By Glenn Burghardt

Oakdale Historian

(c) 2007 - Oakdale, California







Oakdale's Native Americans

     Indians of the Tribe Lakisamni (Lacquisamni) lived in the Oakdale area long before the white man ventured into their land. Some historians believe that this residency may go back as far as three thousand years. The Lakisamni were a local tribe of the Northern Yokuts. The Yokuts Indian Nation covered the entire San Joaquin Valley floor, and has been divided by historians into two groups, the Northern Yokuts and the Southern Yokuts, according to their language and habits. The Spanish, who had settled on the coast in the mission chain, regarded the Lakisamni as a very hostile tribe and treated them as such.

     The Miwok Indian rancheria called Tualamne, located on the limestone bluffs at Buena Vista across the river from Knights Ferry, was first approached or visited by white men in October 1806, when Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga and his men pushed up the Stanislaus River. In reaching Tualamne, Lieutenant Moraga had passed the Lakisamni Indian rancheria which is thought to have been located in the Oakdale - Riverbank area. Evidence of the Tualamne Indians around the Knights Ferry area can still be seen by the mortar holes in the large rocks along the banks of the Stanislaus river near the Knights Ferry Bridge.  

A mortar is a bowl shaped rock with a hole in the center that is used with an oblong shaped rock, called a pestle, to grind acorns into meal.  Some mortars, as shown to left are bored right into large riverbank rocks.

     The Lakisamni Indians did not cultivate any crop as native foods were generally available in a plentiful supply giving them no need to produce their own. If one food item became scarce, they easily moved to another one. Acorns were the most commonly used food item but other items were just as eagerly consumed: fish, deer, rabbits, gophers, clover, seeds, insects, snails, clams, crawfish, turtles, bulbs, and birds. The women did the cooking and caring for the children. The only domesticated animal they kept were dogs and they had no hesitation or taboo about eating them.

The men fished the Stanislaus River or caught game when and where available. 

Here a Yokuts man is spearing a salmon.

     The clothing of the Lakismani is said to be very simple or nothing at all. They lived in a single-family, dome-shaped structure made with poles radiating from a common center. These poles were covered with grass, brush or bark thatch.

     The Indians along the Stanislaus River are said to have numbered over two thousand when the first settlers arrived. At the last count, taken in 1910, the whole Yokuts Nation, which ranged from Stockton to the Tehachapis, totaled only five hundred and thirty-three. The Yokuts originally had the largest population of any California Indian nation, estimated at forty thousand. The loss of their land, the introduction of diseases to which they had no natural immunity, and the loss of available food items is said to have quickly and drastically depleted their numbers.





     History does not record exactly when Cucunuchi, a Lakisamni Indian, arrived at Mission San Jose but most likely it was in the early 1820's during the administrations of Fathers  Fortuni and Duran.       

It was into this community of 250 whites and 500-600 Indian neophytes that the young Indian brave Cucunuchi went for religious instruction and education. He learned the habits and customs of the whites, and was baptized in the pueblo chapel and given the name Estanislao, after a Polish Saint of the Church.  

     Estanislao was an Indian of considerable intelligence and showed a more than ordinary degree of loyalty which gained him an appointment as a native alcade. Under Mexican law, an alcade was one who dispensed justice among the natives. He was at the mission at a time of friction and intense jealousy among political leaders of the northern and southern jurisdictions of California. This brought on a time of constant turmoil and lack of cohesion at the missions.

     Jose Maria Echeandra was Governor of Mexican California and did not support the efforts of the padres and belittled their work. Followers of the governor preached a doctrine of liberty and equality of converted Indians with the Spaniards. This caused the Indians to be neither content with their menial tasks nor obedient to their educators.

     In the spring of 1828, Estanislao left the mission and led a number of Indians back to the San Joaquin Valley and to the Rio Laquisimne (later renamed Rio Estanislao).

 qHistory does not definitely record where the Laquisimne  rancheria was located. It may have been at the point near where the river joined the San Joaquin River or along the river in the Oakdale-Riverbank area. 

