On October 3, 1873, the U.S. Army hanged Modoc Indian chief “Captain Jack” Kintpuash for the murders of General Edward Canby and Reverend Eleazar Thomas, both leaders of a Federal peace commission. Though Captain Jack and three of his tribesmen died 140 years ago today, some believe the spirits of these men live on.
The trouble started in 1864 when settlers encroached on Modoc territory and officials relocated the Indians to the lands of a rival tribe. The Modoc people fared poorly there, and in 1865, Captain Jack led the tribe back to their native lands in the Tule Lake region near the California-Oregon border. The Army sent the Modoc back to the area of resettlement, but Jack and nearly 200 of his tribe returned to their ancestral lands in 1870.
Over the next three years, the Army skirmished with Captain Jack’s band of warriors who managed to hide in the caves and trenches in what is now Lava Beds National Monument. Today, people report feeling ill in the area known as Captain Jack’s Stronghold (right) with some visitors experiencing a deep sense of sorrow and unease.
“I felt my heart racing and didn’t know why,” one man told Subversify.com of his childhood visit to the site. “I also felt incredibly sad, particularly when sitting in Captain Jack’s cave. There were pictures carved into the stone there. I felt that if I had lain down, I would not want to get up. I remember asking my parents to leave as I could not overcome the feeling that I wanted to cry. This feeling lasted about a half an hour after I left the site.”
At the suggestion of his advisers, Jack met with members of the Federal peace commission on April 11, 1873 and fatally shot General Edward Canby. Another Modoc known as Boston Charley killed Reverend Thomas. The Army responded in force, and Captain Jack surrendered to authorities on June 1. His execution by hanging came four months later.
Is it possible that the spirits of Captain Jack and the warriors he led still dwell in the former stronghold?