Fort Waters - Garth, 1948 Archeological Report
We encountered abundant evidence of Fort Waters built in 1848 out of the ruins of the Mission House. As stated previously, most of our evidence of Fort Waters starts on the floor 3A level (see Figure 1: soil cross-section). Frequently its features modified or obliterated portions of the old Mission House. Several of the soldiers who participated in the 1848 campaign give us brief accounts of their fortifying operations as follows:
The Fort's most salient feature consists of a series of trenches which must originally have supported stockade posts forming an enclosure a hundred feet or so on a side. No doubt these are the trenches referred to in the accounts above. The charred remains of some of the stockade posts were found in the trench which ran along the west side of the Mission House. What was apparently the west entrance to the Fort occurs about in the same location as the front door of the Mission House. It is flanked on the south by a secondary adobe wall placed 2 feet outside the wall of the house, with a stockade trench running between. To the north of the doorway is a rectangular excavation 2 feet deep by 4 feet wide and 9 feet long with an exceptionally hard-packed floor. This was probably a bunker with logged up sides used possibly as a sentry post. There was evidence of rotted logs running the long way of the bunker. Eight feet farther north another secondary adobe wall had been built by the Volunteers parallel to the long axis of the bunker. Just beyond is what may be a gun emplacement. A rectangular area 6 feet long by 4 wide had been leveled off, one side having been cut 6 inches below the surface to make it level with the other side, where two heavy stakes had been driven. The Volunteers may have placed a small howitzer here, the ground being leveled for this purpose. A short distance to the north were two post holes indicating heavy posts, also parallel to the bunker. Still farther on, a stockade trench takes off in a northwesterly direction at about a 45-degree angle to both the bunker and the house. We excavated only the first 10 feet of this trench. It may ultimately have joined the mission irrigation ditch.
A 30-inch-wide opening had been cut through the adobe wall of the house nearly opposite the gun emplacement. This may have been an auxiliary doorway. From here across the house and through the partition wall between the kitchen and pantry is what seems to be a pathway. It probably started near an excavated area through the pantry wall where there is an indication of another entrance. In two of the window areas along the west wall large posts had been planted to block off the openings. From the northeast corner of the Indian Room (D) (see Figure 3: Main House floor plan), another stockade trench runs 19 feet toward the east, where it comes within 3 feet of another rectangular excavation. This may originally have been intended for a bunker, but it was never completely excavated at its center. Apparently it was filled in after the digging had been three-quarters finished. Perhaps there was a change in plans or a confusion regarding the initial order to dig. Such occurrences would not be unexpected in a volunteer army of some 400 or more raw recruits. At the bottom of the pit was a hard rubber button with the inscription, "Goodyear P-N-T. (45) It seems likely that the large mission irrigation ditch, which ran about 30 feet north of the building, was incorporated into the trenching system and stockade. However, considerably more excavating has to be done before we can determine the full size and location of the stockade. It must have enclosed a fairly large area, as it had to be large enough to accommodate wagons, baggage, and riding animals, as well as some cattle captured from the Indians.
The north adobe wall from the pantry (F) to the east end of the cellar (H) must have fallen down when the building was first burned. The part forming the north wall of room G fell out, nearly filling up two Indian house pits which were dug next to the wall. On the Fort Waters level (floor 3A) there was a heavy deposit of ash along this wall line with numerous pieces of charred and uncharred cottonwood bark lying the long way of the wall. It seems patent that the soldiers must have rebuilt this wall with cottonwood logs laid horizontally. James Longmire tells of seeing what was probably the Fort in 1853:
Longmire probably viewed the building from the north where the log wall was most prominent.
