Bloody Island massacre

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Bloody Island massacre
Location Clear Lake, Lake County, California
Coordinates 39°08′56″N122°53′17″W / 39.149°N 122.888°W / 39.149; -122.888 Coordinates: 39°08′56″N122°53′17″W / 39.149°N 122.888°W / 39.149; -122.888
DateMay 15, 1850 (1850-05-15)
Target Pomo under Chief Augustine
Deaths150–200 Pomo Native American old men, women and children. [1]
Perpetrators 1st Dragoons Regiment of the U.S. Army, under the command of Lieutenants Nathaniel Lyon and J.W. Davison
Motive Revenge for the deaths of settlers, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone
Reference no.427

The Bloody Island massacre occurred on an island in Clear Lake, California, on May 15, 1850.

Clear Lake (California) lake in California

Clear Lake is a natural freshwater lake in Lake County in the U.S. state of California, north of Napa County and San Francisco. It is the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within the state, with 68 square miles (180 km2) of surface area. At 480,000 years, it is the oldest lake in North America. It is the latest lake to occupy a site with a history of lakes stretching back at least 2,500,000 years.


A number of the Pomo, an indigenous people of California, had been enslaved by two settlers, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone, and confined to one village, where they were starved and abused, until they rebelled and murdered their captors. In response, the U.S. Cavalry slaughtered at least 60 of the local Pomo.

Pomo indigenous people of California

The Pomo are an indigenous people of California. The historic Pomo territory in northern California was large, bordered by the Pacific Coast to the west, extending inland to Clear Lake, and mainly between Cleone and Duncans Point. One small group, the Northeastern Pomo of the Stonyford vicinity of Colusa County, was separated from the core Pomo area by lands inhabited by Yuki and Wintuan speakers.


The Bloody Island Massacre (also called the Clear Lake massacre) occurred on an island called in the Pomo language, Bo-no-po-ti or Badon-napo-ti (Island Village), at the north end of Clear Lake, Lake County, California, on May 15, 1850. [2] [3] It was a place where the Pomo had traditionally gathered for the spring fish spawn. After this event, it became known as Bloody Island.

Lake County, California County in California, United States

Lake County is a county located in the north central portion of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 64,665. The county seat is Lakeport. The county takes its name from Clear Lake, the dominant geographic feature in the county and the largest natural lake wholly within California.

A number of Pomo, primarily members living in the Big Valley area, had been enslaved, interned, and severely abused by settlers Andrew Kelsey (namesake of Kelseyville, California) and Charles Stone. [4] Kelsey and Stone purchased cattle running free in Big Valley from Salvador Vallejo in 1847. They captured and impressed local Pomo to work as vaqueros (cowboys). They also forced them to build them a permanent shelter with promises for rations that were not kept. Because they made a residence there, their treatment of the Pomo was more brutal than had been Vallejo's, though the massacred Pomos at Anderson Island might have argued that point. The people were eventually confined to a village surrounded by a stockade and were not allowed weapons or fishing implements. Families starved on the meager rations they provided, only four cups of wheat a day for a family. When one young man asked for more wheat for his sick mother, Stone reportedly killed him. [5] In the fall of 1849, Kelsey forced 50 Pomo men to work as laborers on a second gold-seeking expedition to the Placer gold fields. Kelsey became ill with malaria and sold the rations to other miners. The Pomo starved, and only one or two men returned alive. [6]

Kelseyville, California CDP in California, United States

Kelseyville is a census-designated place (CDP) in Lake County, California, United States. Kelseyville is located 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Lakeport, at an elevation of 1,384 feet. The population was 3,353 at the 2010 census, up from 2,928 at the 2000 census.

Impressment Forced naval service with or without notice

Impressment, colloquially "the press" or the "press gang", is the taking of men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice. Navies of several nations used forced recruitment by various means. The large size of the British Royal Navy in the Age of Sail meant impressment was most commonly associated with Britain. It was used by the Royal Navy in wartime, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries as a means of crewing warships, although legal sanction for the practice can be traced back to the time of Edward I of England. The Royal Navy impressed many merchant sailors, as well as some sailors from other, mostly European, nations. People liable to impressment were "eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 55 years". Non-seamen were impressed as well, though rarely.

Cowboy animal herder

A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world work at identical tasks and have obtained considerable respect for their achievements. Cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America and Australia, perform work similar to the cowboy.

