Generations of Oregon school children learned the lyrics of a song: "Hurry up oh pioneers, your faithful little band must never fail." Applegate Trail emigrants struggled to follow this advice, but the mountainous terrain of northern Josephine County rendered their efforts nearly impossible.
Applegate Trail emigrants reached this region after fording the Rogue River and traveling up the south slope of Sexton Mountain. In 1846, Virgil K. Pringle lamented the "steep pulls and thick timber and underbrush." Ellen Burt called the route in 1853, "the worst road." Travel through the hills between Grave and Wolf creeks, and the watershed of upper Cow Creek tested the hardiest of souls. Those with exhausted teams, dilapidated wagons, or weak spirits faced a terrible trail.
At no previous time had my heart been so much touched with the misfortunes of my wife. The ground was muddy, the air damp and cold, the rain was descending, we were without shelter, half starved, and exceedingly debilitated: added to which we knew not were all these misfortunes would end, or what new calamities might yet be in store for us. She did not complain in words; but she looked feeble, hungry, and haggard, and appeared to be suffering severely. I could not but reproach myself for having exposed her to the dangers and sufferings
incident to such a journey. — J. Quinn Thornton, October 27, 1846