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MailTribune.com
  • Descendant of Jesse Applegate pens a book about him

    Leta Neiderheiser, Applegate's great-great-granddaughter, lives in Murphy
  • ASHLAND — An Oregon Trail pioneer from Missouri, Jesse Applegate in 1843 saw his 9-year-old son drown while the family attempted to float the choppy Columbia River. So he resolved to forge a "southern route" and the resulting Applegate Trail would open the way for settlers to pour into the Rogue Valley.
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    • What: Book signing and talk
      Who: Leta Neiderheiser, author of "Jesse Applegate: A Dialog With Destiny"
      When: 6:30 p.m. today
      Where: Ashland Historic Railroad Museum, 258 A Street.
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      What: Book signing and talk
      Who: Leta Neiderheiser, author of "Jesse Applegate: A Dialog With Destiny"

      When: 6:30 p.m. today

      Where: Ashland Historic Railroad Museum, 258 A Street.
  • ASHLAND — An Oregon Trail pioneer from Missouri, Jesse Applegate in 1843 saw his 9-year-old son drown while the family attempted to float the choppy Columbia River. So he resolved to forge a "southern route" and the resulting Applegate Trail would open the way for settlers to pour into the Rogue Valley.
    His great-great-granddaughter, Leta Neiderheiser of Murphy, has published a book, "Jesse Applegate: A Dialog With Destiny." The book that tells the life of Applegate, a surveyor and schoolteacher who led efforts to chart and create the Applegate Trail, then went on in 1845 to be a primary author of Oregon's territorial constitution.
    Neiderheiser will sign books and talk on Applegate at 6:30 this evening at the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum, 258 A Street.
    Born in Kentucky and raised in St. Louis, Applegate left volumes of letters that guided Neiderheiser in her research — one to a brother proclaiming, "I can give no logical reason why I'm making this decision to go to Oregon, but I believe it is my destiny." The comment became the title for Neiderheiser's book.
    Although his "destiny" led to the loss of a son before the journey was over, Neiderheiser says, Jesse and his brother Lindsay Applegate — who also lost a 9-year-old son on the Columbia — declared that "once they were settled in Oregon, they would find an alternate route so others wouldn't have to experience such a tragedy."
    The brothers also sought to create a southern route because England and America were vying for possession of the Oregon Territory and war might break out, leaving pioneer passage via the Columbia in doubt, says Neiderheiser.
    While the brothers blazed the way over Sexton Pass, north of current-day Grants Pass, Lindsay ascended to a high point where he became the first white person to spy the river that later bore his name — the Applegate. Lindsay staked his donation land claim on A Street in Ashland, across from where the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum now sits, she says, while Jesse laid claim to land in the Yoncalla Valley, north of Roseburg. It's still intact with its original pioneer house and is occupied by a direct descendant.
    Infused with history in her blood, Neiderheiser is a Daughter of the American Revolution, and notes that Jesse's father, Daniel, ran away from home to fight in the revolt against England.
    Neiderheiser says there are no photographs of Jesse, who "thought he was a homely man and said it was bad enough people had to look at him while he was alive and he wouldn't burden future generations with his image." The only surviving images are drawings by a nephew.
    Neiderheiser plans another book on Lindsay Applegate. The book on Jesse used documents from Yale, the University of Oregon, the University of California at Berkeley and other sources and is published by Tate Publishing in Norman, Okla. It's 351 pages and is on sale at various local shops and museums, as well as Amazon, with a price of $20 to $25.
    Neiderheiser's talk will be preceded at 6 p.m. by old-time fiddling champion Judy McGarvey and followed by a short preview of "Tombstone Tales." The events are free and open to the public. The full production of "Tombstone Tales," a fundraiser for the museum, will take place on four days in July. See www.ashlandrrmuseum.org for details.
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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