Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. — Ed.


With the roundup, execution, imprisonment and exile of the Modoc survivors of the Lava Beds War, Manifest Destiny in northeastern California returned with a vengeance to fill the void created by their defeat. Land-hungry farmers, hard-luck miners and greedy profiteers of all sorts moved in to carve up and capitalize on the resources of the vast abandoned homeland of the Modocs.

According to an Army rumor, some callous impresarios dug up Captain Jack’s corpse, severed the head, embalmed it and put it in a bottle for public display throughout the Northwest for a fee. Many settlers paid to verify for themselves that the menace of the Modoc warpath was finally behind them. Later someone allegedly shipped the head to Washington, D.C., so that President Grant, General Sheridan and the cadets at West Point could gloat over their victory.

Jack’s Stronghold in the lava beds at the turn of the century became an indoor amusement park as the rock-strewn entrance of Captain Jack’s Cave was cleared to allow for safe public access to its frigid underworld. An ice rink deep inside the cave offered recreation to a paying public. Later, during Prohibition, some of the Stronghold caves and lava tubes served as hideaways for whisky-stills and for squirreling away countless barrels of illicit booze. Thus the excesses of the Roaring Twenties reached even into the remoteness of the lava beds wilderness.

Then, during the Great Depression, Captain Jack’s Stronghold became the centerpiece for a novel federal enterprise named Lava Beds National Monument. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was deployed to the Tule Lake region of northern California to build a durable transportation and communications infrastructure for the convenience of future decades of automobile tourists. These amenities spurred economic growth and commerce along all access routes into the Monument.

I happened to meet an elderly gentleman named Bob Dorr in Toledo, Ohio (where I now hang my hat) who as a teenager had served with CCC on several Great Depression-era construction projects in northern California. He told me that he had helped build a sturdy and commodious fire station and lookout tower atop Old Schonchin Butte. Remnants of that solid structure remain to this day. We Boy Scouts had hiked up the butte to admire its lookout station in 1956.

Coincidentally, and most convenient to this discussion, similarly small fortress-like lookout towers have also been part of the traditional Jeju Island oreum (cinder-cone) landscape for many hundreds of years. Their locations and distributions on the island indicate that they were not built for detecting range fires on the pastoral flanks of Hallasan, but instead to forewarn islanders of approaching pirates and other unexpected seaborne intruders.

Early Western explorer and traveler accounts to Jejudo include first-hand impressions of the Jeju Islanders and their habitat, and many take note of these fortified “lookout mountains” ringing the coast. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could visualize these hilltop towers in their glory through the eyes of those who observed them, say, 15 generations ago? Yes it would, and so we can.

In 1702 the mainland Yi Dynasty administration on the Korean peninsula grew decisively impatient with those restive, resistant and sometimes rebellious indigenous Jeju Islanders governed by its colonial administration. After several centuries of Yi Dynasty rule the civilizing influences of Korean Neo-Confucianism still had not captured the hearts and minds of the indigenous islanders. Instead, Animism, Shamanism and Buddhism remained popular on the island. The mainland government decided that these religions were the wellsprings of public disorder and disobedience on the island. How could the islanders be pacified under these conditions?

In view of these concerns, a magistrate named Yi Hyong-sang was sent down to the island accompanied by a substantial military escort in order to destroy all the “heretic” Buddhist temples and Shamanist/Animist shrines. These sites of “pagan” worship were long-entrenched in and widely distributed throughout the island.

Upon his arrival, Yi immediately launched a spectacular and systematic search-and-destroy campaign. He made sure all his official accomplishments were entered into the historical record as both textual and visual documents. It is thanks to the compilation and preservation of these official illustrations that we actually observe a typical fortified watchtower atop a Jeju coastal oreum as drawn by an artisan accompanying Magistrate Yi’s campaign:

A typical fortified watchtower atop a Jeju oreum, circa 1702. Source: T’amna Sullyokdo: Namhwan Pangmul  (Yi Son-gun, ed., 1979)

The lookout tower (lower left-hand corner) was not the topic of the painting, of course. It is just a landmark feature and locational marker of the event taking place at the time. Indeed, the drawing is more of a map than a painting. Its topic is one event during the glorious campaign of Yi Hyong-sang to purge Jeju Island of its Buddhist temples and Shamanist/Animist shrines. The fortified watchtower is but a small part what he and his retinue observed there during his destructive tour around the island.

This particular map (and we see here only a selected portion of the complete document) has a lot going on which may be of historical, cultural and economic significance to today’s Jeju World Wide readers. For example, Magistrate Yi observes a nervous tribute herd of Jeju horses. The best of this horseflesh will be rounded-up and transported according to a specific annual calendar date to Udo (“Cow Islet”) and then to Seoul, and from there to China. The runts will be culled from the tribute herd and thereupon fall into the hands of the islanders themselves; perhaps to serve as beasts of burden and plow horses. What else is going on? We see two herders at the top of the map, and a choga chib (grass-roofed houses) at the bottom.

We also observe Magistrate Yi surrounded by his multitude of escorts and functionaries in the lower right-hand corner. The colorful banners of all shapes and sizes assert Yi’s rank and authority. His spectacular approach on the scene was no doubt discerned by local villagers and government officials from afar.  Some of these bow down in subservient welcome before the Magistrate’s canopied chariot. Meanwhile a wall of soldiers protects Yi from the equine herd in case of a stampede: We can only imagine the extent of the clamor and clang of horns, gongs and drums that might cause this to occur.

While the texts that accompany these illustrated maps may not specify the strategies of Magistrate Yi’s search-and-destroy campaign in great detail, some remarkable drawings in the collection indicate that indigenous islanders were persuaded to lead Yi’s soldiers to their hidden shamanist and animist shrines. For more insight, please study this map carefully, for we shall discuss it in detail next week:

Yi’s troops destroy Shaman/Animist shrines in Jeju’s lava tube caves, circa 1702

Next Week: “Search and Destroy on Jeju Island, circa 1702” Part 1

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