Near Canyonville in Douglas County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
Canyonville Applegate Trail Kiosk
Southern Route to Oregon
In 1846, Jesse Applegate and fourteen others from near Dallas, Oregon, established a trail south from the Willamette Valley and east to Fort Hall. This route offered emigrants an alternative to the perilous "last leg" of the Oregon Trail down the treacherous Columbia River.
The first emigrants to trek the new "Southern Road" left with the trailblazers from Fort Hall in early August 1846. With Levi Scott acting as guide, while Jesse Applegate traveled ahead to mark the route, the hardy emigrants blazed a wagon trail through nearly 500 miles of wilderness arriving in the upper Willamette Valley in November. Emigrant travel continued along the Applegate Trail in later years and contributed greatly to the settlement of southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley.
More than 250,000 Americans crossed the continental United States between 1840 and 1870. Although "pioneering" is often seen as a masculine activity, overland emigration was a family affair that involved women and children. Women were essential to the success of the journey and to the success of the settlements and homesteads toward which they traveled. Women cooked, tended children, nursed the sick and performed a variety of other domestic tasks, but they also took over "men's work" when necessity arose. In addition to the common rigors and hardship of life on the road, women also gave birth. Historians estimate that nearly 20 percent of pioneer women were either pregnant or delivered babies on the trail to Oregon.
...one of their hazardous experiences was finally portaging their wagons and few possessions down the Canyon. Mrs. Weaver walked the entire
The route from upper Cow Creek over the divide and north for a dozen miles through Canyon Creek was the final test for man, woman, child, livestock, and wagons. No place on the long road to Oregon exacted such a toll, induced such suffering, or so tried the spirit. The boulder-filled creek cut between the narrow walls and forced travelers to brave the icy water many times. Virgil K. Pringle made the trek in October 1846, "after a series of hardships, break-downs and being constantly wet and laboring hard and very little to eat...." Pringle's party, the first to cross the trail with wagons, made this rough passage in five days.
We struggled forward, wading cold mountain streams, and through mud up to the knees. We passed
Fur trappers working for the Hudson's Bay Company blazed the way. Bringing horses over Indian trails, they defined many routes later used by overland emirrants. It was advice from fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden that led Jesse Applegate and fourteen others from Polk County to establish the southern route to Oregon called the Applegate Trail.
The hardy fur trappers often traveled with their Indian wives and children, and they were sometimes accompanied by scientists. In 1826 David Douglas, a botanist for the Royal Horticultural Society of London, explored the South Umpqua. Titan Ramsay Peale, an artist, William Dunlop Brackenridge, a botanist, and George Foster Emmons, an explorer, followed in 1841 to examine the resources fo southwestern Oregon.
The typical early trapper was a young
The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians entered on September 19, 1853, into treaty negotiations with the United States at Council Creek near Riddle, Oregon. On April 12, 1854, the Senate ratified this agreement and another with Indians in the Rogue Valley. These were the first legally binding treaties between Oregon tribes and the federal government. The Cow Creek Band ceded nearly 700 square miles for less than three cents per acre.
Long claiming they had been unfairly treated and then "terminated" by Congress, the Cow Creeks in 1980 secured the right to sue the United States. Congress restored the tribe on December 9, 1982, and negotiated a settlement at $1.25 per acre - 1855 prices - in 1984. The Cow Creeks placed the entire judgement in an endowment account. From interest earnings on the fund they purchased land, developed a business plan,
You might ask me, 'What did the land mean to your people?' I could answer, ' The very meaning of our life.' I might ask you, 'What is the most important thing that the white man's god has given you?' The Indians' belief is that the most meaningful thing the Great Spirit gave to use was our land. The removal of the Indians from this land was like the removal of the spirit from the body. -- Ellis Buschmann, Chair, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Congressional Testimony, June 14, 1979
Centuries of Indian fire ecology made the Umpqua Valley a landscape of pastures, oak woodlands and camas-filled meadows. This beautiful valley beckoned stock raisers and subsistence farmers, especially when the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 dangled the prospect of up to 320 acres of free land to those staking claims before December 1855. Pioneer settlements began here in 1849 when Levi Scott and the Applegate bothers brought their families to the watershed of Elk Creek. By the fall of 1851 Applegate Trail emigrants were staking claims along lower Cow Creek and the South Umpqua River.
On my route I visited several bands of the Umpquas. I found many of them wretched, sickly and almost starving....they can no longer procure game, rendered scarce and timid by the presence of the white man; and the cultivation of the soil, together with the grazing of large herds of domestic animals, has greatly diminished the subsistence derived from native roots and seeds. -- Joel Palmer, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs, 1854
The majority of overland emigrants were farmers accustomed to owning their land and working it to provide subsistence for their families. The many native peoples along the route, however, like the Cow Creek Band of this region, were hunter-gatherer who lived with the land utilizing its abundant seasonal resources. Although the tribes of the Pacific Northwest were territorial, land ownership was an alien concept - lifestyle, religion and identity were intertwined, and all were bound to the land. This difference in perspective, at first a curiosity to both sides,
In a very short time our camp was surrounded by Indians who seemed to come from every direction. This caused us no alarm. They came from curiosity - old Indians, squaws, papooses and all came to the number of a hundred or more....A cook stove was set up and a fire started in it, which excited their wonder....At that time we heard the words "Mi-wa-leta, Mi-wa-leta" and a hush fell upon the crowd as an Indian appeared whose presence and appearance showed that he was the one in authority....My mother offered the chief a chair, which he declined, but seated himself upon a blanket on the ground. My father proceeded to tell him by signs that we had come to live there, and we would build a house. Neither of them could speak a word that the other could understand, but they seemed to arrive at a mutual understanding... -- George W. Riddle, Recollection of 1853
Erected by Applegate Trail Coalition.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native Americans • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers • Women. In addition, it is included in the Applegate Trail series list.
Location. 42° 55.56′ Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 120 Southwest 5th Street, Canyonville OR 97417, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within 15 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Homeland of the Cow Creeks (approx. 1.4 miles away); Canyon Creek (approx. 2.4 miles away); History of the (grist) Wheel (approx. 6.9 miles away); City of Glendale (approx. 15.1 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on January 17, 2018. It was originally submitted on January 17, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 304 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on January 17, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.