Archive for August, 2019

Let’s wrap up this Chippewa and Sioux scrip business today.
(Reminder, though–if you haven’t seen the original article in the Mattole Valley Historical Society’s Issue #44 of Now… and Then, please comment below or email mattolehistory@frontiernet.net and i can send you a digital copy.)

First, some of my sources you may enjoy looking into further if this matter interests you deeply–most of you might want to scroll past:

Franks, Kenny A., and Lambert, Paul F. Early California Oil: A Photographic History, 1865-1940. Texas A & M University Press, 1985.

Gates, Paul W. Land and Law in California: Essays on Land Policies. Iowa State University Press, 1991.

Half-breed Scrip, Chippewas of Lake Superior. Correspondence and Action [re: the 1854 LaPointe, WI, treaty] including the Report of the Commission appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, April 21, 1871, composed of Henry S. Neal, Selden N. Clark, Edward P. Smith, and R.F. Crowell; and the Report of the Commission appointed July 15, 1872, composed of Thomas C. Jones, Edward P. Smith, and Dana E. King. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Washington, 1874. (Available as free e-book on Google Books.)

Journal: Appendix. Reports, Volume 5. California Legislature, 1874. Available on Google Books (free to read online). Reports of a couple of dozen committees on all sorts of bureaucratic matters. A gold mine of information from the chaotic early period of the state’s development.

W.W. Robinson. Land in California: The story of mission lands, ranchos, squatters, mining claims, railroad grants, land scrip, homesteads. University of California Press, Cambridge University Press, 1948. (Part available on Google Books, or can be downloaded for a small fee.)

Lavender, David Sievert. California: Land of New Beginnings, Harper & Row, 1972, or University of Nebraska reprint. (Part available on Google Books, or find print copy.)

Stalder, Walter A. Contribution to California Oil and Gas History (California Oil World). 1941. [This essay, not available on amazon nor, with reasonable searching, online in its entirety, i found excerpted in the handwriting of Martha Beer Roscoe. It was located in her volume of notes titled Chippewa Scrip at the Humboldt County Historical Society, H and 8th, Eureka. It is probably excerpted from this slightly earlier report often appearing on a google search for Stalder: History of exploration and development of gas and oil in northern California: Calif. Dept. Nat. Res., Div. Mines Bull. 118, pt. 1, pp. 75-80, illus., Apr. 1940.]

Taylor, Frank J., and Welty, Earl M. Black Bonanza: How an Oil Hunt Grew into the Union Oil Company of California. Whittlesey House (McGraw-Hill), 1950.

http://files.usgwarchives.net/ca/humboldt/land/humboldt.txt An index to Federal Land Patents in Humboldt County.

https://glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx Both of these two websites are full of valuable information; but this one has everything. You can find old surveys and plats, related patent information, all the government patents on any section of land… just fill in your Township and Range, Section number if you want to narrow it down, Humboldt Meridian, etc. and voila! Historical data at your fingertips.

I also had access to the transcribed diaries of James W. Henderson from 1865 and 1867, though i am not at liberty to publish their contents now.


In case you don’t want to go digging around online, I will call your attention here to a few key passages from the online books Half-breed scrip… and Journal…; both thorough, and, we hope, faithful reports of testimony and correspondence regarding the Indian scrip scandal investigations, and both published in 1874.

Regarding how much the half-breed scrip recipients may have been paid for their land rights–Half-breed scrip…, p. 60 (my page numbers will refer to those printed on the page, not the digitization’s Google book number, in case you find a different version…):

“Matilda Thompson (No. 46) swears that ‘I was a married woman September 30, 1854; that I made application for scrip under the treaty of September 30, 1854, made at LaPointe, Wisconsin, through Isaac Van Etten; that I never saw the scrip, but was told by Van Etten that the scrip was worthless; that it could only be laid on some land around Lake Superior, on which I would have to pay taxes, and thereby induced me to sell it to him for $20.’ ”  That’s for scrip worth 80 acres of land.

