Coquelle Trails


Annotated Bibliography For the Years 1826 - 1900


3. Local Historians: Atwood, Mahaffey, Rickard, Smyth, Wooldridge & Youst

The following books are selected on basis of being specific to particular locations or neighborhoods within the study area. The typical approach is to build the book based on a number of interviews with, and available biographical information about, the earliest historical people and families to reside in an area and to begin using local resources to make their livelihoods. Some interesting and useful books are not listed, such as Krewson’s 1952 Pigs of Tioga, because the accounts have been fictionalized to some degree in order to enhance the narrative, and are unreliable as a result; or because they are based on undocumented recollections of a single person, such as Beverly Ward’s 1986 White Moccasins, and don’t contain a significant amount of pre-1900 information (both observations also true for Krewson’s book).

Other local historians, such as Jerry Phillips (1997), tell well researched, well documented, and well organized histories of important local areas (in Phillip’s case, the Elliott State Forest in northern Coos County), but dwell almost entirely in the 20th century. Fortunately, Phillips’ important history of the 1770s Millicoma Fire is repeated by Smyth (2000), who does relate the impact the fire likely had on local people and early historical industries to the north and east of Coos Bay (Zybach 2003).


Kay Atwood.

Atwood has done a significant amount of historical research in southwest Oregon, and written at least two books of interest to this project: Chaining Oregon (2008) and Illahe (1978). The first tells the story of the beginning years of the Public Land Survey in western Oregon, including several individuals with ties to Coos and Curry counties; and the second tells the early history of that part of the Rogue River most closely associated with Fort Orford operations during the 1855 - 1856 Indian War.  

Chaining Oregon would be better categorized in the “topical history” section of this report, but probably wouldn’t be listed at all except for Illahe. It is, however, an excellent book and tells the story of the surveyors who first established property lines for all of the individuals that established Donation Land Claims during the 1851 - 1855 Oregon Trail era. It is well researched, well organized, with a good index and bibliography. This book is an excellent introduction to an important part of Oregon’s history that is poorly understood and recognized, yet has been responsible for the legal description of every Oregon tax lot and land holding from that time until now. Atwood also does a fine job of explaining the legal and technical methods for conducting these surveys, as well as profiling the men and events who actually did the field work.

Illahe tells the story of that portion of the Rogue River containing Big Bend, Big Prairie, and other key locations of the 1855 - 1856 War. Atwood’s history begins shortly after that time, though, and includes numerous interviews and photographs – and a useful series of locational maps – of the individuals (many of them local Indian descendents) who subsequently settled along the River as gold miners, ranchers, storekeepers, fishermen, and riverboat operators. It is a well told story and, like most local histories, is of most value to people with a specific interest in that particular locale.


Charlotte L. Mahaffey

Mahaffey’s 1965 history of the Coos River is an excellent compilation of interviews, family histories, and local stories. It is well researched, well written, and well organized, with a very useful table of contents and index. This work, when combined with the publications of Youst and Rickard, provides the best accounts of pre-1900 people and events for the Coos River basin that exist at this time. Again, one reason for the success of this work is the extensive interviews Mahaffey conducts with long-time residents of her study area. This is an important work regarding Coos County history, but often goes unrecognized as such and has never been reprinted or received the widespread use or acceptance it probably deserves. 


Aileen Barker Rickard

Rickard has written and published extensively on her family history, but it is her 1982 book on the 1886 homesteading of the northern headwaters of Coos River by George A. Gould and family that is of specific interest to this study. Although the book is poorly written and assembled, it has a good chronological narrative and provides interesting photographs and descriptions of such events as the 1868 Coos Fire and the sudden formation (by landslide) of Gould’s Lake (sometimes referred to as “Elk Lake”) in 1894. Readers with a specific interest in the history of the Coos River are advised to obtain a copy of this book – it is often difficult to find, even in local and State libraries – in addition to Mahaffey (1965) and Youst (1992; 2012).


