Pioneer Trails From Benton To Douglas Counties (1982)

Horner Museum Tour Guide Series

Pioneer Trails from Benton to Douglas Counties

By Kenneth Munford

(Originally published in the Horner Museum Tour Guide Series, 1982)

Before the covered wagons rolled into the Willamette Valley, one of the paths beaten by fur traders lay along the west side of the valley. Fur brigades from the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Vancouver crossed the Columbia to the mouth of the Willamette, loaded pack animals, clambered over the Tualatin Mountains, and plodded southward across the Tualatin Plains. The land was fairly level for a hundred miles and much of it was open prairie because the Indians burned off the grass once in a while.

The packers' worst hazard along this part of the Old California Trail was the rivers. To avoid swift streams and steep, brushy, muddy banks they stayed upstream as far as feasible. They forded tributaries of the Tualatin near Forest Grove, the Yamhill at Lafayette or Dayton, the Rickreall at Dallas, and the Luckiamute well upstream.

Where they crossed the Marys River varied a good deal depending on the season and amount of water in the stream. In periods of low water they could splash down one bank and up the other between Corvallis and Philomath, perhaps near the mouth of Newton Creek. In periods of raging floods they had to go far upstream, maybe two miles or more above Philomath.

South from the Marys, there were two ways to go - a wet weather route and a dry weather route. In dry seasons they could fan out across southern Benton County in any direction with few hazards. One early traveler, the botanist David Douglas, complained that the sharp spikes of burned bushes hurt his horses' hooves. But for the most part packers had easy going.

In wet weather, the plains of southern Benton County became a shallow lake. Well-named Muddy Creek spread out all over the place - that is why the area is such a fine duck-hunting and migratory bird refuge at the present time. The wet-weather trail stayed to high ground close to the foothills on the west, wandering through little valleys and climbing small hills.

When wagons rolled into the Willamette Valley, settlers turned parts of the old pack trails into wagon roads. A dramatic instance of this occurred in the summer of 1846. men from Polk County - Levi Scott, Jesse and Lindsay Applegate, David Goff, and others - followed the old pack trail south to look for a pass through the Cascade Range through which wagon trains on the Oregon Trail could enter the Willamette Valley from the south, avoiding the dangers of the Columbia Gorge. The Scott-Applegate party had to go as far south as Ashland before they could turn eastward over the Cascades. They crossed southern Oregon and northern Nevada and reached Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho in August, in time to bring 90-100 wagons with 400-500 people back to the Willamette Valley in the fall of 1846. Levi Scott went back the next year and brought more wagons along the South Road, now known as the Scott-Applegate or Applegate Trail. With the discovery of gold in California in 1848 most of the wagons using the southern road out of Fort Hall turned south instead of continuing into the Willamette Valley.

On the Centennial of the opening of the South Road in 1946-47 an Applegate Trail Commission publicized events of a hundred years before by placing markers along the route followed by the road scouts of 1846 and along the trails followed by wagons coming into the valley. A few of these arrow-shaped "Applegate Trail 1846" markers still survive: at Philomath, at Monroe, and at Albany. At Lewisburg, the post on which the marker was mounted still stands, but the marker has disappeared.

Today, along paved roads, it is possible to follow approximately both the dry-weather and the wet-weather tracks of the early 19th century pack trains through southern Benton County and to continue on southward through lane County into the Umpqua over the Old California Trail.

The Wet Weather Route

First, let's follow the wet weather route along the western foothills. Start at Philomath. You can see the Applegate Trail Marker on Applegate Street in the school yard between 16th and 17th Streets.

Turn south on 13th Street. As you cross the bridge over Marys River you can see how horses and mules loaded with packs would have difficulty crossing except in periods of low water.

At a Y in the road a mile south of the bridge, stay to high ground; take the right-hand fork up a hill and through a pleasant grove of second-growth Douglas fir. You soon return to the main road, where you turn right and continue south a mile to the site of Independent School. Here John B. Horner, for whom the Horner Museum is named, first taught school. He was only 17 and had not yet graduated from Philomath College, but he had passed the county examination for a teacher's certificate and needed a job to finance further education. (See Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 1981, p. 276.)

