Peace and quiet reigned supreme and when morning came, August 1st, we felt sure that no more would be seen of the intruders, yet with a grain of caution concluded not to remove the balance of our stock or merchandise to the store for a day or two, but rather take our time in watching maneuvers.
Brothers Fred and Amos and myself went up town to the store that morning, August 1st, and about ten A.M. were surprised by the appearance of one hundred and fifteen warriors, well armed with Henry rifles, riding into our little village under the leadership of White Bird. We were lost to know what this day would bring forth. Never shall I forget their formidable appearance, their stem looks, their aggressiveness and their actions, which in themselves placed us immediately on the defensive. This added another stimulus to our present fear, which made a life-long impression.
They were all well dressed with apparently new showy blankets, well armed and rode the finest of horses.... The Nez Perces were by far the finest looking tribe of Indians I have ever seen.... We had always considered the Nez Perces as a wealthy tribe and on this visit they seemed to have plenty of money, all in gold coin, but they did not come to trade this day, nor did they buy anything to my knowledge except some whisky sold them by unscrupulous individuals who had no care of the well-being of our community
During their stay in town many of them came into the store, some of whom I knew personally They told me that they held no animosity against the white people of the Bitter Root, as they had always treated them kindly They also told me of their troubles at home, causes leading up to the outbreak, depredations they had committed, and in short were free to talk to me-speaking good English cof their oppressions in Idaho; how the white settlers wished to crowd them onto a reservation and the resulting conflict which crystalized their determination to seek a new home rather than submit to the will of their oppressors....
A goodly number of our friendly Flathead Indians, armed with rifles such as they had, gathered in to protect us, seeing there were but a handful of us white people to defend ourselves.
Finally, it was noticed that some of the Nez Perces were getting drunk and on investigation found that a white man by the name of Dave Spooner, who tended bar in the Reeves saloon was selling the whisky. The liquor was seized by a party of us and transported on a wagon to the Fort. Strong talk of lynching the dispenser of the firewater was indulged in, yet at the same time we were afraid that if we enforced the vigilante act, it would incite the Indians to violence. The next move was to enter the general store of Jerry Fahy, the only place in town where liquor was sold.
I might explain that in those days it was customary for storekeepers to have a barrel of whisky, not especially for sale, but to treat customers, thereby retaining their trade and good-will, but Faby, like Spooner in his eagerness for the almighty dollar, forgot the graveness of the situation and it developed upon a part of our citizens to demand that "his barrel be given up'. Fahy at first resented and wished to know, 'By what authority we had for making such a demand'. . . . A South Methodist minister by the name of Reverend T W. Flowers stepped forward with his pistol in hand, leveled it and said, "By this authority'. Jerry, realizing the situation, remarked, "That's pretty good authority all right; there is the barrel, take it'. The whisky was then loaded onto a wagon and also taken to the Fort.
I had a Henry rifle and plenty of ammunition lying on a shelf under a closed counter and took special care to keep close to it all the time that the Nez Perces were in town, as well I knew, from maneuvers and the number of drunken Indians in sight, that it only wanted one shot to be fired and all would be off and the crisis at hand. I thoroughly determined to sell my life as dearly as possible. I had no thought of ever going through the day alive, yet I was as cool and deliberate as one could be under such circumstances.
The older people of the Nez Perce tribe were well disposed, and tried in every way, to keep the peace and deal squarely with us; but the younger warriors knew no bounds and were hard to control, especially while under the influence of liquor...
While in town the tribe as a rule meant peace, but the drunken Indians sought trouble.... One of them, going to the home of our village blacksmith, Jacob Herman ... was boisterous and insulting. He drew up his gun to shoot Mrs. Herman, when a Flathead Indian standing near by grabbed the fire arm and thus saved her life, which really meant saving the lives of us
About two P.M., a little squad of half a dozen Nez Perces sat on the ground directly across the street in front of our store, in company with three Flathead Indians who were on the guard. One of the Nez Perces drew up his gun, saying, "See me kill that man in the store'. But by a quick move of one of the Flatheads, his gun was wrenched from him before he could pull the trigger At this juncture White Bird, sitting on his horse some fifty feet away and seeing the fracas, alighted from his pony and sprang to the Indian, gave him a whipping with his quirt and then sent him and his little band up the road to camp.
From this time on, the Nez Perces followed in little squads, until about three o'clock Pm., when all had left town....
As soon as the Indians had gone and the town was quiet again, I turned the key on the store door and made good my 'getaway' to Fort Owen. Upon arriving, my nerves gave way to the awful strain and I collapsed, trembling like a leaf, when I looked back over the scene which we had just passed through, and realizing how near we came to the close of our earthly careers.
During their two days of trading in Stevensville, the Nez Perce spent over $1,000.
The Nez Perce Flight to Canada - An Introduction
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