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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 61: A SCRAPE WITH DEATH

Ben and his wife settled down on a lovely spot, far from people and civilization. We have an accurate description of the location.

 ‘On the west side of the road going from Upper lake to lake Pillsbury, is a deep canyon. The stream in the canyon enters the Eel River about two miles downstream from the Scott Dam that forms the lake behind the dam. Upon the side of Pine (Cow) Mountain, west of the stream, is a large sized glade that contains water. Here is where Ben Moore and his Native American wife built a cabin, made their home and had a son.’ 

There was more soon to come to interrupt Ben Moore’s idyllic exitance. During the two and a half years Ben and his wife lived there, they had several scares from outlaw bands of Native Americans. Once, when Native Americans came pretending friendship, Ben gave the ‘friendly’ Native Americans welcome. Usually careful not to turn his back, this one time he let his guard down. While Ben was relaxed, the ‘friendly’ Indian leaped upon him and stabbed him in the neck with a knife.

Luckily, Ben had a boil on his neck. The boil had been well bound up with a pitch poultice. The knife stuck fast in the poultice, Ben whirled around, and used the knife on his sorry attacker.

Unexpectedly (by Ben), Mary, his wife, decided to run away from Ben. He had been mean to her. She took the baby and decided to return to her people. After an unusually heavy winter storm and while Ben was out hunting for meat, Mary bundled up the baby, took a few pieces of dried jerky and put on a heavy jacket. She strapped the baby on her back and headed east to her home with her tribe.

Walking over Low Gap between Goat and Snow Mountains for two days, with a six-month child strapped on her back, Mary trudged on through four-feet-deep snow. Mary’s only hope of escape from Ben Moore’s anger for leaving him was that she had to reach crusted deep snow before she was caught. She knew Ben would follow her on horseback. Deep snow with a frozen crust made passage for a horse impossible.

Mary finished the epic journey. She staggered into her village with bare feet raw and bloody. Two months later, after the snows had begun to melt. Ben Moore came to the village looking for Mary.

“We don’t know where she is,” was the only answer he got from the Stonyford Native Americans.

Ready to give up, Ben came upon her in the village street. When coaxing didn’t work, Moore accepted the inevitable, tossed her a ten-dollar gold piece, and rode on. He had little choice. If he had not quit the chase he would have had to fight the entire Indian camp.

Ben rode home, back to Lake County and married a second time to another Native American woman. The pattern of Ben Moore’s life after this time becomes hazy and less known. What is known is that Ben went to Argentina at some time later in his life. There he raised a family and while in South America, he was murdered.

The 12 May 1882, issue of the Lakeport Bee Democrat made this report;

‘We just received intelligence that Benjamin Moore… an early settler in Lake County, was murdered in South America on the 25th of December by a negro (Probably a native of Argentina). He was stabbed three times; twice in the breast and once in the side and lived a day and a night.’

 Anita Crabtree, Director of the Upper Lake Genealogical offices (also Ben Moore’s distant relative), added a footnote and a better explanation into Ben Moore’s death in Argentina.

“Ben refused to serve the Indians that had come to his store for liquor. Angered, one of the natives attacked and stabbed Ben.”

Despite some histories, (mostly only vague stories) after Mary left him, Ben’s only other marriage was to Harriet Waller. Harriet was with Ben until after his death in Argentina. She died soon after.

Next Episode: Lake County’s Alamo

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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