“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Huntington in Baker County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)

Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre

Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, June 28, 2017
1. Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre Marker
Inscription.  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
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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.
Erected 2003 by Baker County Historical
Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, June 28, 2017
2. Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre Marker
Society and Idaho and Northwest Chapters of the Oregon-California Trails Association.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: DisastersNative AmericansSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical date for this entry is September 9, 1860.
Location. 44° 21.092′ N, 117° 16.021′ W. Marker is in Huntington, Oregon, in Baker County. Marker is on Washinton Street East (Business U.S. 30) near 1st Street East. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20 Washington Street East, Huntington OR 97907, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 7 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Last Spike (here, next to this marker); Van Ornum Massacre (approx. 1.6 miles away); a different marker also named Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre (approx. 1.6 miles away); Farewell Bend Oregon Trail Kiosk (approx. 3.9 miles away); Farewell Bend (approx. 3.9 miles away); Remnants of the Oregon Trail (approx. 5.9 miles away); Weatherby Oregon Trail Kiosk (approx. 11.1 miles away).
More about this marker. This maker is a duplicate to the Van Ornum Wagon Train Massacre marker located 1.6 miles south of Huntington, Oregon on U.S.30 Highway (Business).
Credits. This page was last revised on August 22, 2017. It was originally submitted on August 20, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 624 times since then and 166 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 20, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Sep. 30, 2023