Colonel George Wright and Indian Wars

Colonel Steptoe - May 1858

On May 6, 1858, Colonel Steptoe left Fort Walla Walla with a few men expecting a friendly visit with the Colville area tribes. He was being followed. He had a 10 hour fight which took place near Rosalia. A most horrible defeat for the army. When the Indians beat Colonel Steptoe, his men went home angry and furious.

Colonel George Wright - September 1858


Colonel George Wright came back for revenge on September 1, 1858, with one hundred ninety dragoons or cavalry men, ninety riflery men, four hundred artillery men of whom two hundred had new rifles that could shoot 1000 feet. He also had 400 pack animals, and 30 NezPerce Scouts. They came back for revenge on the Coeur d'Alene, Palouse, and Spokan Indians. The Indians were too confident in their winning. They wondered why their warriors in the back kept getting shot. As they got closer and closer they found out that the soldiers had new rifles. The Indians retreated. This took place September 1 at Four Lakes. After the battle, Wright rested his men for three days. On September 5, they battled the Indians again on the Spokane Plains (near Fairchild AFB). A victory this time for the army.

See the report on Spokan Garry for the Nona Hengen paintings of the Horse Slaughter; and Steptoe; Mission; and Qualchan Hanging.

Horse Slaughter at Spokane Bridge

After resting his men a few days at the later- to- be Fort George Wright location west of the falls, Colonel Wright continued in ruthless pursuit of the Indians up the Spokane Valley. Whenever they found Indians' supplies and stuff, they would burn whatever there was (wheat, oats, vegetables, camas roots, dried berries). On Sepember 9, 1858 Colonel Wright and his group found a pack of 800 hundred horses near Liberty Lake. They kept 100 horses and shot the rest. The bleached bones were seen on the river shores for many years.

Latah Creek becomes Hangman Creek


After Colonel Wright killed all the horses, he continued on to the old Mission at Cataldo and had a settlement treaty with the Coeur d'Alene Indians. Wright sent word for the tribes to meet him at Smyth's Ford on Latah Creek on September 24, 1858. 107 chiefs from the Spokans, Colville, Palouse, Pend d'Oreilles were present. Qualchan, a Palouse Indian chief rode into the peace conference that was being held at Smyth's Ford. When Colonel Wright discovered who Qualchan was, he was hung immediately. That is why the Latah Creek is now called Hangman Creek*. Colonel Wright also hung 15 other Palouse warriors.

*Newsflash, March 1997: Spokane County Commissioners passed a resolution to return the name of Hangman Creek to Latah Creek. The resolution asks the "U.S. Board of Geographic Names to decree that the stream's name is Latah". A Commissioner commented that many people dislike the name's (Hangman) bloody origins. Nov 1997, request denied, name remains Hangman Creek. 
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Revised:September 22, 2002
Report completed 1997.