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Monday, December 1, 2014

THE APPLEGATE TRAIL....Oregon Pioneers ... By Gail L. Jenner

We hear a lot about the Oregon Trail and the settlers and pioneers who crossed it. 
A particularly important trail for those heading into Oregon was the Applegate Trail – which was the southern alternative to the Oregon Trail. Jesse Applegate, in particular, was instrumental in opening the South Road to Oregon, also known as the Scott-Applegate Trail. Beginning at Fort Hall in Idaho, the trail followed the Humboldt River before crossing the Klamath Basin. Supporters hoped it would encourage settlement in southern Oregon and the upper Willamette Valley.
            Three Applegate brothers, Charles (1806-1879), Lindsay (1808-1892), and Jesse (1811-1888), like so many early pioneers, came via the Oregon Trail in 1843 and settled in the Willamette Valley.
Charles Applegate
Lindsay Applegate

Jesse Applegate
            The Applegates were involved in much of Oregon’s early history. In 1844, Jesse surveyed the townsite of Oregon City, which was the first incorporated American city west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1845, he helped develop the provisional government and Oregon’s first constitution.
            It was in 1846 that Jesse and Lindsay Applegate joined the expedition that located a new route into Oregon from the south; the route was known as the Southern Immigrant Route, the Scott-Applegate Trail, and the Applegate Trail. They crossed the Umpqua River and made their way to present day Ashland, Oregon, and then crossed over Greensprings to the Klamath Basin. They passed Klamath Lake, crossed the Tule and Goose Lake valleys to Northern California, and crossed Black Rock Desert to the Humboldt River where they picked up The California Trail, which also originated at Fort Hall, Idaho.
            Jesse rode ahead of the main party to Fort Hall to tell people of the new overland route and to get a wagon train together. Thus the Applegate Trail was born. By 1849 the Applegate Trail was the main route for hopeful miners going after gold.

 In 1849, Jesse Applegate settled in a place he named Yoncalla in the Umpqua Valley. Charles and Lindsay followed in 1850. Charles and Jesse stayed there until their deaths (in 1879 and 1888). Lindsay served for several years as the Indian agent for the Klamath Reservation then retired to Ashland in 1869. He died in 1892.       
            Today there is a river, a valley, a mountain, a trail, and a town named after the enterprising and ambitious Applegate Brothers.
            There are a few remnants of the trail visible today. One section is at Tubb Springs State Wayside, 18 miles east of Ashland on Highway 66. Wolf Creek Tavern Inn, 20 miles north of Grants Pass off Interstate 5 is also right on the trail. The trail ran roughly parallel to I-5 through much of Douglas County, including the route along Canyon Creek.
            From 1853-55, Congress allotted $50,000 for the construction of three military roads within the Oregon Territory: from Camp Stuart, near Jacksonville, to Myrtle Creek; from Myrtle Creek to Scottsburg; and from Salem to Astoria. The section of road passing between Grants Pass and Winchester generally followed the route of the Oregon-California Trail.
Freight wagons and mule trains also traveled from California to Jacksonville as well as from the Willamette Valley. In fact, during 1851, reportedly one hundred mules left Union in Humboldt Bay, California, every week for the northern California mines (bordering Oregon) and points north or south. They often carried $4000 to $5000 worth of supplies. Jacksonville became the seat of the pack trade. From Crescent City, California, to Jacksonville, pack trains had to travel 120 miles over rugged terrain. The trip took ten days.

 For the early settlers these trains provided both supplies and news from the outside world. By the 1870s, however, Rogue Valley farmers were exporting products as well as importing supplies, thus these transports provided a ready market for their agricultural goods.
            By 1861, a stage road connected California and Oregon, which made it possible for a stage to travel from Sacramento to Portland, or visa versa, in relative safety and comfort. The route was 710 miles long and necessitated the construction of 60 stage stops/inns along the way. Stages left Sacramento and Portland early each morning and the California Stage Company employed 14 district agents, 75 hostlers, and 35 drivers, in addition to 28 coaches, 30 stage wagons, and 500 head of horses.
            Today, tourists and travelers to Oregon will read and hear of the Applegate Brothers; their endeavors made a significant contribution to early Oregon and California pioneer history.

 Gail L. Jenner is the author of 2 historical novels and five regional nonfiction histories. Her novel ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS (Winner of the WILLA Literary Award) was re-released from Prairie Rose Publishing in December 2013. ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS is now also part of a special 5-western book gift pack. For a limited time you can purchase the five novels as a collection (A COWBOY'S BRAND) -- available for a short time and released from Prairie Rose Publications, for only 0.99 per set!  Check it out at:   
For more information about Gail, visit:   


  1. I do love pieces of history like this one. Thank you for sharing the story of these brothers with the rest of us. Doris

    1. I love the "smaller" bits of history --- sometimes we lose sight of those details in our research! Thanks for stopping by :-)

  2. Outstanding research, Gail. I found this article so interesting. Applegate is such a familiar name, but I honestly didn't know that much about the Applegate brothers until I read this. I also enjoyed all the pictures. Great blog.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! When I first moved to this very northern part of CA and its connection to Oregon I didn't know much about the Applegates, either, but they are a big part of the regional history and the history of Oregon. Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Very interesting article about the Applegate family. There is an Applegate road in Atwater, California. I wonder if there is any connection to this particular family even though we are down in the central part of the state. I enjoyed your story, which I read some months ago. I'm happy to see several stories published in these box sets so I can catch a few I missed.

    1. Hi Robyn! How interesting that there's another Applegate in the middle of the state ... since these men traveled all over it could be the same family, but I'm not sure. I'm so glad you enjoyed my story! It's been fun participating in these anthologies, too. Of course, I need to get back to the two novels I've been working on :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi Robyn! How interesting that there's another Applegate in the middle of the state ... since these men traveled all over it could be the same family, but I'm not sure. I'm so glad you enjoyed my story! It's been fun participating in these anthologies, too. Of course, I need to get back to the two novels I've been working on :-) Thanks for stopping by!

    1. My husband is a direct descendant of the Applegate Trail Pioneers. His father's name was Robert Earl Applegate and his father was Everett Applegate. I don't know if Everett was the son of Lindsay, Jesse or

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. I do genealogy and on 6/16/2017, I discovered that Charles, Lindsay and Jesse were my 2nd cousins 4x removed (my maiden name is Applegate). What a thrill to find that connection to some amazing history. I had long heard of The Applegate Trail, but had no idea these gentlemen were my relatives. I found two excellent Kindle books on Amazon - one by Lindsay and one by his son Jesse. They are both wonderful reading and provide a real-life glimpse into what their lives were like. I love discovering new, amazing facts about my ancestors.

  6. My grandmother was a an Applegate, however,I don't know which of the three brothers was her line. Her name was Sylvia and she was a twin to Zelma.they had a brother named Clifford.