Southern Oregon College
The account that follows was written or dictated by Mrs. A.H. Russell on February 4th, 1922, in Ashlnad, Oregon. The portion marked "P.S." was added by Mrs. Russell on February 23rd of the same year. She was at that time in her eighties.
This copy was made from an imperfectly typed one given to me by Mrs. D. Perozzi of Ashland. Obvious typing errors have been corrected.
The account is interesting even though it may contain inaccuracies. As anyone who has studied the history of Southern Oregon knows there are many interpretations of the Indian troubles in this area.
Arthur S. Taylor
The land was donated by Isaac Hill (1) for a free community burying ground, August, 1853, during the Indian war of that year. After his nephew Isham P. Keith, had been killed in a battle on Evans Creek (a tributary of the Rogue River) Mr. Hill's sister, Mrs. Gillette(2) (mother of Keith) lived in Yreka, California. She requested her brother to bury her son on his farm near his house so that the son's grave would not be molested by Indians. He was first buried on the battlefield while the company was surrounded by Indians. Some men dug a grave with the knives carried in their scabbards while others fought the Indians back. The shallow grave was covered with rocks and brush. The other men escaped only by reinforcements coming to their rescue, which frightened the Indians away. and escaped to the settlements. After three days a company went to the battlefield and brought keith's remains to Fort Wagner (now Talent). The next morning a company of armed men buried him here in the virgin Cemetery, of this part of the valley, while all the families were collected in crude forts for protection throughout the valley.
Isham P. Keith was nineteen years old and the only child of his heartbroken mother who erected a tomb over his grave soon after his death. This was the first grave with cut stone in the three counties of Southern Oregon. The work was done by Mr. Goff of Yreka, California.
The next grave was for John Gibbs of the "Mountain House", who was a partner of James H. Russell and Hugh F. Barron.(3) A very warm friend of Isham P. Keith, Gibbs was killed in battle at Dunn and Alberdine "Fort" house just below the railroad tracks which were later constructed on the F.C. Homes' farm. Gibbs was killed by an Indian (a young chief "Sambo") whom Gibbs had said he would trust his life in his hands, but Indians have no white friends in time of war. Sambo jerked Gibbs' gun from him and shot him twice. He lived three days after being shot and died at Fort Wagner in his partner Russell's arms. Mrs. Hill prepared him for burial with the same tender care as she had given her nephew Keith. Another armed company left Fort Wagner to bury this noble, gifted young friend beside Keith.
Keen, Cunningham and seventeen others, who were killed by the savage Indians, were buried here. Mrs. Hill prepared each of them for a Christian burial as if they were relatives and kept their names in her diary. The diary has been lost and many names have been forgotten by the writer.
Mr. Hill would make a crude casket and neighbors would dig the graves with solemn, brogherly love and care for a Christian burial. All brothers in the free, sympathizing service, attending to their heroes.
Isaac Hill often talked about deeding the land to the district school directors and successors. All his family knew his wishes but he died very suddenly and had put it off too long. Mrs. Hill took it up after his death and even paid cost in advance for having a deed made, but she too, died before it was accomplished. Her daughter Martha Hill (Mrs. Gillette) fell heir to part of the land intended for a cemetery by her father, which was being used by all who chose to bury their dead there. When she sold her portion of land to Mr. Daniel Chapman she reserved two acres as sacred to her father's memory and his wishes, and also her mother's wishes, as her last request was to be buried "beside your father' . Their graves are marked by Oregon marble, quarried and finished by J.H. Russell, and carved and lettered by their youngest daughter, A.H. Hill Russell of Ashland. A.H. Hill Russell at the age of 83 years took up the task of having the sacred spot remembered by the coming generation and succeeded in its being honored on "Decoration Day", May 30, 1921. It was honored by Ashland Military Post (American Legion) and officers, ministers and friends that day resolved to see that the grounds were put in better condition. A committee was appointed by George Dunn to put the work in the hands of Mrs. A.H. Russell, Mr. D. Perozzi and E.B. Barron. As would be expected of shch an old lady, the chairman very soon begged retreat knowing full well that plenty of brains as well as muscle wasnecessary for the task. I was kindly left out of the work and Mr. Perozzi and Mr. Barron accomplished wonders, to the everlasting gratitude of the "slacker" .
May the commitee be honored for their patient, unselfish management; for the time given to complete the unfinished designs and desires of those who sleep under the now protected sod of this sacred spot for their chosen resting place. May the hill Butte stand as a sentinel of protection and guard henceforth all who sleep in the Hill Cemetery.
Mrs. A.H. Hill Russell
P.S. The two graves marked, at this writing, of S.O. Volunteers are Isham P. Keith and John Gibbs. The tomb was executed by a Mr. Goff of Yreka, California. The tomb was made of sandstone, by James H. Russell. Russell was Gibbs' partner and dear friend, who took up his stone chisel for the first stone cutting since leaving Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Five years previous the sandstone tablet fell over after Mr. Russell's death and was replaced by a small marble marker by Mrs. A.H. Russell, being erected for only friendship and being free.
Indians had cut out Mr. Keen's heart and hung it on a tree and scalped him, before his body was rescued, the day after the battle on Keen's Creek, by his friends who had been compelled to leave him on the battlefield and escape to save their own lives, as the Indians had completely surrounded them and only be the strategem of Captain Thomas Smith, it is said, was the Indians' plan defeated and any at all escaped in safety, as several had been wounded and had to be cared for and helped in making their escape to the settlements.
Now when few are left who witnessed all these scenes, I am glad to see an interest in preserving the memory of those neglected and almost forgotten. Brave men's graves, and oters who are marked by their friends, are being knocked down by cattle or horses and debauched by carelessness here at Hill Cemetery.
Long may the name of D. Perozzi and Edward Barron be cherished by futhre generations for their selfish and untiring work. These people gave their time to preserve these grounds for the purpose of a free community burying ground, which was the sish of the original donor Isaac Hill and Elizabeth Hill. Later their wish was made legal by their daughter Mrs. L. Hill Gillette, who had the power to reserve two acres when deeding her portion of her father's estate to Daniel Chapman.
Ashland, Oregon, February 5,
Mrs. A.H. Russell
Last updated by William P. Russell onSaturday, 24-Nov-2007 15:21:58 MST