You have a choice of routes here. You can continue south for two miles and turn left on Lewellyn Road, Or you can turn left at Independent School and right on Bellfountain Road. Interesting country either way. Either way you come close to or pass Oak Ridge Cemetery with its unique grave markers.

A mile south you pass Inavale (In-a-valley) school on the right. It is part of the Corvallis school system. A few hundred yards beyond is the road to Greenberry on the left. On this road .3 miles is a marker that indicates the site of the first flour mill in Benton County. Built in 1850, it was operated by Joshua and Elizabeth Herbert and by Elizabeth alone after her husband's death. This is also site of Inavale post office operated by John and Mary Mitchell from 1893 to about 1905.

Continuing south on Bellfountain Road you cross Beaver Creek. A mile beyond the road makes a left run up a hill and then a right turn. The fence on the left with barbed wire on top was designed by Agricultural Experiment Station to be coyote-proof for the protection of pastured sheep. Must have been successful; I have never seen a coyote within the fenced area.

Soon you will notice on the left fence post markers indicating the western boundary of the William I Finley National Wildlife Refuge. The swampy 5,325 acres to the east drained by meandering Muddy Creek was set aside in 1964 as a place where local wildlife and migrating waterfowl would find food and protection. The old pack trail and early wagon road wound through part of this preserve. The house of one of the early settler along the trail is still standing. Now called Failing Cottage it is the office for this refuge and for the Baskett Slough and Ankeny refuges down the valley and for three refuges along the coast. The dusky Canada goose, which nests on the Copper River Delta in Alaska, winters almost exclusively in the three Willamette Valley refuges. Ducks, grouse, pheasants, mourning doves, pigeons, and other wildlife also gratefully accept local hospitality.

Follow the Bellfountain Road south as it winds through wooded areas and Christmas-tree plantations. In "The Applegate Trail through Benton County," John F. Smith says the old trail ran between the church and the store in Bellfountain. Opinions differ in regard to where it went from here. Smith says it angled off to the southeast (close to the railroad grade) to Bailey junction "and thence easterly through the cemetery gap" to Monroe. Another old-timer, the late Loris Inman of Eugene, said he had followed the trail south from Alpine, up Cherry Creek, and over the hill to Ferguson. Both may be right. The pack trail undoubtedly varied from year to year depending on traveling condition and the whim of travelers.

Monroe got an early start. About 1850 Joseph White built a saw mill and staked a land claim on which the town later developed. George Starr opened a store a little to the north. In 1852, Samuel F. Starr became the first post master at Starrs Point, which was renamed Monroe in 1874. The Territorial Road in 1854, the railroad in 1908, and the west side Pacific Highway (U. S. 99W) connecting with Eugene in 1923 - all helped the town grow. Note the Applegate markers in front of the high school, the old depot now a warehouse, two handsome churches, some older houses being restored, and Harold McCallum's unique private museum.

Territorial Road

Let's go back now and see what became of the dry weather route of the old pack trail. Some of the immigrants on the South Road in the fall of 1846 - despite the soggy condition of the flatlands - headed north by the shortest route. J. C. Avery was operating a ferry at Marysville by that time and it was not necessary to go upstream to Philomath to cross Marys River. Some of the gold rushers headed south across the Benton County plains.

On January 16, 1854, the Territorial Legislature decreed that a survey be made "From Corvallis Benton Co to Estes in Umpqua County." Horner Museum has a copy of the field notes Surveyor A. W. Paterson made in August 1854. "Commencing at the Public Square in Corvallis," Paterson says, his party went 56 chains (5/8 of a mile) to the Marys River. South of it they set the 1st Mile Post. They continued in a straight line 4.5" West of due South to the 12th Mile Post. The surveyors' notes mention crossing the Mill Race and a "timbered swamp," now Dry Creek east of Corvallis airport and passing Richard Irwin's house, which was the site of Jennyopolis on the western slope of Winkle Buttes.

As they approached the Long Tom River they varied the course a bit and set the 14th Mile Post at Aaron "Doc" Richardson's. An 1851 map shows a ferry at Richardson's crossing the Long Tom and connecting with a primitive road that led southeast to Skinner's (Eugene).

