Some years ago I visited with a cousin, Jack Blackwell, who was a keeper of oral history. He traveled little but absorbed the people and family about him like a rotten log does water. This day he related the legends that he had heard his family tell him about being in the Long Creek Stockade in 1878.
There were few arms or guns in the group of 15 or so families. They had gathered in the strong fortress which enclosed a spring on the Lee Place north and east of present-day Long Creek when they were warned of Indian problems. The alarm came that the Bannock and Paiute Indians were raiding the country and coming from the Burns area toward Washington.
One man, who had no gun, nervously whetted the edge of his well-used axe constantly. "I don't have a gun but if the so-and-sos put their fingers through I will have them," he said.
Some of the settlers had been in Long Creek Valley for two years and had built cabins and filed on homesteads. The town site had not been chosen, however, the town today is in the vicinity of the fort on the Charlie and Mary Lee homestead. Mary's brother was herding sheep southeast of town when the Indians came over the mountain. He was riding a very young horse that stepped into a badger hole and rolled, breaking his collarbone. He was given the one bed in the fort.
Mrs. Sam Harris and family had gone to the fort during the day. Sam had been herding sheep some distance north across Long Creek. In those days the grass in the valley could hide a band of sheep. Mrs. Harris needed some supplies from the dugout into the hillside that was the Harris homestead quarters. The group within the walls did not want to let anyone out, but eventually consented to permit Sam return home for the items. He was to go, but not to light even a candle. Fear was great in the settlers. Some time lapsed and Sam returned with the "diapers." Linen napkins which he felt to be diapers clothed his young child for the remaining stay.
One Indian approached the walls of the Long Creek Stockade and was about to be let inside when a Civil War Veteran denied the entrance, for if the Indians had seen how really defenseless the settlers were perhaps there would have been many lives lost.
The elder children were to tend the younger ones. The Blackwell girls tired of tending the small ones and rigged an Indian figure in the willows on the east end of the fort. It was working - the small charges stayed near the walls. However, when Father Blackwell saw the figure he fired upon it not once but twice and was puzzled at no response of the figure as he was a good shot. Several were angry at such a prank! A family of Smiths were blamed.
Many, many years later the Blackwell daughters admitted to their father that they had invented the "babysitter" in the willows.
"Ahhay jings, I ought to whup your butts yet," he threatened them.
It is difficult to believe today the great fear felt in the walls of the fort. Ann Blackwell, Julius Sheilds and Elsie Dale were children in the fort and citizens in the community when I was young. One hundred, twenty-four years later to have known someone who experienced an Indian raid is remarkable to me.
I do wish I had been more astute and recorded more of the legends that are so human and vastly interesting, but lost today because no one recorded them - nor found them remarkable.
Reiba Carter Smith is the great-granddaughter of Perniece Carter. She resides at Long Creek with her husband, Clifford, and taught for many years at Long Creek School.