Arthur V. Smyth

Smyth’s book on the history of the Weyerhaeuser Millicoma Tree Farm is an excellent introduction to both the history of northern Coos County forests (he begins in the late 1700s), and to the type of industrial forestry he helped to design and implement during his time in the Millicoma: from its beginnings in the mid-1940s through to the spotted owl politics of the late 1990s. The book is well written, but with a nondescript table of contents and no index or bibliography -- which seems a little odd, in that it was edited and published by the Forest History Society. Still, there are good footnotes at the conclusion of each brief chapter, and good maps and photographs throughout. The scientific value of this work is indicated by the preface written by Daniel Botkin, an internationally recognized author and expert of forest ecology, and by the chapter Smyth wrote on the early 1950s beetle infestation of the forest. Although the book focuses on early Weyerhaeuser operations in Allegany and Dellwood, the story is of interest – and is recommended -- to anyone wanting to learn more about Douglas-fir ecology and industrial forest history in the Pacific Northwest. (Note: Smyth and I corresponded and talked by phone a fair amount in the late 1990s and shared our research findings; as a result, he is appropriately referenced in my PhD dissertation -- which I was working on at that time -- and returned the favor by summarizing and citing my work on page 3 of this book. So I am biased in that regard.)


Alice H. Wooldridge

Wooldridge, like Mahaffey and Smyth, is best known for a single book: in this instance, her 1971 Pioneers and Incidents of the Upper Coquille Valley. If you are interested in local genealogy, and are thrilled by old scrapbooks full of obituaries from the local newspaper, this book is for you.  There is no real narrative, no real organization, no table of contents and three indexes (one of which is all but useless) provided to try and negotiate this scrambled maze of collected newspaper clippings, articles, and recollections that primarily document the deaths of “upper Coquille Valley” citizens in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Still, there is a lot of useful information buried here, in every sense of the word. Wooldridge simply starts out by subjecting the reader to a nearly endless stream of short articles and obituaries with such titles as “Herald Extra” and “Basket Social”: non-descriptive titles which are further obfuscated by such index titles as: “Real Service” and “20 New Streetlights.” Still, for someone with some time on their hands and an interest in Upper Coquille Valley families, there are certain things to recommend this book: most of the obituaries have the deceased person’s name in the title; there are a lot of interesting facts regarding early Coquille River history contained in these obituaries; there are a number of interesting photos, which do have a useful index to their contents and location; the alphabetized index “of pioneers” (complete with misspellings) is helpful; and the recollections by Giles and Dement near the center of the book are excellent – in fact, this is the same “Daniel Giles Manuscript” published by Dodge (1898: 291-306) nearly 75 years earlier, but it is a far more accurate version and doesn’t use Dodge’s ill-advised revisions of the work via edits, paraphrases and conversion to third-person narrative. This work would benefit greatly by comprehensive genealogical and subject indexes, such as was created for Dodge’s book, but remains mostly a reference source for hard core historical researchers and individuals with a specific interest in the listed families. Still, so far as general histories for the Upper Coquille Valley go, this is almost all there is.


Lionel Youst

Youst is a prolific author, and his friendly, accessible, and occasionally work provides detailed and interesting histories of individual people and neighborhoods in northern Coos County; including a significant amount of pre-1900 history not found in other sources. Although he is best known for his excellent biographies of Minnie Peterson (1997) and Coquelle Thompson (2002), which also have value as regional histories, Youst’s stories of upper Glenn Creek (1992) and his 2012 Lost in Coos contain some of the most reliable (and entertaining) accounts of the early histories of the upper Millicoma River and Allegany, at “The Forks.” All of Youst’s work is characterized by careful documentation (including “yarns”) of individual stories via tape-recorded interviews and solid biographical research on individuals unavailable (usually because they are deceased) for interviewing. 

The written history of the Coos River is limited. The applicable works of Mahaffey, Rickard, Smyth and Youst provide as comprehensive an overview that currently exists. All four authors focus on interviews with local people and families, and all four reach as far back into the 1800s as they can with historical documentation and available memories.  



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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