ORWW 1828 Umpqua Memorial Project

Site of the October 28, 1828 Umpqua burials. Photo by Tam Moore, April 3, 2023.

On July 14, 1828, 15 beaver trappers working for the Smith, Jackson & Sublette fur trading business and under the leadership of Jedediah Smith, were killed near the mouth of the Smith River, where it enters the Umpqua River. All of their horses, mules, guns, knives, trading goods, beaverskins, clothing, and supplies were stolen. Smith and three other men survived the attack and made it safely to Fort Vancouver, where John McLoughlin sent a Hudson's Bay Company brigade under the direction of Alexander McLeod to retrieve the stolen property. The brigade, including Smith and his men, reached the mouth of "Defeat River" on October 28, where they found:

" . . the Skeletons of eleven of those Miserabl Sufferers lying bleaching in the Sun, after paying the last Service to their remains we continued forward and made the Coast . . ."

The 1828 Umpqua Memorial Project had its official beginning on July 20, 2000 with a front page headline article in The Reedsport Courier about a series of local events centered on the history of Jedediah Smith. Several photographs accompanied the text, featuring and quoting Jedediah Smith Society (JSS) member Wayne Knauf; Smith historian, James C. Auld; Smith impersonator, Al LePage; Portia Harris, Director of the Umpqua Discovery Center; and Tom Hedgepeth, Mayor of Reedsport. LePage was finishing a journey, Auld was giving a lecture, Harris was dedicating a painting, and Knauf was there to remember the men who had died and were buried there. According to the news account: "A prayer and wreath was cast in the water while the names of the slain trappers were read."

The following year Knauf was joined in his research by good friend and business associate, Don Whereat, another Smith enthusiast and Quuiich Tribal Historian. Whereat was local and field mapped the July 13 and 14 routes most likely taken by Smith and his men. In later years, fellow JSS member and field researcher Joe Molter joined in the effort, and on March 29, 2023, the "Smith, Jackson & Sublette Burial Site" was officially listed with the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries. The following week, on April 3, the site was visited by members of the JSS 2023 Rendezvous and consensus discussion was that a monument or marker should be established to honor the dead buried there. The next day of the Rendezvous, at Champoeg, ORWW Director David Gould offered to donate a large stone for that purpose. This account is continued in the Reports link below. A listing of project  Sponsors and other contributors is also being maintained as the memorial develops. 

2023 Guidebooks

Four Guidebooks were made for the JSS 2023 Rendezvous: one for each day of travel. They are fully intended to be used on a local basis for current and future research, recreational, and educational purposes. Guidebook #1: Hoopa Valley to Winchuck River, May 2 - June 22, 1828; Guidebook #2: Winchuck River to Umpqua River, June 23 - July 13, 1828; Guidebook #3: Fort Vancouver to Umpqua River, August 8 - December 10, 1828; Guidebook #4: Washington, DC to London, England, December 26, 1828 - October 29, 1830.

Historical Markers

The 2023 Umpqua Memorial Project is focused on three historical markers and an event: 1) Replacement of the Bolon Island "Jedediah Smith" historical marker with one that is more relevant to signficiant local events that took place from 1826 to 1828; 2) Installation of an Umpqua Memorial Stone commemorating the 15 men killed nearby on July 14, 1828; 3) Installation of an 1828 Historical Sign interpreting events associated with the October 28, 1828 burial of their remains; and 4) Dedication of the Memorial Stone on October 28, 2023. The Project is made possible by a number of Oregon Sponsors, including individuals representing a wide range of local and state businesses and other organizations. Initial funding was also provided by the national Jedediah Smith Society and the Oregon-California Trails Association.

JSS 2023 Rendezvous

The Jedediah Smith Society 2023 Rendezvous took place over four days, from April 2 to 5, and replicated Smith's routes from Smith River, California to Fort Vancouver in 1828. Key stops included Jedediah Smith State Park, Coos History Museum, the site of the infamous "Umpqua Massacre," Fort Umpqua, Champoeg, Willamette Falls, and Fort Vancouver. The Oregon-California Trails Assocation (OCTA) NW Chapter featured PowerPoint presentations of the Rendezvous before (February 10) and after (April 8) it took place. The Spring 2023 Castor Canadensis, Journal of JSS, lead article described  the daily events and locations of the Rendezvous. 


Indexed GIS Maps were created for the Rendezvous Guidebooks that directly connected modern day locations and landscapes with the individual campsites, travel routes, and daily journal entries of Jedediah Smith, Harrison G. Rogers, and Alexander Roderick McLeod. Maps were constructed by Vyla Grinberg, Douglas County GIS: 1) Hoopa Valley to Klamath River; 2) Klamath River to Winchuck River; 3) Winchuck River to Smith River; 4) Umpqua River to Fort Vancouver; 5) Willamette River to Pacific Coast

Photos Photographs are organized by topic and date. The current categories include Bolon Island; Max, the Cadaver Dog; David Gould and the local businesses installing the Memorial Stone; Aerial Photos from 1939-2000 of the Smith River mouth; and photos by various Rendezvous participants: April 2: Crescent City to Bandon; April 3: Bandon to Reedsport; April 4: Reedsport to Dallas; April 5: Dallas to Fort Vancouver.

A webpage hasn't been constructed yet for the Reference section to this project, which includes a wide range of materials, from:  Dale's 1918 classic book; to Cisneros' 1990 drawing; Whereat's 2001 map; an article about the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake; scholarly articles; student theses; Pollard's account of Gordon's 1857 survey; to copies of McLeod's 1828 handwritten journal. These need better organization.    


There have been three reports generated so far by this project: Schneider's May 2, 2023 report and field map on the success of Max, her trained cadaver dog, to locate apparent human remains near the location of the Gordon and Whereat surveys; Zybach's June 14, 2023  photo report on David Gould's selection of the Memorial Stone as advised by Dale Hanson of Pacific Memorials; and Zybach's June 22, 2023 photo report on the Stone being transported from the Main Rock quarry by Coos Bay Timber Operators to its final placement by Mast Brothers.

© 2023  Oregon Websites & Watersheds Project, Inc. & NW Maps Co.