New from R. Gregory Nokes:
The Troubled Life Of Peter Burnett
The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California is the first, full-length biography of this western explorer and California’s first governor. A former slaveholder, he could never seem to get beyond his single-minded goal of banning blacks and other minorities from the West.
Peter Burnett helped organize the first major wagon train to the Oregon Country, where he served on Oregon’s first elected government and was Oregon’s first supreme court judge. He opened a wagon road from Oregon to California, and worked with the young John Sutter to develop the new city of Sacramento. Within a year of arriving in California, voters overwhelmingly elected him as their first governor. He also served on the California Supreme Court, remembered for a notoriously racist decision in the Archy Lee slavery case.
Burnett resigned from many of his important positions, including the governorship, where he was widely perceived a failure. Historians, scholars and readers with an interest in western history will welcome this accessible and deeply researched account of this puzzling historical figure.
They were brought in bondage from Missouri.
Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory tells the story of slaves brought to Oregon from Missouri in the mid 1800s. It is told against the background of the national controversy over slavery that led to Civil War in 1861.
Relying on court testimony, Nokes’ book includes a rare account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He recounts the 15-month court battle in which former slaves Robin and Polly Holmes sought to free their three children held by Missouri emigrant Nathaniel Ford.
The book is certain to shock the many readers who were unaware that there were ever black slaves in Oregon, or that the question of whether Oregon would be a free or slave state was hotly debated when voters approved the state constitution in 1857. Also, the book details Oregon’s exclusion laws against black immigration during most of its early history.
Massacred For Gold
Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon is the first authoritative account of the long-forgotten 1887 massacre of as many as 34 Chinese gold miners in Oregon’s Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America.
The killers were an improbable gang of horsethieves and schoolboys in northeastern Oregon’s remote Wallowa country. Even though the killers were known, and one confessed, no one was ever convicted of the crime. A cover-up followed and the crime was all but forgotten for the next 100 years, until a county clerk found hidden records in an unused safe.