“Elizabeth Monchand (No. 32) swears: ‘I applied through Isaac Van Etten, about seven years ago, and have never received either land, scrip, or money, nor do I know that any scrip was ever issued. Van Etten told me to sign the paper, but did not explain it to me.’ ”  Van Etten is the man who witnessed the Power of Attorney being granted  to E.O.F. Hastings by some of our recipients of local land in 1864. He also witnessed for many Chippewa, including many on our Mattole-area scrip patents (Massey, Brunelle, Folstrom), handing over Power of Attorney to Thomas R. Bard. Van Etten was an attorney and investor in pine forests to feed Minnesota’s booming lumber industry, and used some of the scrip he managed to procure for himself for personal enrichment via that pine timber.

As early as 1856, concerned public servants had fretted about the potential for abuse of the scrip. Thomas A. Hendricks, Commissioner at the General Land Office, wrote (Half-breed scrip, p. 38) that “…the seventh section of the second article of said treaty [the 1854 LaPointe treaty with the Chippewa] requires lands to be selected by them (the Indians,) ‘under direction of the President, and which shall be secured to them by patent in the usual form.’ The third article of said treaty contains a stipulation that the President may, ‘at his discretion, make rules and regulations respecting the disposition of the lands in case of the death of the head of a family or single person occupying the same, or in the case of its abandonment by them, and may also assign other lands in exchange for mineral lands, if any such are found in the tracts herein set apart,’ &c.

“There is no provision whatever in the treaty for the issuing of scrip or land certificates, and, in my judgment, there is no law for it. If adopted, even as a temporary expedient, it seems to me it would be fraught with many evils in opening the door to speculation and irregularities, by creating a sort of Indian pre-emption float, liable to pass, indirectly if not directly, into other hands–leading to disputes in ownership, and liable to conflicts with settlers.” Hendricks therefore proposes a more isolated process between the Indian agent and his particular assigned purview of Natives and half-breeds, which would then be approved by the Indian bureau, without intervention from outsiders.

Here (p. 303) is the response of Charles Gilman, a register of the Land Office of St. Cloud, Minnesota, throughout the 1860s, when asked about how applications for scrip were made: “The half-breeds claiming to be entitled to land usually came to the office and stated that they wished to apply for land under the treaty. They usually came with some person who did their talking for them. Many of them could not speak English… Unless there was an appearance that they clearly were not entitled, I usually filled out their applications for them, and administered the oath that was required to their witnesses, and in due time sent the applications to the Department [Dept. of the Interior/Indian Affairs, or General Land Office?] for their approval or decision in the matter. No decision of the merits of the case was made at the local office, but left wholly for the Department at Washington.”

Perhaps this is a sort of answer to how this abuse managed to slip by. The people usurping the rights of legitimate scrip recipients were trusted by the Washington authorities to have allowed only worthy applications to be passed on to the federal gov’t; at what point Washington figured out that something fishy was going on, i don’t know, but hundreds of scrip certificates had been issued by then.

The “fishy business” was really on two levels: first, in order to get the numbers of scrip patents the businessmen really wanted for their timber (or in our area, oil) claims, many half-breeds or Indians of questionable eligibility were recruited to sign up for scrip. This padding of the numbers of recipients is a matter whose investigation takes up much of the testimony and correspondence in the Half-breed… publication. People who had already been granted scrip, or whose spouse had been granted (making for two heads of a household, rather than the specified one), those with no connection to the Chippewa of Lake Superior, people already deceased, etc., had their names on scrip applications. Before you feel badly that these people were eventually discovered as non-entitled and had their scrip-provided patents cancelled, remember that they wouldn’t have gotten the land anyway; they maybe got 25 cents or 50 cents an acre for the right to it, when a lawyer bought Power of Attorney from them.

Question to Gilman: (p. 304) Do you know whether it was the custom to make purchase of the rights of the half-breeds after they had made their applications and before they were approved at Washington?
A: “I think it was the general practice.”

Now comes William S. Chapman (p. 306), testifying in November, 1872. Though the question directed to him concerned Chippewa scrip redeemed for land in the Mount Diablo meridian, i think we can assume this was the stand he took regarding all his scrip purchases: “I am forty-five years of age. I have lived in Nevada and California during the last nine years. My occupation is dealing in real estate. During the years 1865 and 1867 I obtained from C.W. Thompson and Franklin Steele, of Minnesota, the eighteen pieces of Chippewa half-breed scrip described in the annexed schedule… and agreed to pay for the same from one and a quarter to two and a half dollars per acre. I located the said scrip at the time… the value of which lands, respectively, I believe to be therein as stated. I obtained the said scrip in good faith, never having heard the regularity and legality of its issue questioned before the location of that class of scrip was suspended by order of the General Land-Office in the year 1871.” Sworn before a Notary Public by Wm. S. Chapman. He says he had no idea!

