Early Political Leaders

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

The First Men In Charge

There are six men with a legitimate claim to being called the first Governor of Oregon. The Organic Act of 1843 called for a three person executive committee in the place of a governor. Two were elected in 1843 and 1844 before the Organic Act was amended in 1845. The first committee was comprised of David Hill, part of Dr. Elijah White’s 1842 wagon train, Alanson Beers, part of the 1837 Methodist reinforcement, and Joseph Gale, an early immigrant who arrived in 1834 with Nathaniel Wyeth. Beers would join Governor Abernethy as a partner in the Oregon Milling Company. Gale built the first ship in Oregon, the Star of Oregon.

 The second executive committee, elected May 25, 1844, was made up of Peter G. Stewart of the Great Migration of 1843; Osbourne Russell, a trapper along with Gale in the 1834 Wyeth Party who had taken to the mountains and returned to Oregon in 1842 as guide to Dr. Elijah White; and Dr. William J. Bailey, a sailor who jumped ship in Yerba Buena (San Francisco), was wounded by Rogue River Indians on his journey north, joined Ewing Young’s cattle company, and then took up the study of medicine in Oregon under Dr. Elijah White.

Doctors and Diseases on the Oregon Trail

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

“June 3 Passed through St. Joseph on the Missouri River. Laid in our flour, cheese, crackers and medicine, for no one should travel this road without medicine, for they are almost sure to have the summer complaint. Each family should have a box of physicing pills, a quart of castor oil, a quart of the best rum and a large vial of peppermint essence.” -Elizabeth Dixon Smith

Today, we all have the same basic idea of what medicine is and how diseases work. We all know about germs, antibiotics, and vaccines. We watch surgeons replace internal organs on cable television. The medical professionals who keep us healthy are among the most respected men and women in the world. Forget everything you know, because to understand medicine in the mid-1800s you will need to accept a completely different way of looking at disease. The doctors of that time had no idea that infection and disease were caused by microscopic organisms such as bacteria and viruses, and they had only recently realized, thanks to French battlefield physicians treating soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars, that wounds contaminated with dirt, bullet fragments, or other foreign matter would fester, turn gangrenous, and ultimately kill their patients.

Disrupting the Natives

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

White emigrants of the overland trail era are often credited with disrupting Native American societies, causing sweeping changes in in their cultures, and precipitating wars. This is not entirely untrue, but the Oregon Trail was merely one chapter in a much longer history. The larger truth is that native lifestyles were disrupted by other Indians and by the arrival of Spanish horses well before the United States came into existence, wars and irreversible cultural changes were caused by government policies older than the Oregon Trail, and most contact between emigrants and Indians on the overland trails was peaceful.

Plains Indians were in a constant battle over homelands as migrating tribes shoved aside previous occupants, and the policies of the US government served only to further complicate this situation. In 1824, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established — not as an independent federal agency, but as a part of the War Department. During the Jackson presidency, a policy of Indian removal was implemented and the “five civilized tribes” of the northeast were forcibly relocated to the plains. As missionaries were moving to Oregon, the Cherokee Nation was following their Trail of Tears to Indian Territory.

Black Pioneers & Settlers

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

Black_PioneersRichard and America Bogle
America Waldo was born in Missouri in 1844. Her parentage was most likely a slave mother and one of the Waldo brothers who were businessmen and slave owners in Missouri. America came to the Oregon Territory on one of the early wagon trains. Upon arrival she lived with the family of Daniel Waldo who staked his claim east of Salem, in what is now known as Waldo Hills. Daniel Waldo was a member of the 1844 legislature and voted in favor of the “Lash Law” which passed in June of that year.

Richard A. Bogle was born in the West Indies in 1835. He moved to New York City at the age of twelve, and to the Oregon Territory in 1851 at the age of sixteen. Three years later, he moved to Yreka, California, and apprenticed to a barber by the name of Nathaniel Ferber. Bogle worked for Ferber for three years before returning to Oregon and opening a barber shop in Roseburg.

Benjamin Bonneville Route

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

Bonneville, on an authorized leave of absence from service in the US Army, traversed the western states of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming with a small group. In addition to his own explorations, Bonneville sent emissaries into California and Utah in 1832-1834. Bonneville’s effort included orders to note the natural and cultural landscape he traversed. A proud and committed military man, Bonneville took his orders seriously, fulfilling his obligations as best he could. Bonneville trapped and traded with the illustrious Mountain Men of the era (William Sublette, Stephen Meek, Ewing Young, and others) at the Green River Rendezvous and continued west into the Oregon Country. Bonneville’s explorations ranged far and wide, and he is credited with mapping major areas of the West. Several western landscape features were named by Bonneville or in honor of Bonneville’s efforts. Bonneville is also acknowledged by a number of reputable historians to have been the first white to see the Wallowa Valley. His easy way and generosity with the Indians made their encounters positive ones.

