recorded history, the Puyallup Indians were regarded as peaceful and generous
people. Even their name (believed to be given to them by the Yakima Indians)
“Pough-allup” translates to “generous people”.
So why did the Puyallup Indians join in the war against the White man?
One account of the uprising was written by Fayette McMullen (who later
became Governor of the Washington Territory): “…The Indian tribes within our own territory living west
of the Cascade Mountains, numbering some twelve thousand, are showing
many signs of discontent, being unquestionable stimulated and encouraged
to acts of outrage and violence by the tribes east of the mountains.
“They… could annihilate our settlements, with perhaps the
exception of the more considerable villages, in a single night.
“The complain that the government of the United States has been
giving away and is still selling their lands to settlers, without making
them any sort of compensation – that they have in good faith made
treaties with the Agent of the United States, whereby they were to receive
compensation for their lands, and that these treaties have not been carried
out in good faith by our government.
“They also say they are put off with promises by the Indian Agents,
with the sole purpose keeping them quiet until the white population becomes
strong enough to drive them off entirely…
“They do not understand by what right these things are done, and
upon what principals of justice, the government refuses to ratify the
treaties and pay them for the land, while it yet passes laws giving away
and selling their homes, their hunting grounds and their graves.
“Reasoning thus, they regard the settlers as trespassers upon their
domain, and consequently view them with extreme jealousy.”
The actual war began
in mid-September 1855 when Charles H Mason, acting Governor of the territory,
was informed that Indians killed a number of men traveling into Eastern
Washington. He hurriedly sought aid from Fort Steilacoom and dispatched
Lieutenant William A. Slaughter and his men to Naches Pass and east of
A large party of Yakima Indians were gathering, however, so they moved
back to the western side of the pass.
At the end of October, Captain Maloney went to reinforce Slaughter’s
troops. He had received orders to take the pass and continue into Eastern
Washington, but he decided to stop near the pass and contact his superiors.
He became worried about a possible outbreak in the Puget Sound with no
military to stop it.
Maloney’s suspicions were well founded. A few days later, local
Indians struck at the White River settlement and killed several people.
Later, two men were killed. Then, on October 31, 1855, messengers from
the detachment at Naches Pass were ambushed and killed on their way to
In writing of Captain Maurice Maloney, William P. Bonney recorded: “Perhaps at no time in the history of this territory and state
has the your military officer been placed in the responsible and delicate
position as was Captain Maloney during the latter part of October 1855
– had he not exercised the sound judgment which he displayed…
when he stopped to consider the situation, the history of the Indian War
of 1855-56 would be written entirely differently than we find it.”
an Indian, rode through the Puyallup valley warning settlers (including
Mr. Kincaid?) of impending attacks.
More than eighty settlers fled their homes and went to Fort Steilacoom.
During the war, Ezra Meeker commented about
the conditions at the fort: “A sorry mess… of women and children crying; some brutes
of men cursing and swearing; oxen and cows bellowing, sheep bleating;
dogs howling; children lost from their parents; wives from husbands; no
order, in a work, the utmost disorder.”
Although there were
many skirmishes and clashes, it seems the decisive battle of the War west
of the Mountains was fought in March of 1856 near Connell’s Prairie
on the main trail to Naches Pass. Lieutenant Gilmore Hays reported that
one hundred fifty warriors attacked the one hundred ten men of his command.
The battle lasted most of the day before the Indians were routed, put
to flight, and pursued for a mile or more along the trail.
On May 19, 1856, Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey, commander of the troops
at Fort Steilacoom, reported to his superiors that the war west of the
Cascade mountains was at an end.