Indian Henry (So-To-Lick) (ca. 1820-1895)

  • By Stephen B. Emerson
  • Posted 4/02/2009
  • Essay 8948
See Additional Media
There is a place on the lower southwestern slopes of Mt. Rainier that has been called one of the “loveliest alpine meadows and probably the most famous single view of the mountain” (Spring and Manning 1969). This remarkable landscape of flowery glades, scattered stands of fir, and glistening brooks, is a favorite of mountain backpackers. It is called Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, named for So-To-Lick, better known as Indian Henry. Henry’s life was one of peace and tolerance, although he lived in the shadow of the infamous Mashel Massacre of 1856, which occurred near the Mashel Prairie settlement where he lived for many years.  His was a life spent in two different worlds, that of his ancestors and that of the white settlers who brought the Euro-American way of life.  He and his companions, for a time, were able to lead lives largely undisturbed by the prevalent discrimination of the late 1800s.  His was a lifestyle that will probably never be repeated by anyone. 


Indian Henry was the adopted English name of So-To-Lick.  Numerous tales of Indian Henry have been passed down over the years.  It is said that he was a Klickitat or Yakama from the village at Simco.  He had some disagreement with his own people and crossed the Cascade Mountains to live with the Mashel bands, people who were thought to be a mix of Nisqually and Klickitat descent. Henry probably arrived on the Mashel Prairie in 1864. 

Like the Nisqually Leschi (1808-1858), Henry also lived in two different worlds.  According to Indian custom he chose three women from the local Mashels for his wives. There is a story that Henry was brought before Judge James Wickersham to explain his marriage to three women.  He was told that he would have to give two of them up, which he did. This incident, and the fact that the judge had an interest in Indian culture, may explain why Henry named one of his sons Wickersham So-To-Lick.  Henry also followed Indian traditional hunting and fishing routines, often leaving his Mashel Prairie farm to live off the land and gather food for winter.  A picturesque area on the slopes of Mt. Rainier that was a beloved destination of his is still known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. 

Two Different Worlds 

Although Henry refused to give up his Indian customs, he also found himself comfortable in the world of the whites, at least as far as it came to wearing western-style dress and cultivating the land.  He established a prosperous farm on the Mashel Prairie, where he raised horses and cows and tended fields of grain and vegetables.  His presence attracted companions that added to his extended family, until there was a sort of safe haven, where both Indians and whites were treated as guests.  Henry was fluent in English and in several Indian tongues.  He and his people became Christians; a church was built on the Mashel Prairie in 1913 after Henry had passed away.  The Indians maintained good relations with their white neighbors and often entertained them with salmon bakes.  Sometimes visiting whites would linger on around large bonfires or even spend the night on the hay in Henry’s barn.

Billy Frank, a Nisqually informant interviewed by anthropologist Allan Smith, speaks of Indian Henry’s settlement and of the bi-lingual nature of its inhabitants:

"A village named Bisal was located at the junction of the Mashel and Nisqually rivers several miles southwest of Eatonville on top of a hill (not down in the gulch).  A very large spring here emerges from the sidehill.  Moreover, in May, many black-mouth fish were caught with gill nets close by the village.  Indian Henry, a Nisqually whose Indian name was Sutelik, lived at this village and he was the chief of the band that had its headquarters here.  The village population was part of the Nisqually tribe, but they also spoke the Yakama language.  The residents actually were more Yakama than Nisqually.  Nevertheless, they were considered to be part of the Nisqually tribe.  The mixture was probably attributable to the Nisqually practice of securing Yakama wives " (Smith 2006).

Henry as a Mountain Guide  

Henry was widely known as an excellent woodsman and guide.  He gained a measure of fame by guiding at least one party in attempting to climb Mt. Rainier. He himself never went to the summit, because he regarded the mountain as sacred and thought ascending onto the glaciers to be bad luck.  George Bayley, who succeeded in reaching the peak in 1884 with partners P. B. Van Trump and A. C. Ewing, left this record of Henry:

"He had preempted a quarter section of land, fenced it, erected several good log buildings, and planted his land to wheat and vegetables, which appeared as thrifty and prosperous as any of the farms of the white settlers we had seen.  Henry was skilled in woodcraft, and we needed his services to guide us to the mountain.  For the moderate consideration of two dollars a day, he agreed to take us by the most direct route to the highest point that could be reached by horses, there to remain in charge of the animals while we went forward on foot" (Bayley, 1886, p. 269).

Some sources report that Henry guided Augustus Kautz, then a U.S. Army Lieutenant, and several soldiers up the slopes of Mt. Rainier, although they came short of the summit.  Actually it was a much older Nisqually named Wah-pow-e-ty who guided the Kautz party to the snow line.  Probably an expedition led by Hazzard Stevens and Van Trump first reached the summit of the mountain, in 1870.  It is not certain if Henry assisted in that ascent.  Apparently, in 1862, Henry advised James Longmire and Henry Winsor on routes around the mountain.  This is certainly likely, since he knew both men well.  Henry Winsor is said to have christened Henry. 

Settlement on the Mashel Prairie 

The Mashel Prairie settlement is thought to have been home to as many as 13 families in the late nineteenth century.  There are several stories as to how Henry acquired his land.  One version is that Congress voted to grant Henry 600 acres as a reward for his services to whites. This is unlikely.  He may have simply squatted on the land for part of his stay.  The only thing that is clear is that in 1895, Henry So-To-Lick and his sons Thomas and Wickersham So-To-Lick filed homestead claims on the property.  Henry died the same year, and some of his companions drifted off across the Cascade Mountains or to the Puget Sound reservations.  But enough stayed on to build the church on Mashel Prairie in 1913.  Indian Henry was buried in a poorly marked grave near other members of the church congregation, a group of about 20 graves.  His wife Sally inherited ownership of the land.  In 1934 the Works Progress Administration cleaned up the little graveyard and replaced a white picket fence.  In the 1970s, the present stone marker was erected.  To this day some visitors leave mementoes on the gravestone.  