A little beyond the 17th Mile Post, the surveyors passed White's saw mill, where Monroe was getting started. Continuing nearly due South they crossed the Lane County line between 19th and 20th Mile Posts. The 22nd Post was set near Ferguson's on Ferguson Creek, later the site of a large saw mill. You will see that this section of the 1854 survey is still called the Territorial Road.

The present county roads follow rather closely the 1854 survey, but there are variations. For example, south of Bear Creek (later site of another big saw mill along the railroad) the survey veers southeast to Cheshire, paralleling the Long Tom and approximately on the grade of the railroad built by Alvadore Welch to Alvadore and Eugene in the early 20th century.

Early travel accounts mention overnight camps in the vicinity of Cheshire. The present community grew up around a station on Welch's railroad at first called Hubert. Because of confusion with Huber in Washington County the railroad company changed the name to Cheshire - still complementing Hubert Cheshire, a favorite small boy of the neighborhood. It has had a post office since 1914.

To get back onto the 1854 survey at Cheshire we have to jog to the east a quarter of a mile to a road called "Applegate Trail." It takes us east to Franklin-Smithfield. Although one of the two well-kept churches in this community bears the peaceful name Bethany, this community had a long, bitter controversy over its name - even embroiling John B. Horner of Oregon State College at one time

Daniel Smith settled here in 1852. His friend R. V. Howard opened a store in 1857 and named it Smithfield. In the meantime a post office named Franklin opened nearby. Howard tried to get the name of the post office changed to Smithfield, but postal officials could not agree because there was already a Smithfield in Polk County. The squabble over what to call the community ran on for decades. In the 1930s the Lane County commissioners hit on a compromise, authorizing the name "Franklin-Smithfield." As you can see driving through, just plain Franklin seems to have won out.

A Daughters of the American Revolution marker on the right reads: "West Side Old Territorial Road 1848-1856. This marks the old stage route and Daniel Smith donation land claim home site 1852-1908. Smithfield dedicated in his honor 1852."

Reading the 1854 surveyors' field notes, I expected to find Territorial Road crossing the area now covered by Fern Ridge Reservoir. Old maps seem to indicate that the pack trail crossed the now inundated area. Not so for the 1854 survey. It follows almost exactly the same route the highway takes today along the west side of the Reservoir into Elmira and Veneta.

Fern Ridge Reservoir was created when the U. S. Engineers dammed the Long Tom about 1940. It provides a recreational area for sail boating, fishing, and picnicking. It primary purpose, however, is to control the downstream flow of the Long Tom and prevent the disastrous floods of the past.

Byron Ellmaker did not like the name "Duckworth" for the place where he operated a smithy in 1884 and had the name changed to Elmira, for a town he liked in California. Veneta was named for Veneta Hunter by her father who started a post office in that community in 1914. The railroad we cross here is the Southern Pacific branch line to Coos Bay.

Continuing southward we come to Crow, named for the Crow family who settled here. This community remembers its connection with the old trail with its Crow-Applegate School.

Modern road-building has improved the 1854 survey route south from here, but in general the two are one and the same. They follow the valley of Coyote Creek, called "Kiota" in the field notes. The old and new routes pass the site of Hadleyville School and Gillespie Corners. Between Mile Posts 51 and 52 the road crosses a divide into the drainage of the upper Siuslaw River, which eventually runs into the ocean at Florence. This is the route of the old Hudson's Bay Company pack trail as described in John Work's 1834 diary.

Near the 54th Mile Post, the 1854 surveyors noted the home of John Dillamater. The town here with its 1880s church has been called Lorane since 1887.

Near the 57th Mile Post the surveyors noted the Cartwright residence. Darius B. Cartwright, a native of New York, came west with the gold-rushers in 1849 to California and later came to Oregon. In 1853 the family took up 530 acres in this area. They built a hotel called the Mountain House to serve as a stagecoach stop on the Territorial Road. It had a relay station on the telegraph line that connected Oregon to the outside world through California in 1864. William Russell, a widower with three children, married Cartwright's daughter Katie in 1866. After Cartwright's death in 1875 the young couple continued to operate the Mountain house until 1890. The hotel building, considered by the Daughters of the American Revolution to be "one of Lane County's most historic, most well preserved, and architecturally charming houses," with its hand-hewn timbers and split-cedar siding remained standing until about ten years ago when the owners tore it down. The DAR marker in front of the site remains in place.