The Rancheria of Chief Estanislao may have been located along a portion of the Rio Estanislao similar to the one shown here near the Orange Blossom Bridge east of Oakdale, California

     Because of their cattle and horse stealing and their looting of local ranchos, the Indians under Chief Estanislao, made themselves the terror of the area. Father Duran, of Mission San Jose, immediately called upon Mexican Commandante Ignacio Martinez, at the San Francisco Presidio, for troops to destroy the fortification and bring the fugitive Estanislao and his band of Indians back to the mission.

     The Commandante assigned Sergeant Antonio Soto to lead the first expedition. Sergeant Soto had many years of experience fighting Indians and was confident in his ability to quickly end the violence and capture their leader, Chief Estanislao. In November 1828, Sergeant Soto and his troops left San Francisco and proceeded inland past Mission San Jose to the Rio Estanislao.  


        A map showing the route (shown near the bottom) taken by the Mexican forces to Estanislao's Rancheria on the Stanislaus river. The route passes through Patterson Pass to Laguna Blanca which is in the Tracy region then crosses the San Joaquin River and proceeds east on the northern side of the Stanislaus River.

     From a dense and impenetrable thicket the Indians repelled Soto's forces and the battle raged all day. The arrows and spears of the Indians proved too much and the Mexican forces withdrew at sunset with two soldiers killed and another eight wounded in addition to the sergeant. The Indians suffered one dead and ten wounded. Due to the exhaustion of the men and the wounded needing attention, Sergeant Soto was forced to abandon the siege and retreat to San Jose. Here the sergeant died a few days later as a result of his wounds.

     Upon his return to the mission, Soto reported to the Commandante at the San Francisco Presidio that a larger force would be necessary to successfully fight the Indians. The wet winter weather delayed such an expedition until spring.  Then, in early May 1829, a second group of forty men, under the leadership of Sergeant Jose Sanchez was sent to punish the rebel Indians. In contrast to Sergeant Soto's rash actions, Sergeant Sanchez, who was said to be an experienced Indian fighter,  was very cautious and made careful preparations for the expedition.

    One of his preparations was the making of leather collars to protect the necks of his soldiers. It seems that Chief Estanislao was aware that the Mexican soldiers wore leather vests to protect their body so he instructed his warriors to aim at the head or neck.  Sergeant Soto had been shot in the neck in the first unsuccessful expedition.

     When Sanchez and his men arrived at Estanislao's camp, they found it very quiet and it looked deserted. However, the sergeant proceeded very carefully into the camp when suddenly the soldiers had arrows and spears coming at them from all directions. Sergeant Sanchez order his cannon to be fired at the Indians but it malfunctioned and had to be abandoned. He and his men were lucky to get out of this battle alive and for the second time the Mexican forces retreated back to Mission San Jose.

     Realizing that this might become a major encounter, the Commandante of the San Francisco Presidio joined forces with that of the Monterey Presidio to send a third and much larger force of one hundred and seven soldiers to defeat Chief Estanislao and his Indian band.

     This force was organized under the command of a young twenty-year old officer named Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (see note #1). Vallejo's Army was equipped with infantry, cavalry and a three-pound cannon for artillery. Lieutenant Vallejo's forces joined with those of Sergeant Sanchez at San Jose and proceeded to the San Joaquin River, where the combined forces crossed the river by raft on May 29, 1829. The next day they were at the scene of the previous battle.

     Vallejo's forces used the cannon to break through the stockade walls, causing the Indians to retreat to the thicket. The Mexican forces set fire to the thicket and destroyed many Indians as they came to the edge. The battle continued all day and the next morning Vallejo entered the thicket to find that the surviving Indians had fled during the night  by way of the tunnels dug previously for defense. 

