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Lindsay Applegate

In office
Constituency Jackson County

Born September 18, 1808
Died November 28, 1892 (aged 84)
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth
Occupation Indian agent

Lindsay Applegate (September 18, 1808 – November 28, 1892) was a pioneer known for blazing the Applegate Trail, an alternative end of Oregon Trail in the U.S. state of Oregon. The trail was blazed with his brothers Charles and Jesse in 1846.


Early life

Lindsay Applegate was born to Daniel and Rachel Applegate in Kentucky on September 18, 1808.[1] The family moved to the Osage Valley in Missouri in 1820 where they farmed.[1] In 1831, Lindsay married Elizabeth Miller, whose sister Melinda was married to Lindsay's older brother Charles, and they had six sons.[1] He fought in the Black Hawk War against Native Americans in 1832.[1]

Oregon Country

In 1843, Lindsay and Charles traveled along with their younger brother Jesse after they all sold their farms in Missouri, bought several hundred head of cattle and set out for Oregon at the behest of Jesse's good friend Robert Shortess.[2] At that time, the final hundred or so miles beyond the Wascopam Mission were by boat through dangerous winds, rapids, and eddies on the Columbia River.[3]

Whirlpools looking like deep basins in the river, the lapping, splashing, and rolling of waves... Presently there was a wail of anguish, a shriek, and a scene of confusion in our boat that no language can describe. The boat we were watching disappeared and we saw the man and boys struggling in the water.

Lindsay's nine year old son Warren perished, as did Jesse's ten year old Edward[2] who did not know how to swim.[3] Lindsay wrote, "We resolved if we remained in the country, to find a better way for others who might wish to emigrate."[2] Additional fatalities in the 1844 and 1845 immigration seasons further stirred up settlers and inspired many to search for alternate routes.

Lindsay and fourteen other settlers established the South Emigrant Trail between Fort Hall in Idaho and the Willamette Valley via northern Nevada through southern Oregon where Ashland and Roseburg now lie. The intents of this route were to be safer than the Columbia River, encourage settlers to western Oregon, avoid the Hudson's Bay Company controlled area, provide a longer travel season, and steer clear of the disputed English territory north of the Columbia,[4] which most settlers expected would become the US-British Columbia border.[5]

Jesse obtained information from Hudson Bay about the California Trail which led from Idaho to northern California along the Humboldt River. That combined with knowledge of the trapper's trail between the Willamette Valley and California led fifteen men on horseback[6] to set out in mid June 1846 to look for a link between the two trails, blessed by the Provisional Government of Oregon.[7] They traveled due south through the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue valleys. At the south end of the Rogue Valley—the site of present day Ashland—they turned east and crossed the Cascade Range approximately along the present route of Green Springs Highway, Oregon Route 66 and emerged near where Keno, Oregon now lies. They went around the south end of Klamath Lake and eventually to the future site of Winnemucca, Nevada. The party split leaving some to rest,[8] while the remainder followed the Humboldt River northeast[4] and along the California Trail to Fort Hall.[2] The first emigrants to use the Applegate trail did so in fall 1846 by following the Applegate party on the return trip, a group of perhaps 150 families which were persuaded by Jesse.[2]

Upon their return, the combined party began to blaze a trail for wagons, though they were ill-prepared for such an effort, having few tools, and consisting of mostly weary emigrants. The also faced an early winter—one which set snowfall records and stranded the Donner Party a few hundred miles to the south.[8]

By the time they arrived in the Rogue Valley, winter had set in. Rain, snow, mud, swollen creeks and rivers hampered passage. Low supplies, scarce game, dense brush and trees, and difficulty lighting warming fires slowed progress considerably, separating the emigrants over many miles. They were spared by relief parties from the Willamette Valley when news of their trouble traveled along the trail.[8]

The Applegates were blamed for the hardships the first wagon train faced. Jesse Quinn Thornton waged a war of words which nearly led to a duel between him and an Applegate supporter, James Nesmith. Remnants of the hostility survive today among some descendants of those survivors.[8] Though the Applegate Trail minimized natural dangers, aggressive Indian warriors took the lives of at least 300 emigrants by 1862,[4] even though the trail fell into general disuse by 1847.[2]

Lindsay Applegate and his party were the first white men in what is now the Lava Beds National Monument. While traveling eastward they were stopped by rough lava around the south end of Tule Lake. The feature known as Stone Bridge at the north end was the route of hundreds of emigrants.[4]

Lindsay made a donation land claim in Yoncalla (between Eugene and Roseburg) in 1846 and established a grist mill. As a carpenter, he had built the first river ferry in Polk County in 1844. He also owned the Applegate Trail toll road through the Siskiyous, which he sold in the 1860s.[9]

Lindsay was appointed special agent for the Modoc Indians in 1861. In 1862, he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives as a Republican representing Jackson County.[10] In 1865, he was appointed Indian subagent, responsible for treaty negotiations and other U.S. government dealings with the Klamath Indians. The Modoc War in 1872 was between the Modocs and the U.S. Army, just after Applegate had retired from his post. In January 1873, along with several other settlers, including Samuel Asahel Clark and R. H. Kincaid, Lindsay successfully proposed a peace commission to stop the war's spread.

Later years

Lindsay retired to Ashland in 1869.[11] He died on November 28, 1892, in either Klamath Falls[1] or Ashland,[11] survived by sons Elisha, Jesse A., Oliver, Ivan, and Lucien, and daughters Alice and Rachel.[1] He had five other children who died before he did: Warren, Theresa, Annie, Frank and Jerome. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1882.

He published Notes and Reminiscences of Laying Out and Establishing the Old Emigrant Road into Southern Oregon in the Year 1846.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Corning, Howard M. (1989) Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. pp. 9-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Applegate's Road to Oregon". End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Clackamas Heritage Partners, Historic Oregon City. Retrieved 2008-12-13.  
  3. ^ a b "The Final Leg of the Trail". End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Clackamas Heritage Partners, Historic Oregon City. Retrieved 2008-12-14.  
  4. ^ a b c d Don C. Fisher, Assistant Chief Ranger; John E. Doerr, Jr., Park Naturalist. "Outline of Events in the History of the Modoc War". Nature Notes from Crater Lake. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-12-14.  
  5. ^ Ross A. Smith (2007-05-10). "Chapter Eight: Southern Route" (pdf). Oregon Overland: Three Roads of Adversity. Retrieved 2008-12-14.  
  6. ^ They began with few than fifteen men, but by the time they left Polk county, the party consisted of Jesse and Lindsay Applegate, William G. Parker, Benjamin F. Burch, David Goff, John Owens, Robert Smith, Bennett Osborn, S. H. Goodhue, Jack Jones, Henry Boygus, William Sportsman, Moses "Black" Harris, Levi Scott and his son John.
  7. ^ "Applegate's Road to Oregon". End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.  
  8. ^ a b c d "California (Applegate) National Historic Trail, 1846-1883". Oregon's Historic Trails. The Oregon Historic Trails Fund. Retrieved 2008-12-14.  
  9. ^ "The Applegate Trail". Webtrail. February 23, 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-14.  
  10. ^ 1862 Regular Session (2nd). Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on December 15, 2008.
  11. ^ a b Cain Allen (2003). "The Applegates". Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-12-15.  


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