Southern Route to Oregon
(Seven panels dealing with topics related to the Applegate Trail are found at this 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.
Heart of the Valley
In 1846 Joseph C. Avery dreamed that his land claim at the junction of the Marys and Willamette rivers might become a city. He platted a town, and in 1849 began selling lots. Known variously as Marysville and Corvallis, the community secured a post office in January 1850. By 1855 Lt. Henry Abbot described the community as "a
little town, consisting principally of one street lined by several stores and dwelling houses." The name "Corvallis" is derived from a Latin expression that means "heart of the valley."
Education has dominated the economy of Corvallis since pioneer times. From Corvallis College, founded in 1852, to establishment of a state school in 1885, education has attracted students to the town. In 1887 construction commenced on a new campus west of the business district. Oregon Agricultural College became Oregon State College in 1932 and is today Oregon State University.
Crossed Mary's River...near where the grist mill now stands, it being at that place about 50 feet across. Here was found another pole cabin, more attractive to us than a gorgeous palace would be now...inhabited by a lonely civilized "white" man, whose name was J. C. Avery.
Recollection of 1846
Yet Another River to Cross
The names and dangers of rivers were etched into the memories of overland emigrants forever. The placid Platte River held unexpected currents and deep holes. The Sweetwater and Green rivers also claimed their share of lost possessions and lives. Although Applegate Trail emigrants trekked the arid Great Basin via Humboldt Sink, they also forded the Klamath, Rogue, South
Umpqua, North Umpqua, and Long Tom rivers.
For hundreds of families, the Marys River was nearly the last to be crossed. Its steep, muddy banks, the onset of winter rains, and an uncertain bottom added to the danger. By the time emigrants reached the Marys River they knew how to disassemble wagons, ferry by means of wagon box or canoe, and they knew to be careful! With the promised land near at hand, caution was in order at the Marys River.
...the next stream was Mary's River, this was also full, here we took our wagons to places and ferried over on the smallest canoe I ever saw... "
Rev. A. E. Garrison
Recollection of 1846
A Varied Cast of Characters
Known first as the Trappers' Trail, then the California Trail, and later as the Applegate Trail, the north-south route along the west side of the Willamette Valley drew a varied cast of characters. Fur trappers passed this way in the 1820s and the 1830s. Employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, they headed south toward the Sacramento Valley to trap and trade. Botanist David Douglas journeyed with them in 1826 searching for the fabled sugar pines.
In 1840 Methodist missionaries Jason Lee, Gustavus Hines, and Dr. Elijah White camped along the Marys River while exploring the prospects of new missions to the Indians. The following year members
of the U.S. South Seas Surveying and Exploring Expedition, commanded by Lt. George Foster Emmons, took the trail to assess western Oregon's interior. When emigrants began arriving in 1846, the route, though well defined, lacked bridges, ferries, grades, and gravel.
All the way there is fine soil, and the low grounds about the creeks, superior pasture, land and very extensive to the E. Some woods along the banks of the rivers. And on the high ground oaks here and there. The road for the next 4 miles lay along the base of some hills thickly timbered with oak and composed of rich [fert]tile soil & pretty well covered with grass. Large tracts of open ground extend to the E. The road now lay along an extensive plain, some parts of it swamp, to Laurie [Mary's] river where we are camped not far from its discharge into a Channel of the Willamet.
Hudson's Bay Company, June 1, 1834
Corvallis, initially known as Marysville, occupied a critical location in the flow of travelers and freight in the western Willamette Valley. The town's landing was a year-round head of navigation for steamboats on the Willamette—though in high water some captains pressed on to Harrisburg and Eugene! Freighters followed the trace of the fur trappers and Applegate Trail emigrants along the Territorial Road
through Corvallis. By the late 1850s overland stages passed through town enroute to Sacramento or Portland. In the 1870s T. Egenton Hogg began building the Oregon Pacific—a railroad intended to shove east to Idaho and west to Yaquina Bay, terminated deep in the Santiam Canyon amid the Cascade peaks. Corvallis prospered by ties to the north, south, west, and—to some extent—the east. The community lived up to its name lying at the "heart of the valley."
From earliest years, Marysville was on the road through the west Willamette Valley, by way of Yamhill Falls and across the Rickreall, Luckiamute, and Long Tom Rivers, to the upper Willamette and the [illegible] country.
Howard McKinley [illegible]
Willamette Landing, 1847
Resolving the "Oregon Question"
Operating under the "right of discovery" doctrine, European nations and the United States voiced strong interest in Oregon. Spain ceded "discovery rights" to the U.S. in 1819—Russia in 1824. Britain and the U.S., however, remained contenders for the vast territory north of California between the Rockies and the Pacific. Although both countries agreed to "joint occupancy" in 1818, the British Hudson's Bay Company clearly dominated the region.
Oregon was an issue of great
national concern to the U.S. by the 1840s. Overland emigration began in 1843 and within two years nearly 3,000 settlers arrived. The presidential campaign of 1844 was characterized by James K. Polk's slogan "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" Polk was prepared to fight unless the British rescinded claims to all lands south of latitude 54 degrees, 40 minutes. Once elected, he gave Britain one year to resolve the "Oregon Question." Eager to avoid war and facing domestic troubles at home, Britain gave in. The United States secured a vast empire—today's Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana.
Away, away with these cobweb issues of rights of discovery, exploration, settlement, contiguity, etc.... [The American claim] is the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative self-government entrusted to us. It is the right such as that of the tree to the space of air and earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth.
John L. O'Sullivan
New York Morning News
December 27, 1848
Resolving the "We Do Not wish to Leave Our Country"
In 1850 Congress created the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission and extended the 1834 Indian Trade and Intercourse Act to Oregon. At the time when settlers already claimed most of the valley's floor, the commissioners belatedly entered into negotiations with the Kalapuya Indians for cession of their lands. In the spring of 1851 the natives were asked to leave the valley and relocate in central Oregon.
"Never! Never! We do not wish to leave our Country,"
argued Daboe, one of the headmen of the Luckiamutes. His fellow leader, Scho-la-que, told the commissioners that his people, whose lands reached from Marys River to the Luckiamute, wished to remain " in the land where their Fathers had lived, and where all their relatives and friends were buried."
Finally, the commissioners agreed. A treaty was signed on May 2, 1851, but the Senate declined to approve it. The Indians did not ceded their lands until 1855 when a new treaty was negotiated, signed, and ratified. They were removed to the Grande Ronde Reservation.
Your Great Father thinks you would be more happy and better off, if you would select a piece of land beyond the Cascade Mountains four your future Home; and sell the lands you now claim, to him, for which, he will pay you in money, Blankets, shoes, & If you will consent to sell your lands here, you may select a piece of land, or he will select it for you, beyond the Cascade Mountains that will be equally as good, as any part of your own.... In treating with us, we desire that you should think us your best friends, and that what we propose will be most beneficial to you and your good.
Col. Beverly Allen
Speaking to the Luckiamute Band
April 30, 1851