"He Stands Ever"

Jefferson L. Standifer

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From: Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Vol. III; P-Z Index; by Dan L. Thrapp; pub. by The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, CA 1988.

Standifer, Jefferson J., frontiersman (d. September 30, 1874).  Standifer was reported to have gone to California in 1849.  In 1862 he was in Idaho, engaged in mining.  In March of 1863 he led a party of prospectors in pursuit of Indians, locating some in the vicinity of Salmon Falls where the whites killed 15 and wounded about the same number.  Leading about 200 volunteers a short time later, Standifer struck Indians in the present Elmore County, Idaho, all the men being killed and the women taken prisoner

.Meanwhile it was learned that a "fortified village" of Indians had been located some distance to the northwest.  After a night march the village on the Malheur River was surrounded.  One day's siege failed to reduce the place although the whites by one artifice or another managed to work closer to it.  A woman was sent out to treat with them and Standifer was permitted to enter the fort; by subterfuge he opened the way for his men when they indiscriminately shot down men, women and children, only three of the latter escaping.  One boy of about 4 was adopted by John Kelly, an Idaho City violinist who taught him to play the instrument and do tumbling acts; he was taken to London and Australia subsequently, being a popular performer.   Standifer led still another expedition against the Indians with similarly conclusive results.

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Orick Jackson alleges that "Jeff Standifer" and followers brought their "Montana gang" to Arizona where a gold strike was in progress around 1864, behaving more like outlaws than pioneers.  Standifer was faced down by King S. Woolsey, Jackson reported, and he believed him to have been killed later in southern Arizona, obviously an error.  Late in July 1866 Standifer led about 100 men to Rock Creek of Clark Fork of Columbia, then took part of his expedition south into the Big Horn Basin and eventually to Sweetwater, prospecting as they went but finding nothing of importance.  For a time Standifer worked for railway construction crews in Wyoming; in 1868 he suffered a broken leg and kept his pet grizzly bear in his room while recuperating at Bear River or Green River.  Reportedly he was hired as a scout for an 1874 Big Horn expedition, but was compelled by sickness to abandon the enterprise.   He died after a lengthy illness at Fort Freed Steel, Wyoming and was buried there.   Standifer was described as 6 feet in height, with broad shoulders, fine features, black hair, eyes and mustache, and "brave as a lion."

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[Bancroft, Washington, Idaho & Montana; Helena (Mont.) Independent, Nov. 15, 1874; information from Robert A. Murray; Orick Jackson, The White Conquest of Arizona.  Lost Angeles, West Coast Mag. 1908, 34; Farish, II, 223-24.]

*Fort Fred Steele was established to protect crews working on the transcontinental railroad and the fort later played an important role in protection of local settlers and the railroad tie industry. 

From: The History of Arizona by Thomas E. Farish, Vol. I; p. 223

About the year 1866 or 1867, there was a lot of hard cases, bad men, who came into Northern Arizona from Montana.  Among the rest was Jeff Standifer, who had the reputation of being a cool, courageous, nervy Killer; a dead shot with any firearm.  He was a gambler, and, haring somewhat of King Woolsey being a man of courage, he declared that he would kill him on site.  Men of his character always seek out those who have the reputation of being fighters to try their mettle.  As far as my experience in the West goes, this class of men, and I have seen many of them, are like gamecocks on a far; every one has its master, but in trying to establish their superiority, when they come together it is a duel to the death.  Some of Woolsey's friends visited him at his Agua Fria ranch, and told him of the threats which Standifer had made, and advised him not to come to Prescott for a few days.  Woolsey said: "I'll think about it."  He said he didn't like the idea, however, of a man telling him that he should not go to a place, or tell him that he should not go or come as he pleased; that he was in the habit of doing very much as he wanted to.  A few nights afterwards, when everything was in full swing, and the man was at his game, there entered the room King Woolsey.  Going up to the bar, he turned his face to the crowd.  All was still and quiet.  A hush came over everyone and the whisper passed around: "There's Woolsey!"  Standifer heard it, and started with his pistol in his hand toward Woolsey.  Woolsey looked at him until he was within about fifteen or twenty feet, when, quicker than lightning, he pulled his six shooter, and had it cocked and levelled at the man's head.  Raising his left hand he said: "Halt! Another step and you're a dead man."  Involuntarily Standifer stopped.  Woolsey looked him in the face for a moment, still holding his gun down on him, and said: "There's the door, take it, if every you cross my path again, I'll kill you."  The man went out of the door and never returned.