     Lieutenant Vallejo and his forces followed the Indians upriver and upon reaching the band, engaged them in another fierce battle that lasted all day. Many Indians were killed  Vallejo's forces became tired and had expended all their ammunition so were forced to return to Mission San Jose on June 1st  having, what he claimed, conquered Chief Estanislao with no losses but thirteen wounded.

     On the other side of the story, the Indians were not conquered as not a single neophyte Indian was returned to the mission and the Mexican authorities published an order that no one was to proceed east of the San Joaquin river as the Indians were hostile. 

     Later Estanislao delivered himself to Father Duran and was ultimately pardoned by Governor Echeandra.

     Estanislao appears again in the annals of the year 1836 as a leader of renegade Indians accused of horse stealing, driving away livestock and causing the death of several settlers. Word among the first settlers of Knights Ferry gives Estanislao residence there in the late 1840's, but no record of him is found in 1851 when the U.S. Indian Commission met with area chieftains at the Horr Ranch, east of Waterford, to make a treaty. It is presumed that the great leader had died from one of several viral epidemics that occurred in the region in the 1830's - an enemy that he could not see nor defeat.

     Some evidence, in the way of artifacts and documented descriptions, has been found which places the location of the battle between Estanislao and his Indian band and Vallejo's Mexican force along the Stanislaus River below Riverbank in the Caswell State Park region.  Others believe the location to be in the Riverbank-Oakdale area.

A 44 inch, 250 pound cannon barrel with 2.125" bore was found along the Stanislaus river down river from the Orange Blossom Bridge where a diary written by a Padre with Sgt Sanchez's force reported a  battle. Could this be the cannon reported abandoned by the Mexican forces?






   Many persons are aware of Chief Stanislaus (Estanislao) who some say was, "the best military leader among the Native Californians," and his historic conflicts with the Mexican forces and how he came to have a river and a county named to honor him but few know much about his successor, Chief Hozá Ha-sóos.

   According to Thorne Gray in his book Stanislaus Indian Wars (1993), Hozá Ha-sóos or José Jesús, as he was more commonly known, with the help of John Sutter would command thousands of Miwok and surviving Yokuts as he confronted an enormous flood of humanity, that few Indians could withstand -- the Gold Rush.

Jesús was more colorful and much bolder in character.  Charles Weber, early settler and founder of Stockton recalled in 1880 that, "he stood six feet tall and dressed in the full gala attire of the Spanish ranchero, with cotton shirt, and drawers, calzonazos, sash, serape and sombrero" and was considered "the new leader of the Stanislaus."

    José Jesús who, like Estanislao, had been a mission alcalde (leader).  He was mission educated and, when young, may have fought side by side with Estanislao in 1829 against the Mexican forces.

    Weber of the French Camp Rancho (and later Stockton) and John Sutter of Sacramento both realized that Mexican Alta California would someday become part of the United States and wanted to make the best of it.  F. T. Gilbert in his "History of San Joaquin County, California (1879) states, "Weber was well aware that José Jesús and his Indian compatriots drew their line of defense along the San Joaquin, the line beyond which Mexican Californians, even in parties, found passage dangerous." As Weber knew that Chief Jesús hated the Mexicans and the Americans feared trouble with the Mexicans, he talked with the Chief and a friendly alliance resulted.  Gray tells us "The alliance between José Jesús and Weber lasted through the remainder of the chief's life and Weber recalled the Indian as one of the most reliable and valued allies of the early days."

    One of the first things Jesús did was to advise Weber to, "build his American village" at the site of present day Stockton rather than at the French Camp Rancho.  He further agreed to help till the soil and defend Weber's property against either Indians or Mexicans (Gilbert, 1879). This alliance was not unique, as Chief Jesús later made an alliance with John Sutter.

    Again, in the early 1840's, there was political unrest in Alta California. There was hostility between the Mexican Governor, General Manuel Micheltorena and his enemies, former Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado and Commandante José Castro. In November 1844, fighting erupted at San Juan Bautista. Micheltorena's forces marched from Monterey and met Castro's forces below San Jose.  Governor Micheltorena called for aid from John Sutter of New Helvetia (Sacramento). Sutter's forces included about 100 Indians ( among them Chief José Jesús),  John Bidwell, Dr. John Marsh and pioneer William Knight (later of Knights Ferry). Micheltorena's forces were defeated.

