Coquelle Trails


Annotated Bibliography For the Years 1826 - 1900


2. Regional Historians: Beckham, Dodge, Douthit, Peterson & Powers

Regional histories are those covering a significant portion of the study area, and not much else or much less. Following Walling and Victor, the most important regional historians for southwest Oregon have been Dodge (1898) and Peterson and Powers (1952), for the pre-1900 history of Coos and Curry counties; largely due to their proximity to that time and those places. In later years, local and regional history has been largely covered by father and son writers, Dow Beckham and Stephen Dow Beckham, who have published a number of books, articles, and reports on a variety of pre-1900 topics.


Stephen Dow Beckham

Beckham has done a significant amount of research and writing regarding the early history of western Oregon, with a focus on local Indian populations. His writing on these topics covers a wide range of subjects and varies from academic research, to popular books and articles, to discrete cultural resource inventory reports. Because he is an historian that wasn’t alive during the 1826 to 1900 focal period of this report, all of his information for that time relies heavily on the work of others that came before him; most notably Dodge, Victor, and Walling. An important exception is his use of historical sketches and photos, which were costly and far more difficult to reproduce in earlier years.

Several of Beckham’s works would be better listed with topical and local history sources, along with his father’s work, but his 1977 book, The Indians of Western Oregon: This Land Was Theirs, has remained popular for many years and was often cited by others for its content. Much of that content has become debatable over time, however, and Beckham’s more recent work, such as his reports on the history of Coos Bay Wagon Roads (1997) and a cultural resource overview in Coos Bay BLM District (Beckham and Minor 1980) likely have more value regarding pre-1900 history for this region. Likewise, his book on the Rogue River Indian War (Beckham 1971) did not add appreciably to Victor’s earlier work, but contained some great illustrations and photographs (and a large amount of speculation and narrative license).


Orvil Dodge

Fifteen years after Walling, in 1898, Orvil Dodge completed his “compilation” of the Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, Oregon, restricting his land base to the smaller area. There are a number of gems in this popular history, and it contains a number of photographs, drawing from Dodge’s earlier profession as a photographer. Some of the value of Dodge’s work is that it focuses on the lives of many of the region’s long-time residents, including many interviews, brief memoirs, and other forms of recollection spurred by his efforts. Too, he takes his reader on a tour of the local landscape, introducing people and local histories as he goes.

Dodge’s work relies heavily on the earlier works of Walling and Victor, however, and contains numerous spelling errors and even a number of factual errors. Probably the worst problem is the index and the table of contents, which are somewhat functional, but generally very poor. This problem was splendidly addressed in the 1970s by the Coos Genealogical Forum, which published the Index of Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, Or. By Orvil Dodge sometime during that decade. This latter publication is no longer in print, and only a few copies were published, but it was strategically distributed to local and state libraries and can usually be obtained in that fashion. Dodge also has a list of apparent subscriber biographies as an appendix, in the same style as Walling, and the Forum has included a separate index for it in addition to their index of general content. This is an important book on regional history, but is maybe best read selectively and as guided by the index or by other readers, if possible.


Nathan Douthit

Douthit has written and lectured extensively regarding southwest Oregon history, including several years as an instructor on the topic for Southwestern Oregon Community College, in Coos Bay. His first published book on this topic, in 1986, provides a good introduction to Oregon south coast history, with a focus on the travels of Jedediah Smith through the area in 1828. However, most of this work is fairly derivative and better information and photograph reproductions can be found via other sources. On the other hand, his 2002 history of southwest Oregon Indian and white relations from the time of Smith to the beginning of the “reservation period” is very well researched, contains a number of important racial and cultural insights, and is highly recommended to those with an interest in these topics; as well as the historical context in which these events took place. 


Emil R. Peterson & Alfred Powers

Peterson and Powers’1952 book, A Century of Coos and Curry: History of Southwest Oregon, fills in admirably as a regional history, following Walling (1884) and Dodge (1898), and bringing readers up to date through the first half of the 20th Century.  Most of this material was collected by Peterson, and then organized and edited for clarity by Powers (a college professor at the time and not related to the Powers, Oregon family of the same name). The writers add new insight and sensibility in their consideration and discussion of early Indian and white relations during the first years of the counties’ history, and also provide a much clearer and more specific description of pre-1900 cultural, agricultural, and industrial practices: including literature, politics, dairying, cranberries, logging, gold mining, coal mining, fishing, and other early historical occupations typically not discussed in earlier histories. The subsequent compilations on electricity, land transportation, communications, and “Inventions and Science” clearly separate the two centuries and place the achievements of each in better context. The book has a good table of contents and index, but no bibliography, and remains an important source of information and reference on the topics just listed.



References to Coquelle Trails Report, Vols. I & II: [PDF_xxx_KB]

Annotated Bibliography to Coquelle Trails History: [PDF_204_KB]

References to General Land Office Surveyors' Field Notes:

References to Southwest Oregon Indian History: [PDF_37_KB]

References to South Umpqua River History:

References to Southwest Oregon Wildfire History and Sciences:


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