Uncataloged collection yields historic items; beads returned to family, tribe
by Heather Kliever
The Daily Eugene Guard on May 17, 1898 printed a list of items that had been placed in the cornerstone of the new Lane County courthouse. Along with the business cards, miniature boot, and a list of teachers, the inventory included “part of a necklace worn by ‘Capt Jack’, Modock Indian chief, when he was hung for killing Gen Canby, by R.M. and Bessie Day.”
R.M. Day was an undertaker for the city of Eugene when the placement took place. It is possible that Day attended the Captain Jack’s hanging on Oct. 3, 1873 and thought the event and souvenir important enough to include in a time capsule 25 years later.
Captain Jack, whose name is Kintpuash, was chief of the Modoc tribe that had been forcibly moved by the U.S. military to live on the neighboring Klamath reservation in southwest Oregon. There was resistance to this move and eventually Captain Jack led a total of 150 people back to their home in the Tule Lake area- 55 were men with the remainder women and children.
When a fight between a soldier and a Modoc warrior took place during surrender negotiations in 1872, Captain Jack and his people moved to the Lava Beds for protection. In April 1873, during a peace commission meeting, Captain Jack and others killed Gen. Edward Canby and Rev. Eleazer Thomas.
Gen. Canby’s successor, Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, whose namesake was the Confederate president in the Civil War, dispatched 1,000 soldiers to the Lava Beds. The outnumbered Modoc surrendered on June 1, 1873 with Captain Jack laying down his rifle.
Six Modoc men stood trial and were convicted of war crimes by a jury comprised entirely of military men. Four men, including Captain Jack, were sentenced to be hanged.
More than 2,000 people attended the hanging.White bystanders took souvenirs off of Captain Jack’s body.
Working recently through uncataloged items at the Lane County Historical Society in Eugene, we happened upon Captain Jack’s beads, which had been donated in 1959 to the museum after the demolition of the 1898 courthouse. We immediately called the Klamath Tribes Culture and Heritage Department. The Lane County Historical Society and Museum is honored to announce the return of Captain Jack’s beads to his family and tribal members. Feb. 19, 2016 was truly a day of celebration with the return of the beads!
Heather Kliever is curator of the Lane County Historical Society and Museum and a member of the Oregon Heritage MentorCorps.