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Near Canyonville in Douglas County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
 

Canyonville Applegate Trail Kiosk

 
 
Applegate Trail -- Southern Route to Oregon panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
1. Applegate Trail -- Southern Route to Oregon panel
Inscription. (Seven panels dealing with topics related to the Applegate Trail are found at this kiosk.)

Applegate Trail
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.
Canyonville
Our families were the first that started through the canyon, so that we got through the mud and rocks much better than those that followed. Out of hundreds of wagons, only one came through without breaking. The canyon was strewn with dead cattle, broken wagons, clothing and everything but provisions, of which latter were nearly all
Pioneer Women panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
2. Pioneer Women panel
destitute. Some people were in the canyon two or three weeks before they could get through. Some died without any warning, from fatigue and starvation. Others ate the flesh of cattle that were lying dead by the wayside.
Tabetha Moffet Brown, Recollection of 1846

Pioneer Women

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 distance carrying a small child in her arms and leading another. When she arrived in Canyonville that night in September 1853, her dress was torn off at the knees; her husband and her 11 year
Trail of Adversity panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
3. Trail of Adversity panel
old daughter brought a few supplies and the oxen, leaving the wagon in the Canyon until they could get help. That night Mrs. Weaver gave birth to an infant in the little settlement of Canyonville....Since she had absolutely no clothes for the baby, a soldier from the company stationed there gave her his coat in which to wrap the infant.
-- Melvina Baker Bush, Recollection of 1853

Trail of Adversity

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 many cattle that had perished, their bodies lying in the road. We also passed many wagons that had been abandoned, in consequence of their proprietors finding it impossible to take them over....
A Reckless Breed of Men panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
4. A Reckless Breed of Men panel
We passed household and kitchen furniture, beds and bedding, books, carpets, cooking utensils, dead cattle, broken wagons, and wagons not broken, but nevertheless, abandoned. In short, the whole road presented the appearance of a defeated and retreating army....
--J. Quinn Thornton, Recollection of November 4, 1846

A Reckless Breed of Men

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 man - strong, hardy, adventure-loving. He had little book learning, but books gave no instructions for trapping bearer or shooting grizzlies. Most of the men were educated for the life they led.
An Oregon Treaty Tribe panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
5. An Oregon Treaty Tribe panel
Caption: Wallace J. Rondeau, Sr., Elder, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in 1997 at age 97.
They could read the tracks of the moccasins, the sign of beaver, and the trace of travois. They could mold their bullets from bars of lead, and strike a fire with flint and steel.
-- LeRoy Hafen, The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, 1965

An Oregon Treaty Tribe

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, and in 1993 opened an entertainment center and hospitality services at Canyonville. The Cow Creeks have worked hard to build a new future in the land of the Umpqua.

You might ask
The Lure of Free Land and Its Consequences panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
6. The Lure of Free Land and Its Consequences panel
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

The Lure of Free Land and Its Consequences

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.
Pioneer settlement, infectious diseases and the development of farms that quickly followed, devastated centuries of Indian tradition and culture. Settlers fenced the pastures, tilled the camas meadows, and decimated
Perspectives panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
7. Perspectives panel
local populations of elk and deer. Within a few years the Cow Creek Band and their neighbors were reduced to starvation.

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

Perspectives

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, set the stage for tragedy, especially when the U.S. government insisted it could buy land from a "head chief."

In a very short time our camp was surrounded by Indians who seemed
Canyonville Applegate Trail Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 21, 2017
8. Canyonville Applegate Trail Kiosk
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.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Applegate Trail marker series.
 
Location. 42° 55.56′ N, 123° 16.602′ W. Marker is near Canyonville, Oregon, in Douglas County. Marker is at the intersection of Southwest 5th Street and South East Canyon Street, on the right when traveling east on Southwest 5th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 120 Southwest 5th Street, Canyonville OR 97417, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 2 other markers are within 3 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).
 
Categories. Native AmericansRoads & VehiclesSettlements & SettlersWomen
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 17, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 17, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 60 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on January 17, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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