In the Fort Waters ground plan the arrangement of post holes seems to make no logical pattern. Yet when we remember that some of the Mission House walls were standing with posts buried therein, probably at 4-foot intervals, the system of posts added by the soldiers becomes intelligible. These posts were added primarily where the adobe walls were damaged or weakened. The most obvious line of posts added by the soldiers occurs in rooms I and K, which served as a hen-house and storeroom. The posts here were placed as close to the adobe wall as possible, sometimes cutting into the face of the wall slightly. It seems apparent that, though these walls were standing after the 1848 fire, they contained no wooden framework. In other words, the missionaries had not deemed it necessary to bury uprights in this part of the house. It had only a dirt floor, making a framework for the attachment of floor joists unnecessary. The soldiers, on the contrary, floored this part of the house and so found it necessary to add upright posts. They had a wood framework set just inside the adobe walls.
In room H the soldiers did extensive remodeling. Apparently the fireplace for this room, if there was one, was beyond repair, for the soldiers built one of their own out of adobe bricks. To do this they laid up an 18-inch-wide adobe wall along 9 feet of the north side of the cellar depression and built their chimney and fireplace against this wall. On the opposite side of the cellar they laid up another wall 10 inches wide, the bricks set in mud mortar. The room was floored with planks, no doubt brought from Dr. Whitman's sawmill 20 miles away on Mill Creek. There was more than 25,000 board feet of lumber at the sawmill at the time of the massacre. (47) As the soldiers had wagons, they must have had lumber in abundance once the Indians had been driven from the valley. There was no evidence of another fireplace in the east end of the building, although this area, too, was floored. The building may well have been completely ceiled with boards. C. W. Cooke, one of the Volunteers, wrote the following while at the Fort:
His reference to "loft" probably applied to the attic or upper half-story of the reconverted Mission House, though another building could have been indicated.
Part of the east wall of room B either had fallen in 1848 or was removed when the Volunteers dug their cellar. It is likely that a cottonwood log wall similar to the north wall filled in the gap, and there was probably a corner post at the southeast outside corner. However, a large locust tree growing in this area has obliterated signs of the post hole. In the cellar dug by the Volunteers under room B were numerous pieces of cottonwood bark that could well have come from this cottonwood log wall which bordered it on the east. In the cellar, too, were 1-inch-thick pine planks which probably represent flooring for room B above as reconstructed by the Volunteers.
Much of this remodeling must have taken place during the tenure of the sixty-two men who decided to stay on after the main body of the army had returned to the coast. It was they who probably dug the cellar for storage of their crops, and they could well have been the ones to install windows. Evidence of windows, especially in the rear half of the building, is abundant. Much of this glass is of the thin Hudson's Bay Company type, though there is also some that is thicker and similar to modern single- thickness glass. The window glass could easily have been obtained from the Hudson's Bay Company post at Wallula, which was in operation at this time. From the exceptionally fire-warped and amorphous character of much of the window glass, it seems likely that the windows were mostly intact when the building was fired in 1855.49 The installation of glassed windows is a further indication that the sixty-two Volunteers intended to make a permanent establishment out of the Fort. (50)
It might be contended that the flooring of much of the building, the installation of windows, and the establishment of an additional fireplace was the work of the three stockmen who lived in the buildings from about 1852 to 1855. This is hardly logical, as three men would not need the tremendous amount of space afforded by the 99-foot-long building. They would, no doubt, have been satisfied with two or three rooms. The same argument applies to the building of an additional fireplace. On the other hand, the sixty-two Volunteers with ample time on their hands and a plentiful supply of lumber, tools, etc., could easily have accomplished the project. Certainly they needed the space. We know that they set the gristmill in operation, and it is highly possible that they also reconstructed the Mansion House, another adobe building 400 feet east of the Mission House. The Mansion House ruin has yet to be completely excavated.
Did You Know?
On her 29th birthday Narcissa gave birth to a daughter, Alice Clarissa. The Cayuse called her “Cayuse Te-mi” (Cayuse girl) because she was born on Cayuse land. Some historians see her as a potential bridge between the two cultures. Unfortunately Alice Clarissa drowned when she was 2 years old.