Norton-Chamberlin Party

In early June, the five non-treaty Nez Perce bands gathered at Tolo Lake, three miles south of Fenn, to discuss plans for moving onto the reservation. Their council was brought to an abrupt end on June 14 when news came that three warriors had taken personal revenge and killed four white men on the Salmon River. Despite the peaceful intentions of the chiefs and elders, the spark of war had been ignited.

That same night, a party of seventeen warriors headed south, back to the Salmon River. About halfway between Fenn and Grangeville, the Norton and Chamberlin families fleeing from Cottonwood ran into this group of warriors in the middle of the night.

It was on the evening of the 14th of June, 1877 that John Chamberlin drove up to our home at the Cottonwood House. He had with him his wife and two children and his wagon was loaded with household goods.... Lew Day came along about that time and told us that the Indians were on the warpath, and then went on up the Cottonwood hill. In a short time he came back, wounded by the Indians. He had been shot in the back, but managed to escape on his horse and got back to the Cottonwood House. My father [Ben Norton] and Joe Moore dressed his wounds as best they could.

Since there were Indians on the mountain, the Chamberlins decided to make a run for Mount Idaho and begged us to go with them. We hurriedly finished packing a few clothes in their wagon, and shortly after dark started out with the tired horses. Besides my mother and Mrs. Chamberlin and the two little Chamberlin children, there were in the wagon, Lynn Bowers, my mother's 18-year-old sister, the wounded Lew Day and myself. Father and Joe Moore rode ahead—Chamberlin was driving.

As I remember, we were getting along fine until the moon came up, and we were about five miles from the Grange Hall, when the Indians came running and firing from the direction of Tolo Lake. Father and Joe Moore galloped out to meet them but they were both wounded and their horses shot down. Then our team was shot down. Father and Joe Moore got back to the wagon; father got inside the wagon box with the rest of us, and Joe Moore and Lew Day got under the wagon and began shooting from behind the wheels. I think Moore was shot again before he got under the wagon and I'm sure Day was shot again. Moore died about six days later from his wounds, but Day lingered for two months before he died.

Then we all got under the wagon, the men firing, keeping the Indians away Day was getting feverish and was begging for water. There was a jug of water in the back of the wagon box and father climbed up on the hub to reach it and there received his deadly wound. He fell to the ground. Later mother called out, "My God, I'm shot!' She was shot through both legs. Then, I think, Chamberlin stampeded. He insisted that he and his wife and the two little children leave the wagon and try to break through to Mount Idaho.

The moon must have gone down or been covered by a cloud, when the entire Chamberlin family left the wagon, but went toward Lake Tolo instead of Mount Idaho. They evidently ran right into the Indians, as we could hear shots, and the screaming of the children and Mrs. Chamberlin. We learned later that Chamberlin and one child was killed and the baby's tongue had been cut off

Father was still alive and choked out that I should try. to get away, but mother did not want me to go. Father said, "He'll be killed here anyway " He died a little while after I left. Lynn Bowers took off her heavy skirt so that she could run faster, and we both sneaked away toward Grange Hall, through the high bunch grass. Joe Moore kept firing until his ammunition was gone. I was found near Grange Hall by Frank Fenn and another settler found Lynn. It was a terrible experience!

Hill Beachey Norton

ten years old

Most of that night I had been scouting over the prairie northerly and westerly for a distance of a mile or so from the Grange Hall which at that time comprised about all there was of the present city of Grangeville.... About one and a half miles northwesterly from the Hall, I detected some person crawling through the tall grass about one hundred yards away. I rode my horse toward the person whom I had thought to be an Indian skulking in the grass. Getting near I saw it was a white person and when within perhaps twenty paces he arose to his feet and clapped his hands, exclaiming "It's Mr. Fenn-it's Mr. Fenn," And I recognized him as Hill Norton, a boy who had attended school under my instruction the year before.

Mounting the boy on the crup behind me I started my horse on a gallop for the Hall .... Upon arriving at the Hall, I found some four or five men assembled there....

No time was lost in starting west over the stage road to find the survivors of the attack. Charles L. Rice, . . . James Adkison, . . . and I, just the three of us, rode off in a hurry to the scene of the attack.

Mrs. Norton ... was under the wagon shot through both legs and helpless. Her husband lay dead within a few feet of the wagon. We hustled Mrs. Norton into the wagon in which there were already Lew Day, shot in three places, and ]oe Moore, shot through the hip. Both died a few days later. We had no chance to pick up Norton's body because the Indians were almost upon us. I mounted the "off" horse and Rice mounted the "near" one and we started plying halter ropes as whips to urge the horses to their best speed. Adkison rode my saddle horse on that eventful trip.

Fortunately for us, from the point where the wagon had stood, there was a long, gradual slope in the direction of Grange Hall and our horses had no pull to make. All that was necessary was to keep them in the road and encourage them to win the race. There was encouragement aplenty for those halter ropes never "missed a lick.' Before we reached the foot of the slope the Indians had appeared at the top of the hill and it seemed that they would surely overhaul us when we had to drag the wagon over relatively level ground. just then, however, quite a large relief party hove in sight riding hard from the direction of Grange Hall.... The advance of the hostiles was checked and shortly, as the volunteer party drew nearer, the Indians turned about, abandoned the chase and enabled their prey to escape.

Frank Fenn
Mount Idaho volunteer

Soon a second relief party returned to the scene of the attack.

... We were not long in reaching the place where the Notton Party had been attacked. I was off to the right of the road and a few hundred yards from the wrecked wagon, when I saw some object not far from me. I rode up and there lay Johnny Chamberlain cold in death, and his oldest girl was lying on his arm. She too was beyond all earthly harm.

Luther P. Wilmot
Mount Idaho volunteer

Benjamin Norton, John Chamberlin and his three-year-old daughter Hattie, Lew Day, and Joe Moore were all buried in the Mount Idaho cemetery.



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