Horse Slaughter Camp


 What: Historically this incident had a huge impact on the local Indian perception of their white adversary. They saw an enemy that was capable of an act that no Indian chief could ever do. This is a beautiful drive for your 4-wheel drive over a river gravel bed with some simple up and down hills. Good for a beginner 4WD off-road experience. Why would anyone want to visit the site of a mass animal murder? Probably most wouldn't, but for me it is important to go to the historical places to get the feel and physical context of them. Even as late as 1911 the bleached bones of the slaughtered horses could be seen along the bank of the Spokane river. What happened here on September 9th 1858 after the great battle of the Four Lakes area? Colonel Wright marched on the morning of the 8th to the east for 9 miles from a site where he had just parlayed with Chief Garry Spokane. Whenever an Indian storehouse filled with their winter supply of ffff99, oats, vegetables, camas roots, or dried berries was found, it was burned. A large cloud of dust was seen in the hills off to the front and right. I closed up the train and left it guarded by a troop of horse and two companies of foot, and I then ordered Major Grier to push rapidly forward with three companies of dragoons, and I followed with the foot troops. The distance proved greater than was expected; deep ravines intervening between us and the mountains, but the dragoons and Nez Perces under Lieutenant Mullan, were soon seen passing over the first hills. The Indians were driving off their stock, and had gone so far into the mountains that our horsemen had to dismount, and, after a smart skirmish, succeeded in capturing at least eight hundred horses; and when the foot troops had passed over the first mountain, the captured animals were seen approaching under charge of Lieutenant Davidson, with his men on foot, and the Nez Perces. The troops were then re-formed and moved to this camp, I having previously sent an express to the pack train to advance along the river. After encamping last evening, I investigated the case of the Indian prisoner suspected of having been engaged in the murder of two miners; the fact of his guilt was established beyond doubt, and he was hung at sunset. With one execution under his belt, Wright next turned his attention to the valuable Indian horses that had been owned by some Palouse Chiefs. He met with his officers to discuss what should be done with the animals. Actually this herd presented quite a problem. It was a crime at this time on the frontier to kill a horse, but this was war where all could be fair. It would waste much ammunition to kill them, but driving them would slow the march too much. Turning them loose would be giving a tool to the Indians. It was Wright's job to subdue the Indian's powerful hold over their land. This action could demoralize the tribes further. It was decided to select 130 out for the soldier's use, and then to kill the rest. It was a larger job than expected. To save ammunition, colts were knocked in the head. It was found that one bullet aimed behind the ear into the brain would kill most effectively. They had to listen to brood mares whine all night over their lost colts. At first they led the horses down to the river gravel bar, but it became too time consuming so they ended up shooting them in the corral constructed by banks, the river and a rope fence on the east side where there was no other containment naturally available. Captain Keyes observed, "It was a cruel sight to see so many noble beasts shot down. They were all sleek, glossy, and fat, and as I love a horse, I fancied I saw in their beautiful faces an appeal for mercy. Towards the last the soldiers appeared to exult in their bloody task; and such is the ferocious character of men." The defeated Indians wondered what nature of mankind could kill horses -- stallions, geldings, mares, and colts -- in such a cold-blooded manner? They never forgot the horse slaughter. The Palouses told their children and grandchildren, who in turn told their children and grandchildren. For more information see Appaloosa Museum. This lost group of horses represented the best of the breed of the time. On Feb. 15, 1806, Meriwether Lewis made this journal entry about the Nez Perce horses. "The horses appear to be of an excellent rac. They are lofty, elegantly formed, active and durable. In short, many of them look like fine English horses and would make a figure in any country." "Today in the Nez Perce Reservation in the town of Lapwai, this tribe reclaims it place among horseman by creating a new line called the Nez Perce horse. It blends the appaloosa with traits from a lean Central Asian war horse called akhal-teke. This breed is young, but everything is going good so far." From Spokesman Review article, 8/5/2000, C1.  

 Where:  North 47 41.245' West 117 04.431'   Drive East on I-90 to the Washington/Idaho border and take the State Line exit. At the stop sign go left under the freeway, and then go West from there to the State Patrol weigh station and then walk west on the Centennial Trail to the monument which is just west of the 2 mile marker. It is about one mile west of the State Patrol weigh station.  You also could go under the freeway at the Stateline exit and go straight to a dead end sign and turn left onto a small two rut trail along the river which is currently a popular dog walking area. Here you can take your bike on the Centennial trail, but it is a little longer than if you start from the Weigh Station. Or with a four wheel drive you could follow the river bed till you can't go any farther and then it is a fairly short walk to the monument to the west on the Centennial Trail. Ignore the small print on the bottom of the monument regarding moving of the monument since that relates to when the monument was moved to the Weigh Station. It has now been moved back to the original position and when they dug the pit for cementing the monument in they hit bones that looked like horse bones.

 Cautions:  Watch the traffic around the State Line exit as it is weird.

 List:  Water, binoculars, picnic, and in summer swimming suit.