Skookum: An Oregon Pioneer Family's History and Lore

by Shannon Applegate

Hardcover, 1988

Call number




Beech Tree Books (1988), Edition: 1st, 460 pages


In 1843, brothers Jesse, Lindsay, and Charley Applegate--accompanied by their wives and twenty-two children--led the first wagon train from Missouri to Oregon. By the end of the decade, the restless clan had left the "crowded" Willamette Valley and pointed their wagons toward Yoncalla in southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley. There, Charley built an immense two-story frame home--with one side for men, the other for women. A single fireplace, which opened toward both sides of the house, ensured that "only the smoke was permitted to mingle." The divided house in Yoncalla is at the heart of Shannon Applegate's Skookum, a powerful chronicle of her pioneer family. With the skill of a historian and the craft of a novelist, Applegate recounts the story of her family over several generations--the dreams, hardships, mysteries, and joys. Their experiences encompass many of the predominant historical themes of the early American West: the effects of the intermittent gold rushes, the troubled relations between settlers and Indians, the use of land and other natural resources. Yet Shannon Applegate looks beyond the well-known lives of the Applegate men, in whose honor were named a trail, a town, a river, and a mountain peak, to offer a more intimate history. Skookum gives voice to the women of the family, who, writes Applegate, "as surely as certain stitches ... have held the generations together." ("Skookum" is Chinook jargon for "strong, power, full of spirit.") Her female kin "kept the time" by cherishing and protecting the thousands of family letters, journals, recollections, manuscripts, sketchbooks, and photographs. Tied into neat bundles and stored for years in chests of aromatic cedar and Douglasfir, these family treasures infuse Skookum's narratives with the powerful presence of the past. Out of these richly detailed sources. Shannon Applegate has fashioned a compelling, imaginative saga that brings her extraordinary family and the emerging West dramatically to life.… (more)





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