Memorial to Congress 1858

Transcript of Original Document

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives, in Congress Assembled:

Your Memorialists, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon, would respectfully solicit your Honorable Body to grant to Mrs. Mary A. Harris, a resident of Jackson County in this Territory a pension adequate to the support of herself and her disabled child for the following reasons:

On the ninth day of October, 1855 at the outbreak of the Indian hostilities in Rogue River valley, the family of a settler by the name of Harris were attacked in their house by a numerous band of Indians, and, without any provocation on their part, the father was shot and mortally wounded while in the act of giving the Indians food. At the same time an only son was killed a short distance from the house, and an only daughter was shot through the arm from which she has never fully recovered, and is at present partially disabled from the effects of the wound.

The conduct of the wife and mother during these occurrences has seldom been e-qualled in admirable firmness and self-devo-tion. Grasping a rifle, she discharged it at her savage assailants and succeeded in closing the entrance to the house from whence she kept up a rapid fire on the Indians, forcing them, temporarily, to retire. She then turned her at-tention to the wounded sufferers, and after minis-tering to their wants, resumed her endeavors for for their safety, frequently exposing herself to the fire of the Indians.

Unconscious of danger, her exertions were continued for nearly twenty-four hours, and all the fears of the woman were merged in the devotion of the wife and mother. Alone, through the long and weary night, She stood the defender of her dying husband and her wounded child; she received the last parting words of her companion in life, and only in the final hour of rescue, came back to her heart the full tide sorrow at her bereavement.

No power can compensate her for the loss of her son and husband - no wealth may make amends for this absence, but the government that owed her protection may and should provide with a liberal hand for this noble woman and her disabled child.

Your memorialists would earnestly represent that the sympathies of the entire people of this Territory are enlisted in his behalf, and a liberal provision by your Honorable Body will be acknowledged with gratitude by your memorialists and this constituency who will ever pray [?]

Adopted in the House Representatives Jan. 21, 1858
Chas.B. Hand, CC, HR


On Oct. 8, 1855, a troop of California and Oregon volunteers raided an Indian village on Butte Creek and killed twenty-three men, women, and children. In retaliation, the Indians attacked settlers in the Rogue River valley. This document summarizes an event from the first part of the war, when a band of Indians attacked the Harris family. Mary Harris defended her wounded daughter and dying husband for nearly twenty-four hours against the attackers. In 1858, the territorial legislature requested Congress to reward Mrs. Harris's courage with a pension.

Words and Terms

mortally wounded

For Further Discussion

  1. What did the Indians do to the Harris family?
  2. Why do you think the Harris family was attacked?
  3. What did Mrs. Harris do when her family was attacked?
  4. What does this document tell you about life in frontier Oregon?
Image of letter transcribed in body of page.
Document No. 7533 (PDF)