When the 1854 surveyors entered the Calapooia Mountains at the 58th Mile Post they had some rough country to cross, but they were not blazing a new trail. They followed the old pack trail. The first known white man to travel this route was the adventurous Joseph Gervais, a French-Canadian who had come west with the overland Astorians in 1811-12. In the winter of 1826-27 he was in southern Oregon with fur-brigade leader Peter Skene Ogden. They had come south from the Columbia east of the Cascades. When they reached the Rogue River valley, Ogden gave Gervais the job of finding a trail through the jumbled Calapooia Mountains into the Willamette Valley. Gervais did not plant Mile Posts along the way, but he may have very well been the first to blaze this trail.

A few years later an American, Jedediah Smith, came this way. A trapper and trader along the Santa Fe Trail, ‘Diah Smith wanted to have a look at the Hudson's Bay Company's-dominated Oregon Country. His party came north along the California coast and into Oregon and turned inland along the Umpqua, accumulating furs along the way. Umpqua Indians attacked, killed most of the party, and stole furs and horses. Smith escaped and made his way north to Fort Vancouver, possibly along the pack trail we have been following.

In the 1830s pack trains led by John McLeod, John Work, Michael La Frambois, Ewing Young, and others beat a recognizable track through the mountains. Jason Lee found the trail and followed it to Umpqua in 1840.

The 1854 survey ended at Mile Post 65½ at Estes in Umpqua County. This would be near Anlauf on Pass Creek where they would have met another Territorial Road, the one coming south from Eugene City along the valley of the Coast Fork of the Willamette (Creswell, Cottage Grove, etc.) and over the divide into Umpqua.

Jack Work, a fur-brigade leader, blazed a trail over this alternate route into the Willamette Valley in 1834. Returning north from the Umpqua he met an Indian who told him that he could find beaver in the mountains east of what is now Eugene. He found the "Road across mountains rugged and lies through thick woods," but he got through and left a trail that others followed subsequently. A good many of the wagons coming north on the Applegate Trail a dozen years later appear to have used this route. Through the decades it has become the principal artery of communication as the railroad, telegraph line, Pacific Highway, U. S. 99, and Interstate I-5 all funnel through the Pass Creek Canyon.

The old pack trail followed pass Creek to where it empties into Elk Creek. Traders going to the Hudson's Bay Company post on the lower Umpqua would turn west through Elk Creek. Those moving on south would move out into the Yoncalla valley.

Where Pass Creek joins Elk Creek a settlement arose. Warren Goodell staked out a land claim here but he sold it to Jesse Applegate who in turn sold it about 1850 to Charles Drain and his son J. C. (both of whom later served in the Oregon Legislature). The Drains deeded 60 acres to the Oregon & California Railroad (1871-72) for a station and yards and laid out a town called Drain. It had a good location and prospered. Note the fine old homes preserved in this town. Drain Academy, founded in 1882, became Central Oregon State Normal School and provided teachers for this section of the state until closed in 1907. When the Southern Pacific rerouted its main line through Klamath Falls in the 1930s, Drain suffered, and even more so when it was bypassed by the new interstate I-5. Lumbering, agriculture, education, and tourism still provides support for the community. One of the covered (now uncovered) wagons which made the centennial trek over the Oregon Trail is preserved in the city park.

The hill south of Drain, Mr. Yoncalla, "Home of the Eagles," has been a landmark for many generations.

Boswell Springs, now almost forgotten lies on the eastern slopes of Mt. Yoncalla. Here retired Army Captain Benjamin D. Boswell and his wife Emma operated a popular health and recreation resort in the 1890s. Boswell, a veteran of the Civil War, had been the first professor of military science and tactics at Corvallis State Agricultural College in 1873-76. Their three-storey hotel, which stood beside the railroad tracks, burned down in 1908. The now dilapidated old structure, known locally as "The Castle," in an oak grove on the hillside was built to replace the original. It was operated under various managements as late as 1950.

