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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jesse Applegate

In office
1845 – 1845
Preceded by none
Constituency Yamhill District

In office
1848 – 1849
Succeeded by position dissolved
Constituency Polk District

In office
Constituency Umpqua County

Born July 5, 1811
Henry County, Kentucky
Died April 22, 1888 (aged 76)
Yoncalla, Oregon
Spouse(s) Cynthia Ann Parker
Relations Lindsay Applegate
Oliver Cromwell Applegate
Occupation farmer

Jesse Applegate (July 5, 1811 – April 22, 1888) was an American pioneer who led a large group of settlers along the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Country. He took part in the early government of Oregon, and helped establish the Applegate Trail as an alternative route to the Oregon Trail.


Early life

Jesse Applegate was born in Henry County, Kentucky, on July 5, 1811.[1] In 1821, he moved with his family to Missouri. He attended seminary in Illinois, worked as a schoolteacher, clerk, and deputy surveyor to the Missouri Surveyor General, where he met Jedediah Smith, William Sublette, and David Edward Jackson—men who were instrumental in blazing the Oregon Trail. Applegate married Cynthia Ann Parker in 1832.

The Great Migration

Along with his brothers Charles and Lindsay and their families, he joined what became known as the "Great Migration of 1843" on the Oregon Trail. He became one of the leaders of the expedition after it split into two parties over a dispute about whether the large amounts of livestock being driven by some members of the group would slow down their travel. Applegate's party became known as the "cow column" and the other party was called the "light column". After leaving their guide Marcus Whitman at his mission and abandoning their wagons at Fort Walla Walla, the Applegate brothers built boats for traveling down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver. Near The Dalles, a boat capsized and Jesse and Lindsay each lost a son to drowning. Lindsay later wrote, "We resolved if we remained in the country, to find a better way for others who might wish to emigrate."

Settlement and involvement in politics

In 1844, Jesse Applegate started a farm in present-day Polk County, and also built a mill and worked as a surveyor, including surveying the site of Oregon City.

In 1845, Applegate was elected as the representative of Yamhill County (one of five counties in Oregon at the time) to the legislative committee of the provisional government of the Oregon Country. [1] He remained in this position until 1849, when Oregon officially became a U.S. Territory. He also helped organize the territorial government.

Applegate Trail

A safer alternative to boating the Columbia River was still needed for settlers wishing to reach the Willamette Valley. The Barlow Road was safer than the river passage, but was considered to be worst stretch of the entire Oregon Trail. Another attempt at finding an alternate route, the Meek Cutoff, resulted in the deaths of at least 23 people.

Applegate wrote legislation that authorized him to survey a southern route to the Willamette Valley that would avoid the Columbia River. Daniel Waldo, one of Applegate's fellow emigrants from the Great Migration of 1843, was made the expedition's outfitter.

Also known as the South Road, the Applegate Trail started at Fort Hall in present-day Idaho and followed the Humboldt River before crossing the Klamath Basin.

Later life

Applegate settled on a land claim in the Umpqua Valley in 1849. He named the place Yoncalla after the local Indian tribe. In 1857, he represented Umpqua County at the Oregon Constitutional Convention.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Biographical Sketch of Jesse Applegate". Crafting the Oregon Constitution. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  


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