Barlow Cutoff

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

In 1847, a cutoff providing a link between the main stem of the Oregon Trail and the Barlow Road was established to save Oregon Trail emigrants time and effort. The Oregon Trail, which skirted the Columbia River’s south bank for miles, was indeed the most practical route for the early emigrants, but as more and more emigrants traveled the main route, cutoffs and alternate routes designed by the emigrants themselves became more popular.

Historical Context

Following the opening of the Barlow Road in 1846, which provided an alternative to shooting the rapids on the Columbia River, a cutoff to the Barlow Road came into use. The Cutoff to the Barlow Road saved emigrants as much as a week of travel time.

The Applegate Family – Emigrated 1843

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Pioneer Families

Of the three brothers Applegate who emigrated to Oregon — Charles, Lindsay, and Jesse — Jesse was the dominant member of the clan. He was a college graduate, school teacher, and surveyor. After being turned down by William Sublette as a member of his fur company, he took a job as Deputy Surveyor General of Missouri and farmed along with his brothers in western Missouri. Times were hard… In 1842, Jesse sold a steamboat load of bacon and lard for $100. The curing salt alone had cost him $150, and the steamboat used the bacon as fuel for its boilers.

A good friend of Jesse’s named Robert Shortess emigrated to Oregon in 1840. Shortess wrote letters back to Applegate singing the praises of the Oregon Country. While Shortess was helping to build the Oregon Provisional Government, Jesse was protesting his neighbors’ practice of owning slaves and advertising his family’s intent to migrate to Oregon in the spring of 1843. True to Jesse’s word, three of the five Applegate brothers sold their farms and bought several hundred head of cattle, the largest herd among the more than 5000 head of livestock believed to have accompanied the Oregon Trail emigrants of 1843. They followed the promoter Peter Burnett, who told tall tales about Oregon to drum up excitement — including one which described fully-cooked pigs running around the forest with knives and forks already stuck into them for the convenience of hungry settlers.

Applegate Trail

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Oregon Trail History

The Applegate Trail is an alternate southern route of the Oregon Trail and was blazed from west to east, intersecting the California Trail at the Humboldt River. It is historically linked to the Oregon Trail in that it was developed as an alternative route into Oregon that avoided the obstacles of the Burnt River Canyon, the Blue Mountains, and the Columbia River. After its opening, Oregonians used part of the Applegate Trail to travel back and forth to California’s gold fields. As designated by Congress under the National Trails System Act, the Applegate Trail is a branch of the California National Historic Trail.

William T. and Margaret Fuson Lieuallen – Emigrated 1864

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Pioneer Families


William T. Lieuallen and Margaret Fuson were married on April 5, 1864, the day before they set off from the Fuson home to get ready for the trip to Oregon. William was the middle child of eleven children born to Peyton and Jemima Lieuallen in Anderson County, Tenessee. In 1843 or ’44, following the birth of their last child, Peyton and Jemima moved the family to Missouri. After moving to Missouri, the Lieuallen boys just sort of kept on going. All but one of Peyton and Jemima’s sons emigrated to the Pacific Northwest.

William was a latecomer to Oregon. Most of his brothers and several family friends had emigrated in earlier years, so William and Margaret had a firm destination in mind when they set out.

The Lieuallen homesteads in eastern Oregon were well short of the Willamette Valley, but by 1864 that no longer mattered nearly as much as it had before. Gold had lured prospectors to the dry side of the Cascade Mountains by then, and boom towns, ranches, and respectable settlers had inevitably followed. There were stores and small towns stretching well into Nebraska and Idaho, shortening the trip through unsettled lands still claimed by Indian tribes.

Pierre and Catherine Pambrum – Emigrated 1826

Written by Bethany Nemec on . Posted in Pioneer Families


Born on December 17, 1792, in the Canadian province of Quebec, Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun traveled as far east as England and as far west as the Pacific Ocean in his lifetime. As a young man, Pierre enlisted to fight in the War of 1812 on the side of the British. He served with distinction, rising through the enlisted ranks and finally mustering out as an officer in the spring of 1815 through measure of his deeds. In April, he entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

His education won Pierre a clerkship in the Hudson’s Bay Company, which was unusual for a Quebecois; as a general rule, French Canadians served the HBC as trappers, voyageurs, or in menial positions. After several assignments, he came to Fort Vancouver in 1826. He eventually rose to the post of Chief Factor of Fort Walla Walla in 1839.

Pierre brought his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Humperville, to the Oregon Country. Kitty was the daughter of a Cree woman named Ann, and Thomas Humperville, a British officer stationed at Fort York. Kitty grew up speaking her native language and French. After marrying Pierre, she moved from fort to fort with her husband. Like many women on the western frontier, Kitty smoked a pipe. Pierre wanted her to give up the habit so badly that he bought a pair of diamond earrings and promised to give them to her if she would only quit. She couldn’t, and he never gave her the earrings.