Thursday, June 20, 2013

Better Bob Bunting

Joseph Bunting is largely believed to have killed Quiemuth in Olympia in 1856. It's assumed Bunting killed the Quiemuth because he believed the Nisqually had a hand in his father-in-law's death. More than 20 years later, Bunting's daughter Blanche and son-in-law Lorenzo Perkins were killed. His son Bob Bunting brought the last of the murderer to justice.

The most interesting thing about the death of Blanche (Bunting) Perkins and Lorenzo Perkins is that when several rounds of of white men went out to look for their killers, Blanche’s dad wasn’t among them. Her older brother Bob eventually put the entire episode to bed. Her uncle John was part of one of the early groups that went looking for her murders. But her dad, Joseph Bunting, is never mentioned in the aftermath of her death.

Bluntly, the death of Blanche and Lorenzo was an unfortunate, incredibly violent and insignificant detail in the history of the greater West. They were literally in the wrong place at the wrong time when a group of Indians bent on killing any white person found found them.

Just one day before the Perkins murder, Lt. Mellville C. Wilkinson commanded the gunboat Northwest as he and his crew patrolled the Columbia River. Wilkinson’s mission was to prevent a tribe from the Oregon side from crossing to Washington.

What he ended up doing was to commit one of the countless under-recorded massacres of Indians by American soldiers.

Michael McKenzie writing in the Columbia magazine in 2008:
Steaming down from Wallula, he fired his artillery and Gatling gun without the slightest provocation into a group of peaceful natives camped there, killing at least two men and one woman, wounding others, and laying waste to the entire camp. Even some of the settlers of the period reacted to his action with distaste, (A.D.) Pambrun calling it a "massacre" and stating flatly that "there was no excuse" for what Wilkinson had done. The following month the Walla Walla Union heaped scorn on the lieutenant’s action...
Jim Soh-yowit in 1917 told his story to historian L. V. McWhorter
...a band of Indians crossed the Columbia at Oom-i-tal-lum and pitched camp on the Washington shore. There were women and children in this camp, all peaceable, the men not having many arms. A steamboat came down the river, and without any warning opened fire on us with what seemed a machine gun. A man named Wah-la-lowie, belonging at La-qwe on the Columbia, was shot in the belly and killed. He was a middle-aged man. A middle aged women named Wah-lul-mi from Ti-che-chim, on the Columbia, was shot in the forehead, and fell dead. The Indians scattered and hid.
I had a single breech-loading rifle which I grabbed and ran among the rocks and lay so they could not see me. A few horses were killed. They fired at where I lay hid but did not reach me. Finally the boat went away without landing. Indians lost a lot of things, for they did not try to gather up their belongings.

Shaw-ou-way-coot-shy-ah to McWhorter:
The white people from The Dalles, they all organized and got guns and got a steamboat and went up to the village and they killed all the old people, [who] don’t do nothing, all the old ladies and all the old men and before these Indians got back to their home they were all dead so part of them went up to the Umatilla River and then part of them went up the Columbia River and crossed the Columbia River…and they came there to a white man and his wife and some of the Indians says, "Here the white people have killed our fathers and mothers and they were not doing any harm, now I am going to kill this white man to make even."
Wilkinson and his crew murdered Indians on Monday, July 8. Chuck-Chuck, Moos-tonie, Wi-ah-ne-cat, Shu-lu-skin, Te-won-ne, Kipe, and Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne met up with the Perkins’ couple on Tuesday, July 9.

Compared to the gunboat Northwest massacre, the story of the Perkins’ murder is well known and well detailed. This is because the story was literally told by an Indian who was there and white authorities repeated his story often. In the aftermath, Shu-lu-skin gave 17 pages of testimony to prosecutors.

He talked about how the group that killed the Perkins were made up of two groups of Indians. One group were the survivors of the gunboat attack, the other a group they’d met later in the day. After the survivors shared the story of the massacre, all seven planned to kill the next white people they found as vengeance.

Shu-lu-skin talked about how they waited by Rattlesnake Spring, an important way station for travelers, because someone would show up eventually.

They let the Perkins couple dismount, Lorenzo took care of the horses while Blanche cooked. They both at while they went for a walk.

