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The millionaire and the Native American warrior

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History lecture explores closing days of Modoc War

An eccentric millionaire traveled halfway across the country to watch the execution of a Modoc leader and three other warriors in the closing days of the Modoc Indian War.

In an online talk, historian Todd Kepple of the Klamath County Museum will explore the factors that led millionaire Leonard Case of Ohio to travel by train, stagecoach and carriage to witness the executions at Fort Klamath.

Modoc leader Kintpuash, also known as Captain Jack, was among the four Native Americans who were hung at the fort at the end of the 1870s war.

“The Amazing Journey of Leonard Case and the Execution of Captain Jack” is the Windows in Time history lecture for October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free event will be held via the Zoom videoconference service from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6. Registration is required.

Historians have been studying the Modoc Indian War for nearly 150 years. Only recently was it learned that a millionaire living in Cleveland made the long journey to Fort Klamath to witness the deaths of the Modoc warriors.

Case kept a journal about his journey and recorded key details about the days and hours leading up to the execution of the Modoc men.

An excerpt from Leonard Case’s journal (left page) shows a list of Modoc prisoners, including Captain Jack, held at Fort Klamath. Collection of Klamath County Museum

During the Modoc War, Captain Jack led a band of 160 people, including 53 warriors plus women and children. For several months, they held off U.S. Army attackers by using the rough terrain of lava beds as a stronghold.

During the Modoc War of 1872-1873, a small band of Modocs used their knowledge of their homeland's rugged terrain to their tactical advantage.

The area is now part of the Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California.

Soldiers eventually cut off the Modoc people’s access to a spring and Tule Lake, forcing them from the lava beds when they ran out of water.

Captain Jack was one of the last Modocs to be captured. He was held as a prisoner, then hanged at Fort Klamath Oct. 3, 1873.

Modoc leader Kintpuash, also known as Captain Jack, was held as a prisoner at Fort Klamath before his execution. California Historical Society photo 15458104939

Kepple has been manager of the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls for 16 years. He has served for seven years on the Oregon Heritage Commission.

To register for the history talk, visit jcls.libcal.com/calendar/jcls_event/WIT-Oct-2021. A recording of the program will be made available later on the Jackson County Library Services YouTube channel at youtube.com/c/JCLSBeyond.

Past Windows in Time talks can be viewed on the YouTube channel, including lectures on Jackson County during World War I, scandals from the heyday of railroads and quirky historic facts about Ashland.

The monthly Windows in Time lecture series features writers and historians exploring aspects of Southern Oregon history. The series is sponsored by the Southern Oregon Historical Society and Jackson County Library Services.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.