The Boswell property adjoins Jesse Applegate's donation land grant on the south. The historical marker on the highway reads:
Jesse Applegate, 1811-1888. Pioneer, statesman, philosopher. Leader of migration to Oregon in 1843. Leader of Provisional government in Oregon in 1844-49. First Surveyor General in 1844. Trail blazer, Fort Hall, Idaho, to Willamette Valley in 1846. Member of Oregon Territory Legislature in 1849. Member of Constitutional Convention for State of Oregon in 1857. Settled here in 1849, one-half mile west of this spot. His house was scene of the first court of Provisional Government, Southern District, 1852.
Jesse and his wife Cynthia Ann lie buried in a private cemetery on the hillside above the old home site.

At the time the Applegate brothers scouted the South Road in 1846 their homes were on Salt Creek in Dallas. Levi Scott lived between the present Lewisburg and Adair Village. After they saw the Yoncalla country they all pulled up stakes and paced off new provisional land claims in this valley.

Brothers Charles and Lindsay laid out claims on the east side of Yoncalla Creek. According to the Oregon Spectator, Nov. 28, 1850, the three Applegate families by that date had 39 children. The house Charles started has been remodeled and expanded through the years and is still maintained by Col. Rex Applegate, and his don Rex, Jr., as a family museum.

Brother Lindsay moved to the Rogue River valley. He and his sons turned part of the Old California Trail into a toll road over the Siskiyous. Several places in southern Oregon are named for this branch of the family: Scottsburg, Scott Mountain in Douglas County, and Scotts Valley east of Yoncalla are named for Levi and his family.

The City of Yoncalla was not incorporated until 1901, but half a century before that time Jesse Applegate had given the town its name and had served as one of its first post masters. Applegate relatives still live in this area.

Rice Hill and Beyond

Today the freeway seems to flow over Rice Hill (named for I. F. Rice, a settler of 1850), but for many generations of travelers getting over the pass between Pleasant Valley on Yoncalla Creek to Rice Valley on Cabin Creek was a steep, slippery undertaking. Parts of the old Pacific Highway of the 1920s can still be seen switchbacking up Rice Hill west of the freeway.

As we take the off ramp from the freeway toward Ashland, there is a marker on the left side that describes the significance of this location. It reads:
Dedicated to the Memory of Rev. J. A, Cornwall and Family. They built the first immigrant cabin in Douglas County near this site, hence the name Cabin Creek. The family wintered here in 1846-47, were saved from extreme want by Israel Stolley, a nephew, who was a good hunter. The Indians were friendly. The Cornwalls traveled part way westward with the ill-fated Donner Party.
Josephus A. Cornwall was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister who believed slavery to be a divine institution in that it resulted in saving souls from pagan Africa. He later established several congregations and rode the circuit in the Willamette Valley.

Oakland (originally three miles north of its present location) became an important stop on the California Trail as settlers came north and gold seekers rushed south. A preacher named Hull Tower open a post office in 1852. It became the redistribution point for four mail points - one from Jacksonville to the south, one from Scottsburg to the west, one via Cottage Grove from Eugene City, and one from Corvallis over the old pack trail. Mail was carried in saddlebags and on pack horses - but it could hardly be called the Pony Express.

The Oregon & California Railroad coming in 1872 made Oakland an important shipping point. The city was incorporated in 1873. A huge saw mill west of the tracks added prosperity. Fires, especially in 1892 and 1899, plagued the bustling community. The city fathers organized a fire department and decreed that all buildings in the four-block downtown section be fireproof. As a result, the present town has an unusually high number of brick buildings, a factor in its favor applying to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a time Oakland was a turkey-shipping point and held an annual Turkey Show, but that industry has moved away. In 1978 Oakland held a Centennial Celebration - and had such a good time that the community continues to hold an annual Celebration Day on the fourth Saturday in June.