Stone and Kelsey regularly forced the Pomo parents to bring their daughters to them to be sexually abused. If they refused they were whipped mercilessly. A number of them died from that abuse. Both men indentured and abused the Pomo women. The starving Pomo became so desperate that

'Suk' and 'Xasis' took Stone's horse to kill a cow but the weather was bad and the horse ran off. Knowing they would be punished, (Chief) Augustine's wife poured water onto the two men's gunpowder, rendering it useless; Pomo warriors attacked the house at dawn, immediately killing Kelsey with an arrow. Stone jumped out a window and tried to hide in a stand of willow trees, but Augustine found him and killed him with a rock. The Pomo men took food back to their families and everyone left to join other relatives around the Lake. Some went to Badon-napoti where the spring fish spawn was underway. [6]


On May 15, 1850, a 1st Dragoons Regiment of the United States Cavalry contingent under Nathaniel Lyon, then still a lieutenant, and Lieutenant J. W. Davison [3] tried to locate Augustine's band to punish them. When they instead came upon a group of Pomo on Badon-napoti (later called Bloody Island), they killed [3] old men, women and children. The National Park Service has estimated the army killed 60 of 400 Pomo; other accounts say 200 were killed. Most of the younger men were off in the mountains to the north, hunting. Some of the dead were relatives of Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake [2] and Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California. The army killed 75 more Indians along the Russian River. [5]

1st Cavalry Regiment (United States) United States Army unit

The 1st Cavalry Regiment is a United States Army that has its antecedents in the early 19th century in the formation of the United States Regiment of Dragoons. To this day, the unit's special designation is "First Regiment of Dragoons". While they were the First Regiment of Dragoons another unit designated the 1st Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1855 and in 1861 was re-designated as the 4th Cavalry Regiment. The First Dragoons became the 1st Cavalry Regiment since they were the oldest mounted regiment.

Nathaniel Lyon first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War

Nathaniel Lyon was the first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War and is noted for his actions in the state of Missouri at the beginning of the conflict.

The Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake is a federally recognized tribe of Pomo Indians in Lake County, California. The tribe's reservation, the Upper Lake Rancheria, is 119 acres (0.48 km2) large and located near the town of Upper Lake in northwestern California.

One of the Pomo survivors of the massacre was a 6-year-old girl named Ni'ka, or Lucy Moore. She hid underwater and breathed through a tule reed. Her descendants formed the Lucy Moore Foundation to work for better relations between the Pomo and other residents of California. [5]


Later, the Pomo were forced to live in small rancherias set aside by the federal government. For most of the 20th century, the Pomo, reduced in number, survived on such tiny reservations in poverty. Few textbooks on California history mentioned the Bloody Island incident or abuse of the native Californians.

Two separate historical markers record the site. The first, placed by the Native Sons of the Golden West on 20 May 1942 on Reclamation Road 0.3 miles off Highway 20, simply noted the location as the scene of a "battle" between U.S. soldiers under "Captain" Lyons and Indians under Chief Augustine. [7] California Historical Landmark No. 427, describing the location as the scene of a "massacre" mostly of women and children, was placed on Highway 20 at the Reclamation Road intersection on 15 May 2005 by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Lucy Moore Foundation, [3] a non-profit organization founded to educate the California public about the massacre. [8]

See also

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  2. 1 2 Clear Lake's First People. Archived 2009-04-24 at the Wayback Machine (pdf file) Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. (retrieved 27 Feb 2009)
  3. 1 2 3 4 Key, Karen. Bloody Island (Bo-no-po-ti). The Historical Marker Database. 31 June 2007 (retrieved 27 Feb 2009)
  4. Dr. John Parker's 2012 review of the various accounts of the incident.
  5. 1 2 3 Elizabeth Larson, "Bloody Island atrocity remembered at Saturday ceremony", Lake County News, 13 May 2007 (retrieved 27 Feb 2009)
  6. 1 2 They also captured all the Pomo from the Scotts Valley village and forced both camps to march to Sonoma and build the Vallejo hacienda that exists today. Gradually those people made their way home.Richerson, Pete and Scott Richerson. "Bloody Island", in Putah and Cache: A Thinking Mammal's Guide to the Watershed, ed. Amy J. Boyer, Jan Goggans, Daniel Leroy, David Robertson, and Rob Thayer, University of California, Davis, 2001 (retrieved 27 Feb 2009)
  7. Historical Marker Database. Bloody Island. Retrieved 1 Mar 2010.
  8. Montoliu, Raphael (26 Aug 2007). "Lucy Moore Foundation seeks to create healing, understanding". Lake County News. Retrieved 1 Mar 2010.