Dorena Historical Society

The Kalapuya on the Row River

Jim Edwards of Cottage Grove gave an excellent talk on the Kalapuya at the June meeting of the Cottage Grove Historical Society. I obtained some new information there on the Kalapuya and this valley.  The Kalapuya used the Row River Valley as a path to Fairview Mountain to pick Huckleberries and to the Umpqua River to fish.  They fished the Row extensively. As late as the 1950’s fish traps were still visible at Rocky Point. Wildwood Falls was also a favorite fishing spot. The Row River Valley was a trading route with the Klamath.  From the Klamath the Kalapuya obtained obsidian, for which they had many uses, including surgery.  The path they used to get over the Cascades was called the Parker Trail. Part of it still exists as the trail to Parker Falls. There is an Indian burial ground on Bald Point near Cerro Gordo.  Chief Millipu is reportedly buried there.  The spelling for his name is a guess, as I can find no written record of him. A photo shows a bark house typical of Northwest Indians.

Photo from the Oregon Historical Society via the Cottage Grove Historical Society


Photo Courtesy of the Cottage Grove Historical Museum

This photo from 1911 shows Chief Jake Fern and his wife.  Chief Fern was descended from Chief Camafeema.  Camafeema means “ferns that grow from the ground.”  Many of Camafeema’s descendants used Fern as a surname.


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Incident at Rocky Point

Rocky Point on the Row River

This story was originally told to Dr. Oglesby of Cottage Grove by Chief Halotish of the Kalapuya.  The Chief reported that in about 1810 a party of Klamath came over the Cascades and down into what is now Cottage Grove.  They kidnapped four Kalupuya women, including the sister of Halotish. The Klamath headed back up the Row River Valley to their home east of the mountains. The Kalapuya knew that at Rocky Point the valley narrowed so much that there was barely room to pass single file between the mountain and the river. Halotish and 3 other Kalapuya men took a short cut to the Point and gathered boulders on the hill above it.  When the Klamath passed beneath them on the trail they pushed the rocks over the cliff, killing a number of the kidnappers.  They set upon the rest of them with arrows and rescued the women.


Kalapuya Man circa 1841


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First Residents

The earliest residents of the Row River Valley were the Yoncalla band of the Kalapuya.  The first evidence of the tribe is an arrow point found on the Mohawk River that dates back to 9500-6000 BC.

An oven for cooking camas roots dating back to 5860 BC was found near Fern Ridge Reservoir.

Local lore has it that the usually peace loving Kalapuya had a battle with the Klamath at Rocky Point on the Row River. The Klamath came over seasonally to fish on the river and one year made off with some Kalapuya women. Old timers say that they found arrowheads there for years.

In 1782 –1783 a smallpox epidemic reduced the Kalapuya population to 2000-4000 people.

In 1855 – 1856 the Kalapuya were removed to the Grande Ronde Reservation.

A few Kalapuya left in town were remembered by early residents. Ivan Hoyer told me of a Kalapuya woman named Sally who lived in town in the early part of the 20th century. When she died her friends and family put her belongings in a suitcase where it was hung from a tree to rot. Today there are an estimated 4,000 Kalapuya descendants in the US.

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