From: The History of Idaho; p. 518-520


       By March, 1863, the Indian depredations had become so annoying that the packers refused to undertake the bringing in of further supplies, notwithstanding they were offered unusually high prices to make the attempt.  In this emergency the miners of Placerville and vicinity decided that something must be done to check the Indians.  A volunteer company was therefore formed with J. J. Standifer (commonly called "Jeff") as captain; James Greenwood, first lieutenant; George W. Thatcher, second lieutenant.  The company was composed of about eighty men, but as no compete muster roll was preserved it is impossible to give their names.  From various sources it has been learned that the following were members of the company:  Charles Allender, Gerry Anderson, James Aukey, David H. Belknap, John G. Bell, John Benfield, John Black, Matt Bledsoe, A. E. Calloway, James F. Cheatly, Thomas Cook, Frank Crabtree, Nat Crabtree, J. M. Cummings, John Dobson, Robert Emery, David Fieirall, Lafe Gates, Samuel Hendy, Andrew Jenkins, Wesley Jenkins, Wallace Lawrence, "Doc" Leatherman, J. S. Lewis, James McCuen, Samuel McLeod, Benjamin Marmaduke, Green Martin, James Matthews, "Doc" Morey, Jesse Peters, Dr. J. N. Ratson, Thomas T. Redsull, Daniel Richards, Eli Riddle, George Riley, F. M. Scott, Buck Strickland, T. J. Sutton, W. H. Sutton, Daniel Tolbert, David C. Updyke, and Messrs Carrol, Packard, Warwick and Woole, whose given names have not been preserved, and a man known as "Mountain Jack," because he not know his real name, having been taken captive by the Indians in early childhood, and who in 1863 spoke the language of the Snake Indians much better than he did English.  He used a rifle or a bow and arrows with equal skill and was an expert at following a dim trail, an accomplishment that proved of great benefit to the company on its two campaigns against the red skins.

     Captain Standifer, a noted man in the early days of Idaho, has been described as being "six feet tall, with broad, square shoulders, fine features, black eyes, hair and moustache, and as brace as an Norseman."  He was a fit leader of the daring and courageous frontiersmen who, without hope or expectation of pay, left their claims where they were washing out gold in paying quantities, to protect their comrades engaged in the same occupation, and to endeavor to open the trails so that supplies might be brought into the basin.  Each man furnished his own horse and arms, the merchants in the mining camp supplying the ammunition and provisions.

     Prior to the formation of this company no resistance had been offered against the Indians, who had consequently grown bolder, and the indications were they were preparing for a general assault upon the mining camps.  Almost immediately after the organization was complete, Captain Standifer led his men down Moore's Creek to the Warm Springs, where they went in to camp, and the next day moved on to Indian Creek, all the time keeping a sharp lookout for the enemy.  On the morning of the third day they encountered a party of Indians not far from the present Hamlet of Mayfield, Elmore County, and the chase commenced.  Captain Standifer sent a detachment of sixteen men to cut off the savages from the mountainous country on the north.  This party discovered an Indian camp, surprised it and killed all the men, taking the squaws prisoners and returned to the main command.

    Scouts sent out brought in word that a considerable body of Indians was in the hills to the northwest in a fortified position.  By making a night march, Captain Standifer reached the camp a little before daylight.  Soon afterward a small party of Indians came out, several of whom were killed, the rest hurrying back into the fort, which was then surrounded and kept in a state of siege for three days and nights.  A parley was then held, Standifer telling the Indians that if they would surrender the ones who had killed George Grimes the year before he would allow the others to go.  The Indians refused and that night a member of the company was assigned to each Indian rifle pit, with instructions to "get" the occupant.  Under cover of darkness the white men crawled up close to the line of rifle pits and as soon as the first Indian looked out the next morning a well aimed bullet ended his career.  Curious to learn who fired the shot, other Indians exposed themselves and met the fate of their fellow guard.  This plan of warfare disconcerted the red men, who undertook to evacuate the fort, but Standifer's men were ready for such a movement and picked them off as fast as they appeared.  About sixty Indians were killed, only one brace escaping, and a number of horses were captured.  Captain Standifer had one man wounded (John Dodson) who died some months later from the effects of his injuries.

     Upton returning to the Warm Springs ranch, the company learned that all the live stock had been run off by the Indians.  A few men were sent to covey the wounded Dobson to Idaho City, and to get recruits and supplies.  As soon as these were received the whole company started in pursuit and followed the trail across the Snake River.  There the company divided, one detachment being commanded by Captain Standifer and the other by his two lieutenants.  Standifer moved up the Malheur River and the other party went up the Snake, but after a few days they were reunited at Standifer's camp on the Malheur, up which stream they moved for two days, rising early and marching late.  On the third night a lookout was sent to the top of a small mountain, from which they saw the camp fires of the savages some distance farther up the river and on the opposite side.  Another night march was made and before daylight the camp was surrounded.  What followed is thus told by Daniel Richards:

     "Captain Standifer placed all of his men, with the exception of eighteen, on either side of the camp, leaving an opening in front.  The eighteen men were placed on the upper side and at the signal given by the captain, they charged on the Indian camp with whoops and yells and shots.  This caused the Indians to stampede and they were soon dispatched by the other volunteers.  Fourteen Indians were killed.  The squaws and children were left unharmed and allowed to go free, excepting one small boy and a little Indian girl, whom we took to Idaho City with us.  It seems that another party of Indians had passed this camp before we reached it and had driven off all the horses they had."

     The company then returned to the Warm Springs, where it was disbanded, having succeeded in capturing a number of horses which were returned to their owners.  The chastisement inflicted upon the Indians by Captain Standifer and his men had a salutary effect, as it was some time before another raid was attempted.  The little Indian girl was turned over to a woman in the basin and the boy was given to John Kelly, of Idaho City.  Kelly was a famous violinist who had played all over California; he taught the boy to play the violin, as well as to perform a number of acrobatic feats.  He was afterward exhibited in London and Australia.

Note: Jefferson Standifer was the son of James and Nancy Rogers Standifer and grandson of William and Jemima Jones Standifer.

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