Survey Marker Bewitched Indians

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Article taken from "Backsights" Magazine published by Surveyors Historical Society


from "Washington's Yesterdays", by Lucille McDonald.

A bottle laid as a survey marker on the banks of the Columbia River was bewitched, or so the Indians of Cape Flattery believed.

The steamer Active brought astronomical and topographical parties to Cape Flattery in the late summer of 1852.  Until this time, nothing had been done to establish a base for surveying.  Proper latitudes and longitudes were yet unknown and navigation charts were inconsistent.

Lieutenant George Davidson set up a station at the Port Angeles harbor and worked along his route by canoe.

The general inconvenience of heavy undergrowth and steep gullies was compounded by the antagonism felt towards this invasion by the Makah Indians.  Davidson wrote:  "A knowledge that we were always prepared for any attack without doubt prevented one.  Guard was kept every night."

Samuel Hancock, a trading post operator, one day overheard the Indians plotting to kill the whites and divide their property.  When the Indians learned that the whites had been warned, they gave up and left.

The Active came back for the surveying team in October and didn't return until the next August.

When the steamer came back, the Indians at Cape Flattery were suffering from small pox.  Half of them had died.

"The year before our steamer had taken observations on the Cape," one account said, "they buried a bottle and marked the place where the instruments had stood, so as to be able to find it again."

"A white trader, who was living here, came alongside and told us that when the sickness broke out, the Indians, thinking that the white men had bewitched them, dug up the bottle, took it in a canoe, went out of sight of land, and threw it in the sea.

--from "Washington's Yesterdays", by Lucille McDonald.



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