The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Rita J. Liska

Who was Captain Hembree?

Letter to the Editor


To the Editor:

I read the great article about the old military trail with special interest, not only because a part of that trail went through property I used to own, but because I was looking for a particular name that didn’t appear in the article.

Along with the gravesite of the giant woman, along the same ridge to the east of Highway 97 before the roadway begins to drop down into the Yakima valley, sits a beautiful monument that says: Capt. A.J. Hembree, Killed by Indians, 1854.

The directions to that monument are engraved in a rock that sits in a corner of a small triangular park across from the Toppenish post office. However, the direction to the monument on Toppenish Ridge are in minutes—not miles.

A few years ago their historical society made some changes to the monument’s location because it was in a low location, and water and erosion was undermining it.

I visited Capt. Hembree’s memorial many times over the years when riding my horse in the area. But I still do not know who he was, why he was killed, or exactly why Toppenish chose to build and maintain a monument to honor him… unless he were one of their own.


Reader Comments

jimmiemf writes:

Captain Hembree, first name Absalom, was born in Tennessee in 1813. His family traveled the Oregon Trail in 1843. There he ran cattle and a store and was elected to the Provisional State Legislature. He once ran against famous mountain man Joe Meek for the position of territorial US Marshall and lost. Following the defeat of Major Haller at the hands of the Yakamas in 1855, he volunteered to fight the Indians and was given a captaincy and a company of troops to lead. On April 10, 1856 he and his company were conducting reconnaissance along Satus Creek and were ambushed by the Yakama. Hembree was killed in the action. The monument at the site of his death was erected in 1920.


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