A Tale of Two Cities

Oakland has had an economic struggle with its rival town three miles to the south for a hundred years. The two towns, Oakland and Sutherlin, were founded about the same time, Oakland near the junction of Cabin Creek and Calapooia Creek and Sutherlin in Camas Swale. Fennel Sutherlin, 25, a graduate of Greencastle College in Indiana, came west to Oregon in 1846. After a brief time in the gold fields of California, he brought his parents west to settle in Camas Swale. They pioneered in raising irrigated fruit. Like Oakland, they had a station on the Oregon & California Railroad. Mercury ore was discovered in the foothills of the Cascades and Chinese laborers operated a primitive smelter up Camas Swale. A logging railroad branched off the main line at Sutherlin and ran up Camas Swale.

Topography and new developments in transportation determined the destiny of the two communities. When the Pacific Highway (U. S. 99) was built in 1922 it paralleled the railroad and kept the two communities on an equal competitive basis. Rerouting the main line of the Southern pacific through Klamath Falls to Eugene was a blow to both of them. Freight trains still operate on this original rail line to California but on a limited basis.

Interstate I-5 bypassed both towns. Confined to a small valley a mile east of the freeway and with difficult terrain in between, Oakland was cut off from the main artery of transportation.

Sutherlin too was a mile east of the new freeway, but it had the wide, fairly level Camas Swale in which to expand westward with industrial plants and commercial enterprises to surround the freeway. As a result, by the Census of 1980 Oakland had less than 1,000 inhabitants while Suherlin has expanded 4 ½ times that number. Where Oakland once was the principal stopping place for travelers, today they are more likely to stop for gasoline, food, and lodging in Sutherlin.

Other Douglas County Settlements

Matthew P. Deady, the famous early Oregon jurist, once was assigned to the southern Oregon courts. He built a log house in Camas Swale he called Fair Oaks, but he left his pregnant wife Lucy with her parents in Yamhill. Her family, the Hendersons, had survived the Applegate Trail in 1846. Lucy was 17 when she married the handsome young matt Deady. Two and a half miles south of Sutherlin is a station named Deady, which together with Deady Hall, the first building on the University of Oregon campus, are about the only places in Oregon named for the famous pioneer judge.

Two and a half miles farther south is another point of historical significance. The community of Wilbur is named for Rev. James H. Wilbur, a new Yorker who became one of Oregon's best known pioneer Methodist ministers. He founded the Portland Academy and Female Seminary in 1851 and then took a land claim here, where he established Umpqua Academy in 1853, the only such school at the time between Salem and Sacramento. He was also one of the first Trustees of Willamette University.

Winchester has a dramatic background. A group of seventy adventurers in San Francisco formed the Umpqua Exploring Expedition. Half of them in May 1850 sailed up the coast to look for land for speculation, town sites, and pack trail routes to the mines along the Oregon-California border. They included Heman Winchester, whose brother who was editor of the Pacific News, Dr, Henry Payne of New York, A. C. Gibbs, S. F. Chadwick, and a number of New Englanders, including a Harvard graduate.

The Umpqua Company failed to find the mouth of the Klamath River. At the mouth of the Rogue River they ran into trouble with the Indians. They found Indians at the mouth of the Umpqua friendly and sailed into the cove still known as Winchester Bay. Nearby they met Jesse Applegate and Levi Scott, who had come over from Yoncalla to look for town sites. The two expeditions joined forces and laid out town sites at Coos Bay and at Scottsburg and Elkton.

When the ship got stuck on a sandbar on the falling tide, the rollicking company of explorers found a solution. According to A. C. Gibbs, "The passengers endeavored to lighten the cargo by pouring the vessel's store of liquors down their throats." The place became known as Brandy Bar.

On the south bank of the North Umpqua, the explorers laid out a town site named for Henry Winchester, their leader. It proved to be a good location on the old pack trail and the town that grew up there soon became the seat of Umpqua County.

The plans of the land speculators were foiled when Congress passed the Donation Land Act of 1850. It provided free land only for actual settlers and their families - not for speculators from California.

