|Country||Provisional Government of Oregon
|Engagements||Battle Creek, Oregon|
|Thomas Dove Keizur, Captain Charles Bennett, First Lieutenant A.A. Robinson|
The Oregon Rangers were the first organized militia of settlers in the Willamette Valley of what became the U.S. state of Oregon, but at the time was the Oregon Country. Organized in 1844, the Provisional Government of Oregon never called the troops out to service. Later a second militia was formed in 1846 with the same name and some of the same members, lasting a few months.
On March 4, 1844, a Molala or Clackamas Native American tribal member named Cockstock attacked and killed two settlers. One of these settlers was George LeBreton, Recorder for the Provisional Government. In response to this attack, the government met March 9 to authorize the formation of a militia. Thus the first militia in Oregon was formed on March 23, 1844 under the command of Thomas Dove Keizur, and called themselves the Oregon Rangers. A total of 25 men enlisted in the group including Webley John Hauxhurst, Isaac Hutchens, John B. Keizer, Lindsay Applegate, William Henry Gray, John Ford, and Daniel Waldo among others. This group could be called into service by any of the officers of the company or by any of the members of the Provisional Government’s Executive Committee. The government never called the group to action as the excitement from the Comstock incident had since calmed down.
Two years later the Oregon Rangers were revived. This group formed in May 1846 with a meeting at Daniel Waldo’s farm. The group drew up an agreement between the participants to create a mounted rifle company. The agreement reads in part:
- “That we, as citizens of said territory, in pursuance of this duty, forthwith organize ourselves into a company of mounted riflemen, and pledge ourselves to abide by such rules, regulations and laws as may be adopted by a majority of the company.
- "Resolved, That this company shall be called “The Oregon Rangers.””
With the creation, they selected the officers of the company as follows: Captain Charles Bennett, First Lieutenant A.A. Robinson, Second Lieutenant Isaac Hutchins, Third Lieutenant Hiram English, orderly sergeant Thomas Holt, second sergeant Thomas Howell, third sergeant S.C. Morris, fourth sergeant William H. Herron, first corporal P.C. Keizer, second corporal Robert Walker, third corporal B. Frost, fourth corporal John Rowe. The company totaled 45 men for the militia. They then drilled each Saturday at Waldo’s farm in the Waldo Hills east of the defunct Methodist Mission. Many in the group had some military experience, including Bennett and Holt who had been in the Seminole War as dragoons.
Battle Creek Incident
A small group of Native Americans had come to the east Willamette Valley in June 1846. They had come from The Dalles and camped on the Santiam River. Soon rumors were floating around the pioneer settlements that these natives were stealing and eating the livestock of Hamilton Campbell. Campbell had purchased the cattle from the Methodist Mission when it was dissolved a few years earlier. Various other accusations of stealing were also levied. So a messenger was sent to Waldo’s farm, where the Oregon Rangers were drilling, to seek assistance. Captain Bennett was not there, and the company was drilling under first lieutenant Robinson. Soon about forty of the Rangers headed towards the area occupied by the natives, near what became Battle Creek in Marion County, Oregon. This cavalry rode about 14 miles to the encampment and come upon the natives to the surprise of both parties. Soon a skirmish ensued and David Daily shot one of the natives. The Rangers soon retreated a short distance and then opened fire with their longer range rifles. After a short time the firing stopped and the two parties talked to each other. The natives were upset and angered by the seemingly unprovoked attack, and they denied any infractions against any of the settlers. There was no proof offered against them, so the Rangers offered a horse and some blankets as reparations for the injured native, who may have recovered. This was the only casualty of the skirmish. However, this poor judgment and action by the Rangers led to ridicule by fellow settlers and the company was disbanded.
- Brown, J. Henry (1892). Political History of Oregon: Provisional Government. The Lewis & Dryden Printing Co.: Portland. pp. 115-6, 127-30, 236.
- Horner, John B. (1921). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Co.: Portland.
- Corning, Howard M. (1989) Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 185.
- Clarke, S.A (1905). Pioneer Days of Oregon History, Vol 2. J.K. Gill Co.: Portland. p. 588-589