The Indians thought far enough ahead to come up with a cover story. They planned on saying that the Perkins couple had attacked them and they’d only defended themselves.

A.J. Splawn, who wrote history and had acted as interpreter during the trials, recounts details that made the revenge mission sound much less organized:
When they found the man and his wife at the springs, they said, Wi-ah-ne-cat suggested that they kill them. Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne said that two of their own people had been killed by the gunboat, one of them a friend of his, and that he wanted revenge. During their argument Perkins and his wife, no doubt becoming alarmed, began to saddle their horses. Wi-ah-ne-cat and Ta- mah-hop-tow-ne drew their guns and ordered Perkins to stop. He had his own horse saddled by this time and mounted. Mrs. Perkins, who was a splendid horsewoman, did not wait to saddle, but mounted her mare bareback, and with only a rope around her neck to guide her, they started on the run. A shot from Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne's gun wounded Perkins, but he kept on till a shot from Wi-ah-ne-cat reached him. when he fell from his horse and soon died.
Mrs. Perkins' mount now began to run and was outdistancing her pursuers, when a deep ravine appeared, which the brave little mare failed to clear. The animal fell, throwing her rider, who lay stunned until the Indians came up. She raised her hands, they said, as if in prayer, then begged them, if they must kill someone, to let it be her. and to save her husband, she not knowing that he was already dead. While the Indians who had come up with Mrs. Perkins sat upon their horses, undecided. Wi-ah-ne-cat rode up and asked why they sat there like women, instead of killing her. He promptly drew his gun and fired.
From gunboat attack to murders, this is a story told by Indians. No white soldier on the gunboat ever faced trial and had to retell exactly what happened. Instead of being hunted down, these men worked their way through history.

On the other hand, the white response to the Perkins murder was drawn out and intense. At its highest point it included over a 100 person posse standing off with Indians before the majority of the accused were brought in. One of the accused committed suicide, several escaped at different points and only two out of the seven eventually faced the gallows.

The last mention of the Rattlesnake Springs murderers was in 1881 when Blanche’s older brother Bob brought in Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne.

Similar to McAllister, Riley and his father over 20 years earlier, Bob Bunting decided that tricking his target would be the best. After hearing where Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne was living, Bunting went to find him, bringing a friend along.

The rouse was that Bunting and his partner were looking to buy horses.

While discussing exactly which horses he wanted from Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne Bob Bunting bent down to scratch a brand design in the dirt. Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne bent down to all fours to take a closer look and that’s when Bunting and his friend tackled him, trying to tie him up to bring him back to Yakima.

Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne yelled out to his wife to bring him a gun while he wrestled with the two white men. Two other Indians joined the fray. It was probably Bunting or his friend that fired first, but both Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne and his wife ended up with gunshot wounds. The retelling of the story in the newspapers that covered the capture don’t mention if she survived, but Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne was brought in. It took over a month for the authorities to hang him.

Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne was the subject of some coverage before his death. In one story, he gives his point of view:
Since my confinement I have been thinking of all the good words I have spoken and the good deeds I have done. I believe in the law of the land and the law of God. I know that those who sin against God should be punished. The Lord guards over both the Indians and the whites.

When I was brought before the court, I expected to have a talk, but the whites did all the talking.
In fact, Ta-mah-hop-tow-ne was tried and convicted two months before his capture.
I had no chance to say anything. I want to say that while growing up from my boyhood I missed the trail, the good trail and by doing so I fell over the bank. I told the judge I was very sorry. I knew that I did wrong, I am now sorry for my soul after death.

On the day of his death, speaking from the gallows, he was much more hopeful about the prospects for his soul:
You all see me, I have your brother. I hope you have no ill feelings toward me. I love you all and I am ready to die this day. I shall go to heaven and I hope to meet you all there.

1 comment:

Tom said...

"The most interesting thing about the death of Blanche (Bunting) Perkins and Lorenzo Perkins is that when several rounds of of white men went out to look for their killers, Blanche’s dad wasn’t among them."

Joe Bunting was no longer living with the family by then. He had been 'driven' out by his wife Martha before his daughter's death.

He spent most of the remainder of his life in the Southwest US, where he was eventually killed by Indians, but I've already told you that part.