As It Was: This Riddle wrote Modoc War story from Indian’s side

Jefferson C. Davis Riddle was the son of Frank and Toby Riddle, also known as Winema, who played prominent roles as interpreters during the Modoc War. Born in Yreka in 1863, Riddle was named Charka, Modoc for “the handsome boy.”

He spent a lot of time with his grandfather shooting a rifle, riding horses and learning to handle a bow and arrow.

His family usually lived quite a distance from schools so he only attended six weeks of schooling — three in Hawkinsville, Calif., and three in New York. As a 10-year-old, he witnessed the Modoc War firsthand, but learned to read and write while traveling the country with his parents and peacemaker Col. A.B. Meacham, a wounded survivor of the war.

After the war, his parents changed his name to Jefferson Davis Riddle in honor of a colonel in the Modoc War.

He wrote the book titled “Indian History of the Modoc War.” While apologizing for his lack of education and writing skills, Riddle said he wanted to give the Indian view of the conflict. He married the daughter of Modoc Chief Schonchin and is buried in Chief Schonchin Cemetery near Beatty, Oregon.
Sources: Riddle, Jeff C. Indian History of the Modoc War. First ed. Mechanicsburg, PA. Stackpole Books. 1914. 211-13. Web. 26 Apr. 2015; Thrapp, Dan L. Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography P-Z. Vol. III Lincoln, NE. U. Of Nebraska Press. 1991. 1218. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at

(April 12: A photo of the Riddle House in Riddle, Oregon, originally posted with this article was removed, as it was built by the family of William Riddle, who was not related to Frank Riddle.)

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