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Battle of Kelley Creek
Part of the American Indian Wars
JP Donnelly posse Battle of Kelley Creek
The posse of J.P. Donnelly.
DateFebruary 25, 1911
LocationHumboldt County, Nevada
Result United States victory
US flag 46 stars United States Daggett Party
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Nevada J.P. Donnelly Mike Daggett
Casualties and losses
1 killed 8 killed
4 captured

The Battle of Kelley Creek was one of the last armed conflicts between the United States and native Americans during the Indian wars era. In January 1911 a small group of Bannocks and Shoshones killed four men in an incident known as the Last Massacre. After which a Posse comitatus of policemen and citizens were sent to track the natives who were found encamped near Winnemucca, Nevada in a region known as Kelley Creek. A skirmish ensued on February 25 that ended with the deaths of nine people. At the time the affair was characterized as a native American revolt though it is now regarded as a family's attempted escape from justice.[1]


Shoshone Mike war bonnet

Shoshone Mike's war bonnet, found at Kelley Creek on February 25, 1911.

Mike Daggett, or Shoshone Mike, was the chief of the small band and in the spring of 1910, he led his group of eleven off the Fort Hall Reservation at Rock Creek, Idaho. All but two men of the group were members of Mike's family, which included three women and four or five children. They first headed south into northern Nevada and then wandered west to Oroville, California before heading back into Nevada to spend the winter at Little High Rock Canyon in northern Washoe County. In January 1911, the Daggett party was running low on food so they stole and slaughtered some cattle belonging to a local rancher. A sheepherder named Bert Indiano witnessed the crime and he alerted the people of Surprise Valley, California who sent a posse of three men to investigate the incident and protect the livestock. The three men were Harry Cambron, Peter Errammouspe and John Laxague, they were to join up with Indiano and ride to the scene of the crime. However, when they arrived in the area, Shoshone Mike and his two eldest sons were waiting for them.[2][3]

Last Massacre[]

The Daggetts knew the settlers were coming to find them so when the posse entered the canyon on January 19, the natives opened fire with rifles and pistols, killing all four of them. The bodies were found mutilated on a creekbed weeks later, on February 8, by a search party from Eagleville, California. One man's mustache was removed while another lost his eyelid, all had been stripped of their clothes and the gold fillings in their teeth. When word of the massacre reached the surrounding settlements, women and children were sent away for safety and the men who remained armed themselves in case of another similar episode. Initially it was thought that a gang of outlaws from Oregon were responsible, if not a band of Modocs. The Nevada and California State Police organized a posse under the command of Captain J.P. Donnelly, to pursue the Daggett party which was heading towards Duck Valley. Other posses were also organized, though only Donnelly's would make contact with the hostiles, and a large cash bounty was authorized to be awarded to anyone who could arrest or kill the murderers.[4][5]


Charles Ferrel and survivors Battle of Kelley Creek

Sheriff Charles Ferrel with the surviving members of Mike Daggett's family.


Mary Jo Estep, about five years after surviving the Battle of Kelley Creek; from a 1916 publication.

The posse included at least five policemen, a few armed civilians, and the "county coroner and physician" and after stopping in Little High Rock Canyon on February 13, they continued on in extreme winter weather conditions. Over 200 miles later, northeast of Winnemucca, the posse found Mike and his followers in an area known as Kelley Creek on Sunday, February 25. After the fighting began the two sides skirmished for three hours[6] and by the end of the engagement, the natives had run out of ammunition and were using bows, spears and tomahawks against the posse. Shoshone Mike was one of the first men killed in the battle but his death only made the remaining natives fight longer and harder, even though they were eventually forced back. The adult females fought alongside the men and reportedly just as well. By the time the battle ended, only four of the original twelve were still alive, among them a sixteen year old girl and three young children who were taken back to Reno in police custody. Two children were also reported to have been killed in the fight but their deaths were said to be "accidental and could not have been avoided."[7][8]

One of the Americans, named Ed Hogle of Eagleville, was also wounded in the fight and he later died. After the battle was over, the posse found evidence linking the massacre in Little High Rock Canyon to the natives. Other than Mike's war bonnet, the posse found guns and a watch that had belonged to Harry Cambron, which was identified by his brother, Ben Cambron, who was a member of the procession. The bodies of the natives were taken by wagon to Gasconade, Nevada and buried in a mass grave made from the crater of a dynamite explosion, a tall pole was placed at the site as a marker. The remains of Ed Hogle were returned to Eagleville where he was buried. Sheriff Charles Ferrell, who was in command of the investigation, but not present at the battle, arrived back at Reno on March 2 with the four captives who later said the Shoshone Mike was indeed Shoshone but their mother, and the others, were Bannock. The four survivors were cared for by Reno's civilian population for some time until they were enrolled in the Stewart Indian School near Carson City in May 1911. By 1913, three of the children had died of natural causes, and only one of the survivors, Mary Jo Estep who was only a baby child at the time of her capture was left alive; Estep learned the details of her origins in 1975, when novelist Dayton O. Hyde [9] was researching Mike Daggett's story and sought her out.[10] she passed away in 19 December 1992.[11] The reward offered to anyone who could catch or kill the Daggett party was initially denied to the posse by Governor Tasker Oddie, due to the fact that there were state policemen involved, but the case was later settled in favor of the posse by the Supreme Court.[12][13]

See also[]



  • Turner Publishing Co. (2003). Washoe County Sheriff's Office: dedicated service in partnership with our community. Turner Publishing Co.. ISBN 1-56311-954-4. 
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