shopify stats

Lakeport’s Bloody Island

Prior to its establishment in the late 1850’s, Lakeport was in close proximity to the site of what has become one of the state’s darker periods of history – the Bloody Island Massacre – which took place on an island at the north end of Clear Lake in 1850. A number of the Pomo tribes people, native to the area, were held captive where they were enslaved, interned and cruelly mistreated by settlers Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone. These two individuals were cattle runners in the Big valley region from 1847 where they took advantage of local Pomo people and used them to work for them as cowboys. Due to the success of this venture, the men decided that capturing and forcing the Pomo to work for them supposedly in exchange for meager rations, would be more to their advantage. However, before long the tribesmen found themselves doing hard labor, building permanent shelters and the likes in the hope of receiving food that never materialized.

bloody-islandEventually all these natives were confined to a village on the island without any weapons or even fishing implements to feed themselves, surrounded by a stockade blocking off any means of escape. Families were starving to death in brutal conditions made worse by the cruel natures of Kelsey and Stone who thought nothing of kicking a man to death for requesting extra wheat to help a sick relative or worse still, forcing parents to bring them their daughters to be abused for their own sexual gratification. The Pomo were also forced into laboring on gold-prospecting expeditions in 1949 which ended in tragedy when Kelsey, who was leading this venture, fell ill with malaria and gave their rations away to other minors in exchange for medicine for himself. As a result most of the Pomo men starved to death with only one or two left alive out of the original fifty workers.

After years of enduring this systematic abuse, two tribesmen stole Stone’s horse with the intention of using it to kill a cow to feed the starving natives however this plan went wrong when the horse was frightened as a result of stormy weather and ran off. The wife of one of these individuals knew these men would be severely punished for this rebellion and tried to prevent repercussions by rendering the gunpowder used by Stone and Kelsey useless by pouring water onto it while Pomo warriors took the opportunity to fight back. In the ensuing uprising, Kelsey was killed by an arrow in his home when it came under attack and Stone fled through a window then tried to hide in among some nearby willow trees however he was found there and killed with a rock. The triumphant natives were then free to return to their families and relatives around the lake but their victory proved to be short lived as further tragedy awaited them just round the corner. This occurred in 1850 when Captain Nathaniel Lyon – who would later die in battle on the Union’s side in the Civil War – led an assault on the island to take revenge on the natives for the deaths of Stone and Kelsey. It is estimated that this 1st Dragoons Regiment subsequently slaughtered up to 100 natives during this attack including old men, women and children.

About the Author