• LOCATION 21 | The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost

    Continue Straight Past Old Midland Road

    Keep travelling straight.

    Within a few days of going back, Captain Jack requested axes and saws to cut down trees to build some hewn plank houses. But the Klamaths began demanding that the Modocs pay them rent in timber for living on their part of the reservation. At first, Captain Jack tried to keep the peace. He went to speak with the newly installed Captain O.C. Knapp to intervene. He even brought with him another Modoc named Bogus Charley who spoke English well and could act as a translator.

    But, like many officers in the US Army, Captain Knapp proved unsympathetic. He'd been recognized for his soldiering during the Civil War, and I'm sure he spent his days wondering how he'd ended up as a baby-sitter for what he considered to be a bunch of illiterates. His first meeting with Captain Jack took place on the front porch of the agency. Knapp brushed him off with a brusque promise to "make it all right." Captain Jack took Knapp at his word and the Modoc returned to their work on the reservation.

    When I think about whether the Modoc War could have been prevented, this is one of those moments I zero in on. If Knapp had kept his promise, I wonder if Captain Jack and the Modoc would have stayed on the reservation eliminating further conflict with the settlers. But Knapp did not intervene, and the Klamath Indians continued to harass the Modoc. Twice more Knapp brushed him off. Finally on the third - and last time - that Jack showed up, Knapp's patience snapped. He told Jack: "If you come and bother me any more with your complaints, I will put you where no one will ever bother you again. Now get out of here."

    Jack's response is now spoken for us by his descendant Brandon Tupper:

    Captain Jack: "My people would not be slaves for a race of people that were no better than the Modoc, and that if the agency would not protect my people, than they would not live here. If the government refuses to protect my people, who shall I look to for protection?"

    Cheewa: It's my opinion that Jack's parting words bring to light one of the fundamental causes of the Modoc War. After this exchange, Captain Jack, Old Sconchin, Curley-headed Doctor and more than 300 Modocs returned to this area where you're driving on April 25th or 26th, 1870.

    But the return of the Modoc to this area around you made many settlers uneasy. It also put a temporary wrench in the two Jesses' plans by threatening the coming of the railroad, which you'll see on the right. These tensions would soon reach a deadly tipping point.

The Modoc War: A Homeland Lost