. I traveled all night, and just at dawn, reached a point near Henry Johnson's place on Whitebird mountain. Seeing someone approaching, and supposing it to be an Indian, I hid in some willows near a straw stack.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized that it was a friend coming to my rescue. The soldiers had reported me as left on the road, and Mr Ruby (Robie), he who had left his gun in care of my husband, hearing their story, and not being content to await the slow movement of the troops, had gone out to look for me. He took me in safety to Mt. Idaho.

Isabel Benedict

August Bacon is buried in the cemetery a mile down the road. The body of Samuel Benedict was never seen again.

On June 26, General Howard camped at the mouth of White Bird Creek while his troops buried the dead on the battlefield.



The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction

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