In October 1929, 75 years after the U.S. Army had established Fort Lane, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Central Point Grange memorialized the site with foundation stones from the original fort, which you can see today from Gold Ray Road. - Bill Miller

The whispering walls of Fort Lane

If walls could talk, Fort Lane could barely whisper — but even then, what a story it would tell.

On Sept. 10, 1853, a peace treaty was signed on the flanks of Lower Table Rock, temporarily ending hostilities in the Rogue River Indian War.

A reservation, stretching east from Evans Creek, near Rogue River, to the Table Rocks, was established for the local American Indians.

The U.S. Army staked out a military reserve on a slightly elevated hill, south and west of the Rogue River, looking toward the Table Rock Reservation.

Within days, a small fort was taking shape.

"The necessary buildings are being erected rapidly under the superintendence of the enterprising officer in command," wrote a newspaper correspondent. "The fort is called Fort Lane, in honor of our distinguished fellow citizen of that name."

The citizen was Joseph Lane, leader of volunteers during the Rogue Wars, future Oregon governor and U.S. senator.

Hastily built on rock foundations with rough log walls, the fort consisted of an officers' barracks, a hospital, a guardhouse, a camp store and commissary, a blacksmith shop, kitchens and an unpopular enlisted men's barracks.

One former soldier remembered how, when weather allowed, the enlisted men chose to "bivouac under the pines, where bunks were improvised," because of "the insect-infested condition of the barracks."

Except for the bugs and an occasional battle, the soldier seemed to enjoy the fort.

"The spot is a most picturesque one," he said, "bounded on one side by the pretty river, plentifully timbered, a lofty mountain view in the distance on all sides, and the snow-covered peak of old McLaughlin (sic) overlooking the whole.

"Within sight of our little post was Table Mountain, a dwarfish knoll, whose flat crown presented a peculiarly inviting target for our howitzer practice on gala days."

The Army walked a fine line between defending the settlers and protecting the Indian people against the hotheads who wanted every Indian dead.

"The determination of the Oregonians to exterminate the Indians, which I am wholly opposed to," said overall commander Gen. John Wool, "may prolong the war almost indefinitely."

In 1856, Wool was ordered to remove the Indian people to a reservation in the northern part of the state. By the end of the year, Fort Lane was abandoned.

Almost immediately, local settlers began scavenging whatever was left, and 150 years of illegal digging for artifacts began.

By October 1929, when the Central Point Grange and the Daughters of the American Revolution had raised enough money to erect a monument of stones from the old fort, little remained above ground to see except trenches and foundations.

Surprisingly, archaeological digs, supervised by staff from Southern Oregon University in 1997 and 2005, revealed that not all artifacts had been pillaged; however, because more looting was possible, the staff asked that the fort's exact location not be divulged.

Two years ago, Fort Lane was transferred to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. A protective fence was erected and plans for a historic park were begun.

Perhaps, in just a few more years, the remains of the old fort finally will whisper their story.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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