Museum officials believe the records were assembled in the 1930s by Don Fisher, then-superintendent of the Lava Beds National Monument. Under Fisher’s direction, the records – which originated mostly as handwritten correspondence in the 1870s – were transcribed with a typewriter on nearly 1,900 pages of paper and bound in 11 volumes.
A copy of the papers was donated to the Klamath County Museum by Anne Ogle in 1967.
The pages were recently scanned at the museum by Karen Caverly, a history major at EOU. The pages were then uploaded to the Internet by the museum. The text-searchable files can be viewed at www[dot]modocwar[
“This is a huge addition to the volume of research material about the Modoc War that can be viewed online,” said Todd Kepple, manager of the Klamath County Museum. “We’ve been hoping to share these records with the public for a long time, and we’re very grateful to Karen for taking the initiative to get this project done.”
Commonly referred to as the Fisher Papers, the records include hundreds of letters and reports written by Army officers, government agents and civilians living in the area where the Modoc War occurred in 1872-73.
Kepple said the records provide a unique insight into the war, and provide vivid details about its toll on the lives of Native Americans and white settlers alike.
A petition that begins on page 103 of the Fisher Papers conveys the settlers’ request in 1872 that the Modocs be removed from the Lost River area. It reads as follows:
“… we ask now … shall a petty Indian chief with 20 desperadoes and a squallid band of three hundred miserable … savages any longer set at defiance the strong arm of the government, driving out citizens from their homes, threatening their lives and destroying their property.”
The Fisher papers also reveal a number of people who came to the Modocs’ defense. One letter, written by an Army officer after the first battle for the Stronghold, made a particularly impassioned plea on behalf of the Modocs.
Writing from his camp at Clear Lake, Capt. R.B. Bernard asserted the Modocs had been cruelly treated by whites and the federal government. His letter begins on page 586.
“These Indians have acted more humanely, in every instance, than we have. The only thing they claim or ask is a home at the mouth of Lost River, where they were born and raised,” Bernard wrote to his superior officer at Army headquarters in San Francisco.
Another letter, written by a woman in California, condemns the government for its handling of the Modocs. It begins on page 1,432.
“It is Genl Sherman, who, under the authority of President Grant, commanded their ‘utter extermination’
A table in volume 7 of the papers lists the soldiers killed or wounded during the most intense battles in 1873. Topping the list is Gen. E.R.S. Canby, the only Army general to be killed in any of the government’s campaigns against Indian tribes.
Kepple said posting of the Fisher Papers online will allow more direct access to primary sources of history for researchers, students and the general public.
“These papers have been sitting on a shelf in our library for nearly 45 years,” Kepple said. “It’s a real pleasure to make this information available to anyone who might be interested.”
Kepple said the original Fisher Papers will be on display in the lobby of the museum through February before being placed in storage.
For more information, contact the museum at 883-4208.
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