Kentucky-born Jesse Applegate is probably best remembered for pioneering a new wagon road into Oregon for early immigrants in 1846 that avoided the perilous Columbia River route where Applegate and his brother Lindsay each lost a son in 1843.
First called the Southern Route, the wagon road is known in history as the Applegate Trail. It led south from Fort Hall in present-day Idaho across Nevada and northern California to enter Oregon near today’s Klamath Falls. Most emigrants taking this trail continued north to the early settlements in the Willamette Valley.
Applegate’s lesser-known contribution to early Oregon was his strident opposition to slavery, which was hotly debated at the 1857 Constitutional Convention in Salem where Applegate was a delegate. Voters decisively voted against slavery, although a disappointed Applegate failed to prevent other racist measures from being included in the original Constitution. He also played a controversial role in the Modoc War in 1873, one of the last of the nation’s so-called Indian wars.
Applegate’s formative role in early Oregon is detailed by author R. Gregory Nokes in a new book entitled Eminent Oregonians, published by prominent newspaper publisher, Steve Forrester. Two other early Oregonians featured in the book are the late senator, Richard Neuberger, profiled by Forrester; and women’s rights’ advocate Abigail Scott Duniway, profiled by well-known Oregon author Jane Kirkpatrick.
Nokes, a historian and former journalist, is the author of several other books of western and Oregon history, including Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory; Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, and, The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California, all published by Oregon State University Press.
“This volume’s authors, offer insightful and richly sourced accounts of largely unsung American heroes persevering against seemingly hopeless odds. These sparkling essays demand close attention as they unlock treasure houses of storied moments in The Beaver State’s captivating history. Steve Forrester, a seasoned interpreter of the U.S. Senate’s history and culture, skillfully appraises the brief but consequential career of Senator Richard Neuberger. Jane Kirkpatrick weaves an intense account of pioneering journalist and women’s rights champion Abigail Duniway. Gregory Nokes concludes with an insightful reading of antislavery campaigner and political maverick Jesse Applegate. Victorian biographer Lytton Strachey would surely admire this fine work’s conception, style, and contributions.”
Richard A. Baker
U.S. Senate Historian Emeritus
“Three talented Oregon authors sharing the remarkable stories of three Oregon icons: If you love Oregon and history, it doesn’t get much better than that!”
Executive Director, Oregon Historical Society
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