The Umpqua Company broke up. Most of the adventurers returned to San Francisco. Some stayed. Heman Winchester practiced law in Scottsburg, Roseburg, and Empire City. Addison C. Gibbs staked a land claim seven miles about the mouth of the Umpqua. He laid out the town of Gardiner, carried mail from Yoncalla to Scottsburg, was a collector of customs for southern Oregon, served in the state Legislature, and in 1862 was elected Governor of the state for a four-year term.

Stephen F. Chadwick, another lawyer, represented Douglas County in the Constitutional Convention in 1857, served as Secretary of State from 1870 to 1878, and was Governor in 1877-78.

Surveyors who had been with the short-lived Umpqua Company remained to pursue their professions. Among other places they laid out the towns of Oakland and Roseburg.

Roseburg grew up around the 1851 home of Aaron Rose from Michigan. Situated on the old pack trail it became a public inn to accommodate travelers. At first known as Deer Creek, Rose's settlement was a favorable location and soon outgrew Winchester. By popular vote in 1854, the county seat of Douglas County was moved to Roseburg. Rose donated three acres and $1,000 for a court house. Important buildings both public and private in Winchester were jacked up and moved to Roseburg. Along with Oregon City in the north, Roseburg in the south had a federal land office where Donation Land Claims could be registered.

What is now Douglas County has been at various times part of Polk, Benton, and Umpqua counties. Its present borders encompassing the drainage of the Umpqua from the Cascades to the Pacific were established in1852. Local people claim that its 2.8 million acres of commercial forest land is the largest stand of old-growth timber in the world. About half of the county revenue comes from Oregon& California Railroad lands. A quarter of its labor force is dependent on the lumber industry, but it is making progress in diversification.

Under the direction of George Abdill, a former railroad engineer and railroad historian, the Douglas County Museum has become one of the show places of the state.

A Century and a Half of Development

From the times that Joe Gervais scouted out a pack trail from southern Oregon to Fort Vancouver in 1827, travel along the old California Trail has gradually increased. Fur brigades used it as they roamed southward into the Shasta and Sacramento valleys. Ewing Young drove horses over it in 1834 and conducted a pioneering long-range cattle drive over it in 1837. Immigrants eager to reach the Willamette Valley used the route on the Applegate Trail in 1846-47. Gold seekers, a large percentage of the able-bodied men of the Willamette Valley, rushed southward in 1848-49. Settlers fanned out through the virgin land, building homes, farms, mills, towns, schools, and churches, encouraged by the federal policy of donating up to a square mile of public land to families who would make it productive.

The most important overland connections between Oregon Country and the rest of the country was a first over the Oregon Trail, but as California burst into prominence with its gold, statehood, and transcontinental railroad, communication between the Willamette Valley and the East Coast developed through California. Travelers going east in the 1870s could take the train to Roseburg, a two-and-one-half day stage coach ride to Redding, the train to Sacramento, and in another ten days could be in New York. After 1887 they could go all the way by rail.

When the mayors of Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, exchanged greetings in 1864 by transcontinental telegraph, the connection was through California.

From mules with heavy packs of furs and patient oxen struggling through knee-deep mud to one of the finest freeways in the country we have glimpsed a century and a half of progress. In another half century we may see dramatic changes along some of the back roads we have traversed today.

Readings and Sources

"John Work's Journey from Fort Vancouver to Umpqua River, and Return, in 1834," edited by Leslie M. Scott. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 24:3, Sept. 1923, pp. 238-268.
Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Oregon. San Francisco: The History Company, 1888. Vol. II, pp. 175-186.
Kenneth L. Holmes, Ewing Young, Master Trapper. Portland: Binfords and Mort, 1967. Chapters 7 and 8.
Devere and Helen Helfrich, "Applegate Trail II, West of the Cascades" in Klamath Echoes, No. 14, 1976.
Dorothy Godfrey Otto, "John B. Horner, Oregon Historian," Oregon Historical Quarterly, 82:4, Winter 1981, pp. 369-382

Related Horner Museum Publications

Kenneth Munford, "The Oregon and California Railroad," 1978.
_____, "The Old Oregon-California Pack Trail," 1979.
_____ and Lucy Skjelstad, "The Lane County Connection," 1980.
_____ and Charlotte L. Wirfs, "Ewing Young's Willamette Valley Trail," 1981.

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