They said the old apple tree was finally dead. For almost 120 years, the tart green fruit had ripened, and if not picked in time, dropped and rolled and rotted on the summer grass.

They said the old apple tree was finally dead. For almost 120 years, the tart green fruit had ripened, and if not picked in time, dropped and rolled and rotted on the summer grass.

Lewis Haines had planted this tree, or its seed, not far from Louse Creek in the morning shadows of Walker and Red mountains.

His children watched and watered it, impatiently dreaming of their mother's apple pie. But the tree would take years to bear fruit, and by then, Lewis, his wife, Armilda, and their five children would all be dead.

It wasn't their fault.

In this part of what would become Josephine County, there may have been some nervousness between settlers and the local American Indians, but more concerned with their daily survival, both sides lived in a tolerant peace.

Miles away in Jacksonville, on Oct. 7, 1855, the world was about to explode.

John Lupton, described by historian A.G. Walling in 1884 as a "rash and headstrong" man, gathered together about 40 "hair-brained enthusiasts and professed ruffians who in no sense represented the community," and sneaked off toward an American Indian camp near Butte Creek.

Their early morning surprise attack killed more than 40 people, mostly women, children and old men, but Lupton's dreams of glory ended with an arrow in his lung.

The next day, unknown to the Haines family, vengeful tribesmen were on the attack and coming their way.

Lewis Haines was sick and lying in bed when the door was smashed open. When his body was found, he and his four sons had been shot multiple times and one of the sons had his head smashed in.

Mrs. Haines and daughter Minda were taken away. Their fate, said Walling, "was a sad one, and is yet wrapped in mystery."

Settlers said they were thrown into the Rogue River at Hellgate Canyon, but Walling disagreed. "From the stories told by the Indians," he said, they "died about a week afterwards, from the effects of a fever aggravated by improper food."

As in most cultural clashes, it's the innocent of both sides who suffer the most. At least 20 settlers died that day, and because of that, nearly all American Indians in what are now Jackson and Josephine counties would spend the rest of their lives on a reservation, far from their ancestral home.

The Haines cabin and homestead disappeared, but the apple tree continued to grow to maturity and soon began to drop its apples.

In 1923, a descendant of Lewis Haines placed a commemorative marker near the tree. Fifty years later, the Josephine County Commissioners held a celebration ceremony at the tree, while the local historical society erected a sign at the site.

But, for the next three years, as if in mourning, no apples grew on the tree. It was dead they said — but of course it wasn't.

Each spring, surrounded by railroad tracks, a lumber mill and industrial neighbors in Merlin, the blossoms reappear. Roots, as big as a man's chest, still feed the fruit that tumbles to the ground at the end of summer. Lewis Haines' apple tree is still alive.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.