There is much more about the investigation in the Journal: Appendix. Reports, Vol. 5. from 1874. All you ever are likely to want to know about how both the U.S. Government and the half-breeds of Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., were defrauded. Instead of typing up the excerpts here though, i will list the pages of the references i found most relevant to our angle on the matter; but first, here is a web address to bring you to the same version i am looking at:

pp. 149, 163
pp. 191,199,201,211,224-25
pp. 241, 250, 254, 258, 262-63
pp. 315, 318
pp. 337, 346-47 (this section especially concerning William S. Chapman)

Before signing off here today, however, i want to let you know how some of this story came together for me in the Humboldt Co. Recorder’s Office, 5th floor of the courthouse in Eureka. It began when i spied the books recording Powers of Attorney, after seeing on some of the sales of Indian land that they were sold “by” thus-and-such “half-breed” by (or via) their attorney-in-fact, whose name would be that of one of the bigwigs mentioned in James W. Henderson’s diaries from 1865 and 1867. An “attorney-in-fact” is someone who has acquired Power of Attorney for another party, and legally acts in that person’s stead. At first, browsing through Book A of the P of A’s, I saw many of the by-now familiar Chippewa and Sioux names, French-sounding names, giving P of A to a Jno. P. Green, E.O.F. Hastings, and William S. Chapman. These P of A documents were hand-copied versions of agreements signed in Minnesota, but registered here, i suppose, to legitimize land business done in Humboldt County. And a lot of business was being done!

Here’s a reversal of the usual pattern of the illiterate “half-breed” giving his rights to an attorney; it’s Thomas A. Scott himself, of Philadelphia, a very busy man, appointing Samuel L. Theller of San Francisco as his true and lawful attorney, “to sell and convey by quit claim deed all my right title and interest in, of, and to, the following tracts… situated in the County of Humboldt, State of California, and described as follows, to wit…” and then 3760 acres in 1S, 2W, and 507 more acres in 1N, 3W, and 1S, 2W are described–these are the scrip parcels–  “… and to ask, demand, recover, and receive all sums of money which shall become due and owing to me by reason of the Sale of the Real Estate aforesaid. Giving unto my said Attorney full power to do and perform everything necessary to be done in the premises with the additional authority to substitute one under him with like power.” This was on Dec. 26, 1866–after the main promise of the Mattole oil boom had failed, but yet before a good portion of Scott’s land acquisition. The Power of Attorney contract was recorded in Humboldt County at the request of Samuel L. Theller on April 27, 1867.

It’s interesting that one of the witnesses to this agreement was William V. Archer, a “Commissioner of California” at Philadelphia, “duly appointed and qualified with authority to take acknowledgments and to administer oaths and affirmations to be used … in said State of California.” I guess Pennsylvania and California had a lot of shared interests then.

In 1869, Thomas A. Scott vested in John P. Green, his private secretary, of San Buenaventura (now Ventura County), his Power of Attorney, with the same provision granted to Theller, above, for deputizing someone below him with like power. Accordingly, soon afterward, Green shared this P of A with Thomas R. Bard of Rancho Ojai, to take care of Scott’s business. Bard was one of the wealthiest men in California, and a nephew of Scott’s; a Pennsylvania wildcatter who had come west to profit from the promising new oil fields of California. John P. Green could do business as an attorney representing both Thomas A. Scott, backer and investor with the moneybags, and the landless, cash-poor half-breeds of the upper Plains; Bard could do the same, but spent most of his time turning his own oil wells into one of the world’s largest energy corporations to this day, Union Oil Company of California. Bard was the first president at the formation of Unocal in 1890, due largely to the fact that he owned two of the three oil companies that merged to form the new entity. Unocal owns Union 76 gas stations and… well, no need to inform you of the vast wealth, and therefore power, of such an oil company.

That’s about it for this topic, which has gotten rather far afield of the Mattole Valley. Once upon a time the world sent emissaries of these men to the sleepy little ranching town of Petrolia; as luck would have it, our oil was just a bit too stubborn to come out in any lasting quantities.  The Chippewa and Sioux who signed away their scrip rights never knew of the beautiful land that was once tied to their names on the white man’s pieces of paper.


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