Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre

Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre (HM20ZH)

Location: Huntington, OR 97907 Baker County
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Country: United States of America
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N 44° 21.092', W 117° 16.021'

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By October 1860 the Van Ornum party reached Farewell Bend. They were survivors of the Elijah P. Utter wagon train that was attacked by Indians on September 9 and 10, just west of Castle Butte in Owyhee County, Idaho. The survivors had escaped the attacks with only the clothes they were wearing, some firearms, and a few basic necessities. For over a week they had followed down along the Snake River until they reached the Owyhee River crossing. They had traversed some 75 miles until they could not physically go on. Some were wounded, and all were hungry and exhausted. There eighteen children, six surviving parents, and a young man waited to be rescued.
Two weeks later a few Shoshone Indians visited the camp. They traded salmon for what few possessions the survivors still harbored and forcefully took their firearms. After receiving some salmon, the Van Ornum family, a young man named Gleason, and the two surviving Utter boys left the camp in hopes of finding a relief party. Here, near Farewell Bend, they encountered Indians. The three Van Ornum girls and their little brother were taken captive.
Capt. Frederick T. Dent, leader of the army relief expedition, reported that a party led by Lt. Marcus A. Reno discovered
gleaming in the moonlight, dead, stripped, and mutilated lay the bodies of six persons ... Mrs. Vanorman
had been whipped, scalped, and otherwise abused by her murders; the boys, Charles and Henry Otter, were killed by arrows; Mr. Vanorman, Marcus Vanorman, and Gleason had there throats cut, and besides were pierced by numerous arrows. They appeared to have been dead from four to six days; the wolves had not yet molested them; decomposition was going on however, and Lieutenant Reno buried them.

The bodies were buried where they were found. Mrs. Van Ornum's body was laid to rest 4 1/2 feet deep. separated from the common grave containing the remains of the five men and boys. Local historian P.S. Wood rediscovered the graves and place a small metal cross to mark the site.
Zacheus Van Ornum became an Indian scout for the army in an effort to rescue his nieces and nephew. The captive children were traded or stolen by other bands. Reuben was rescued in November 1862 in Cache Valley, Utah, by California Army volunteers. The youngest sister, Lucinda, died soon after being rescued from the Indians by Northern Utah settlers. Eliza and Minerva either died of starvation or were killed while captives.
HM NumberHM20ZH
Year Placed2003
Placed ByBaker County Historical Society and Idaho and Northwest Chapters of the Oregon-California Trails Association
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 at 4:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)11T E 478718 N 4910952
Decimal Degrees44.35153333, -117.26701667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 44° 21.092', W 117° 16.021'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds44° 21' 5.5199999999999" N, 117° 16' 1.26" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)541
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 20 Washington St E, Huntington OR 97907, US
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