Farm Bureau - Melissa Wheeler

The North Bend Eagle


In search of the Rawhide Creek:
The Legend gets a local twist

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/18/21


• Part 1 of the story: In search of the Rawhide Creek

• Part 2 of the story: The guesome legend of Rawhide Creek

The Eagle has gotten a lot of great feedback and comments since running two stories on the history and the current condition of the Rawhide Creek July 21 and 28.

We’ve had people share their stories of playing in the creek when they were small. We’ve seen maps and heard stories of other branches of the Rawhide in addition to the main branch we traced in the July 21 story. We’ve heard stories and seen evidence of people filling in or straightening the original creek bed to facilitate crops. We have found more research on the Legend of Rawhide Creek and the origins of its name.

One moment that topped them all and added an intriguing local twist to the legend came a couple of weeks ago when a man came into the Eagle office and announced, “My great-grandfather made the gun that shot the squaw that gave Rawhide Creek its name.”

As you may recall from the Eagle’s July 28 examination of the gruesome Legend of Rawhide Creek, there are many versions of the legend, but they follow this general outline:

A young man following the trail west during the California Gold Rush of 1849-1850 swore he’d shoot the first Indian he came across. He made good on his promise, shooting an innocent woman minding her own business. That night member of her tribe surrounded the pioneers and demanded they turn over the man who shot the squaw. They then skinned him alive there on the banks of a creek, where the traveling party later buried him. The flaying resulted in the stream being named the Rawhide Creek.

John Shaw Jr. of North Bend is very familiar with the legend. According to family lore, his great-grandfather indirectly played a key role in the incident.

“My dad told me from the time I was a little kid this story,” Shaw said.

Shaw, 80, stopped into the Eagle to share that family story and the role his great-grandfather played in the Legend of Rawhide Creek.

Shepherd Shaw was born in 1825 in North Carolina but was living in Ohio by his 20’s and was soon making a living as a gunsmith.

As the family legend goes, a young man stopped in Shepherd Shaw’s gun shop on his way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he would join a wagon train west to join the California Gold Rush.

“He stopped in and told (Shepherd), ‘Yep, I want a good one,’” John Shaw said. “‘I’m going to get me a redskin.’ He looked at them like animals, like coyotes. He had read all these dime westerns, I guess.”

Shepherd Shaw sold the man a rifle he had made.

Some time later, a professional wagon guide who had returned east to pick up a new wagon train ran into Shepherd Shaw and recognized the name. One one of his trips west, the wagon master had in his caravan a young man who showed off a rifle he had that was made by Shepherd Shaw, and repeated the vow to use it on the first Indian he came across.

One evening the wagon train was setting up camp for the night. The guide said there was a creek over the next hill or two where the party could refill their water barrels, so a group headed out to do so.

They crested the hill to see a group of Native American women at the creek, some of them washing clothes. When the group of white men came over the hill, the women took off running.

“They squealed and ran like a bunch of quails,” John Shaw said. “They just took off.”

The young man with the new rifle he was so proud of took aim at the scattering women and fired, hitting one in the back and killing her.

“Nobody approved of this act, of course,” John Shaw said. “The young guy said, ‘Man did you see that? It went down like a pile of rocks!’ and crap like that.”

The group of travelers filled their water barrels and returned to camp to prepare the evening meal.

Soon after, a group of Indians appeared, faces painted. They communicated that they wanted the man who had shot the woman by the creek.

Each wagon train had a group of elected leaders, like a city council. This council met to consider their predicament. The white pioneers knew they had more and better firepower than the Indians. But they also knew that even if they won a battle, it could mean a number of deaths in their own party, a sacrifice they were unwilling to make for the foolish and murderous action of one man.

So the council elected to turn over the shooter.

The Indians took the man out of gun shot range of the traveling party– but still within sight.


Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

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