   On June 14, 1846, American rebels and other foreigners raised the Bear Flag at Sonoma and on July 4th, declared their independence.  Conflict continued, this time between Mexican forces and the Americans.  In November, Sutter again enlisted his Indians in the cause.

   According to Fremont's California Battalion Muster Roll, 1846, this time the Indians, including Chief José Jesus, joined Company H of Fremont's California Battalion. They were promised $25 a month for three months service.  The battalion was ordered south to San Juan Bautista and Santa Barbara and was successful. On January 13, 1847, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed. The hostilities in Alta California were ended.

   Gray states, "As for Chief Jesús, the Treaty of Cahuenga must have been the realization of a long-held dream. His avowed enemies, the Mexicans of his mission days so many years before, had been defeated at last."

   At this time Chief Jesús had to make his choice of the future. Whether from opportunity, chance or wisdom, José Jesús determined to take another course -- an alliance. Already he was allied with Charles Weber, the enterprising merchant whose dream of a city was taking shape at Stockton. Already he was friends with Sutter with whom he marched to aid Governor Manuel Micheltorena.  Already he had joined the Bear Flag revolt and Fremont's Battalion. His plan had been forming for a long time.

   Soon the alliance with Charles Weber put Chief José Jesús and his Indians into the business of mining gold. The Gold Rush was on and as soon as the Indians learned to find gold, they were sent home to the Stanislaus River.  They did find gold and in July 1848, they found a spectacular kidney-shaped 80-ounce lump of pure gold. 

   Gray states, ".... the Indians discovered the Southern Mines, original deposits being in a place called The Crater just a few miles upstream of Knights Ferry. The gold the Indians brought Weber proved to be more course than any yet discovered." . . . . . ." The flood of Forty-Niners was finding the Stanislaus and the Southern Mines. There, Chief José Jesús was at his height of his powers. His influence extended from the Stanislaus to Murphy's Camp, Mokelumne Hill and New Helvetia (Sacramento). He was celebrated for his bravery and for his rigid punishment of crime.

   José Jesús was shot in 1849 by a former officer of Stevenson's New York Volunteer Regiment as a result of what is listed as an argument. The location of the shooting is recorded as Stockton or Knights Ferry.  The chief survived due to Weber paying $500 for his medical treatment.  It is said that a couple of years later he was shot again. Chief Hosá Ha-sóos, or Jose Jesús, disappears from our records in 1851.


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Note 1: Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, son of Ignacio Vallejo, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, was born at Monterey in 1808. He entered military service in 1823 as a cadet of the Monterey Company and was soon promoted to alferez of the San Francisco Company although remaining in Monterey until 1830, sometimes acting as commander. From 1830 he served as commander at San Francisco.

In 1834, Vallejo was promoted to lieutenant and also, that year, received the Petaluma Rancho Land Grant. In 1835, he founded the town of Sonoma and was appointed commander of the Northern Frontier, and was from then considered the most independent and most powerful man in California.

Although playing no active part in the revolution, on November 29, 1836, under the government of Alvarado, Vallejo was given the title of Commandante General of California with the rank of colonel.

Vallejo was sympathetic with the U.S. interest in California and in 1849 was a member of the State Constitution Convention; in 1850, a member of the first State Senate.

In 1830, Vallejo married Francisca Benicia, daughter of Joaquin Carrillo of San Diego, and they had thirteen children. As a private citizen, he was always generous and kind hearted. Mariano Vallejo died on January 18, 1890.



Gray, Thorne: Stanislaus Indian Wars (excellent reference book)

Holterman, Jack: The Revolt of Estanislao (article)

Cook, S. : various reports

West, Naida: Eye of the Bear (excellent historic novel)