Other Native Americans who lived in the vicinity were not directly connected to the Mashel Prairie settlement of Indian Henry.  Two of these were James Barr and his wife Katie.  Their land was located on Ohop Creek, about a quarter mile upstream from its confluence with the Nisqually River (Kroll Map Company 1915).  The Barrs were closely associated with Henry So-To-Lick.  A relative, George Barr, was the pastor at the Mashel Prairie church. The mutual affection shared by Indians and whites in the Mashel-Nisqually country is aptly illustrated in the following account:

"In 1909 a group of the Indians invited the Hendrick Kjelstad family to share Thanksgiving with them in the Jim Barr cabin.  A long table was spread in the large room of the cabin, which had a stone fireplace at one end.  About twenty families were present besides their white guests. By this time the Indians were all Christians and a prayer of Thanksgiving was led by Mrs. Katie Barr, to which all joined, chanting in unison.  The food itself was from the woods and streams, the only part of it purchased from the store being flour, salt, sugar and spice.  Venison steak, roast venison, pheasant, grouse, and baked salmon comprised the main course.  Deer and upland birds were then abundant in this area" (Engal and Hlavin 1954).

The menu for this feast is an indication of how Native Americans, although adopting many aspects of white culture, continued to feed themselves through traditional hunting and fishing pursuits.  The Barrs probably left the area in the 1920s.  By 1928, their land was owned by O. J. Haugen, probably a white man. 

Henry’s Home

Some of the structures of Indian Henry’s settlement survived at least into the 1930s.  The best account of them is found in a 1930 newspaper article worth reprinting here:

"For some little distance the road leads through forest, then through an open area and again into the woods bordering on the edge of the cleared farms of the valley.  Just past the barn of Fred Johnson is the gate that bars the trespassing of live stock, but the swinging open of the gate allows the road to be traversed until one reaches the ruins of the old Pad-e-wa place high up on the banks of the Nisqually river [The Pad-e-wa place is probably where Putawawa Bill had lived in about 1915, see below].  This barn of Johnson’s used to be the old Indian church, but Mr. Johnson has built an addition to either end of the same and made it into a barn, but the old belfry still marks the front of the original building.  After entering the gate, a few hundred feet brings the old Indian graveyard to view on the right.  Here are a number of burial plots enclosed with fences, some of them containing rude crosses, some still cruder markers.  To the extreme right as you approach this God’s half acre, is the lot in which Indian Henry and four other of the tribe are buried.  There is no marker of the exact spot of the grave of the man who has his own hunting grounds on the slope of Mount Tacoma.  Across the road is the site of his old home.  The old building is no longer in existence, and a new farm cottage has taken its place.  But near the highway, the old home of his son, Wickersham Suvik [So-To-Lick], is still standing, and nearer yet is the home of Indian Tommy [Thomas So-To-Lick], another son.  But continuing on the trip in, the trail ends at the Pad-e-wa buildings.  Here is much of interest, the old house, the barn, the building that was used to dry fish, the dugout cellar, and the old spring with its ceaseless flow of water [Medicine Springs].  The lumber of which these buildings are constructed is for the most part very crude; some of it being cut by a sawmill operated by water power at Eatonville and hauled in, the remainder being of shakes which evidently were cut and shaped on the “horse” which stands now back of the barn.  The river cannot be seen from the bank on account of the heavy growth of timber, but a winding trail takes one to the water’s edge, and here is an open space with a small leanto where, in the old days, the Indians tethered their horses, and prepared their meals while netting fish in the waters of the Nisqually" (Tacoma Sunday Ledger 1930).  

The name Indian Henry is largely forgotten today.  But it is fitting that his name lives on primarily in the beautiful meadows that he chose for his favorite destination, his hunting ground.

Sources: Anonymous, “James Longmire, Pioneer: Interesting Story of His Experience in Hunting Buffalo Coming Across the Plains,” Tacoma Sunday Ledger, August 21, 1892, pp. 9-10; Anonymous, “Where Indian Henry Lived and Died,” Tacoma Sunday Ledger March 16, 1930, p. E: 1-5; George Bayley, “Ascent of Mount Tacoma,” The Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine Vol. 8, No. 2 (1886), pp. 267-291; William J. Betts, “Indian Henry -- Real Friend of White Man,” Pacific Parade Magazine, Tacoma Sunday Ledger-News-Tribune October 14, 1956, p. 3; Cecelia Svinth Carpenter, Where the Waters Begin: The Traditional Nisqually Indian History of Mount Rainier (Seattle: Northwest Interpretive Association, 1994); Pearl Engal and Jeanette Hlavin, History of Tacoma Eastern Area (Tacoma: The Tacoma-Pierce Genealogical Society, 1954); Page R. Hosmer, “Historical Markers in Tacoma Vicinity: Indian Henry Trail Became Early Road,” Pacific Parade Magazine, The Tacoma Sunday Ledger-News Tribune, November 9, 1952, p. 6; Augustus V. Kautz, “Ascent of Mount Rainier,” The Overland Monthly, Vol. 14, No. 5 (May, 1875); Joseph C. Larin, “Indian Henry Lies in Neglected Cemetery,” Pacific Parade Magazine, Tacoma Sunday Ledger-News Tribune, December 12, 1954, p. 3; Alan H. Smith, Takhoma: Ethnography of Mount Rainier National Park (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2006); D. H. White, White’s Atlas of Pierce County Washington, (Tacoma: D. H. White, C.E., 1928).
Note: This essay was corrected on February 4, 2012.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You