Coquelle Trails


Annotated Bibliography For the Years 1826 - 1900


4. Topical Historians: Beckham, Cram, Drew, Glisan & Lansing

Primary topical histories of Coos and Curry counties were summarized by Peterson and Powers (1952), with a clear delineation between people and events of the 19th century from those of the 20th. Most pre-1900 topical histories focus on three basic subjects: the 1855-1856 Rogue River Indian War; mining; and logging (or forestry). Peterson and Powers cover these topics as well, but not to such a degree as Victor and Walling in their coverages of the Indian War, nor to the degree as certain other writers on specific topics, both before and since publication of their book.


Dow Beckham

Beckham, in common with his son Stephen Dow, has written extensively on the history of Coos County people, towns, and industries. His work has included newspaper articles and editorials, books, magazine articles, and pamphlets on these topics. His 1995 book, Stars in the Dark: Coal Mines of Southwestern Oregon, is the definitive book on the early history of coal mining in Coos County. A real strength of this work is the number and quality of interviews that Beckham completed with individuals who had actually participated in this industry during the 20th century; another strength is his generally well researched history of pre-1900 coal mining in Coos County, including scientific findings of early historical geologists John Evans, Joseph Diller, Ewart Baldwin, and John Eliot Allen -- all renowned for the quality of their work (e.g., Allen and Baldwin 1944: 53):

The geologic work by the authors [Allen and Baldwin] began late in April 1943, and the field work was completed by April 1944. Many references were checked before beginning the project. Some 130 different publications mention Coos Bay coal, but only 15 were abstracted, and only 3 were found to be of constant value. These were the Coos Bay Folio [Diller 2003]; the 19th Annual Report of 1897-1898; and Bulletin 431, 1911, all of the U. S. Geological Survey. All three of these were by J. S. Diller, the pioneer survey geologist, with Mr. M. A. Pishel as the junior author of the 1911 publication.

Although this quote is from one of Beckham’s references, and not Beckham himself, it indicates the quality of the information he was using to assemble his book. Another of his works, 1991’s Swift Flows the River, is also a fine topical history regarding historical log drives in local rivers, but is focused almost entirely in the 20th century.


Thomas Jefferson Cram

The republication of Cram’s published 1858 report to Congress in 1977 provides an interesting and important insight into the Territorial and federal politics in play at that time. The initial presentation of these materials was at a mid-point between the Oregon Indian Wars and the US Civil War. Cram also submitted 50 maps with these documents to Congress, but they were not reproduced along with his report. In general, Cram supported the protection and relocation of Indian families during his time while participating in the war, in opposition to the Oregon Volunteers – a militia assembled by Territorial decree by Governor Curry – who were often accused of trying to exterminate local Indians in deference to immigrant gold miners and property claimants. Cram’s job was to map routes and mileage between Army forts throughout the West (similar to the types of seacoast surveys being conducted by the Navy at that time), but with the added mission to describe problems and offer solutions he encountered at the various military forts and bases he visited. Although Cram’s report appears to be highly accurate in most regards, his very detailed and totally mistaken description of the “battle” at Battle Rock draws into question his gullibility and the sources of his information. This latter description is almost completely wrong and fanciful and doesn’t appear to be a story that appears anywhere else at that time. Was somebody having some fun with Cram? If so, his reporting of these “facts” serves to help undermine many of his other opinions and assertions. Still, this remains critical reading for serious students of the 1855 - 1856 War.


Charles S. Drew

Drew’s report to Congress, subsequent to Cram’s publication, was in direct opposition to Cram’s assertions, and even went so far as to use lengthy quotes from Cram as a method to contradicting his observations and opinions. In essence, Cram argued that Drew and other Oregon Volunteers were on a mission to exterminate all of the remaining Indian families in southwest Oregon, while Drew claimed that Cram and the Army were protecting the Indians and were therefore largely responsible for a number of murders and other depredations that the Volunteers could have prevented. The basis to these arguments was to have Congress pay the Volunteers for their “service” to the government – essentially (according to these sources and others), to fund the proclamations of Governor Curry, who called for the formation of the Volunteers and who was accused of doing so largely to drain resources from the federal treasury and to send them to Oregon Territory to settle all claims (both Indian and white) resulting from the War. A fascinating discussion, to those with an interest in this topic.


Rodney Glisan

Glisan was the Army doctor at Fort Orford during the entire 1855 - 1856 Indian War, including stints near actual combat where he tended to the wounded and dying. During that time he kept a detailed journal regarding his time at the Fort, including a number of excellent essays and observations about the land and people, flora and fauna, that he observed during his stay of duty. Glisan is a fine writer, educated and intelligent, and his journal (first published in 1874) provides an important source of information regarding Coos and Curry county histories, the history of the 1855 - 1856 War, and general US Army history during that time. Highly recommended to anyone with a strong interest in these topics. The book has an excellent table of contents, but no index.


William A. Lansing

Lansing has written a trilogy of Coos County history books, beginning with his 2005 publication on the 100-year anniversary of his employer in North Bend, Menasha Corporation. His other two books focus on the schools of Coos County, beginning with the very first and visiting each and every school district in County history prior to WW II (2008); and Coos County short-line railroad history (2007). These are very well researched books, well organized, written, and indexed, and featuring hundreds of excellent and important photographs – collected during Lansing’s comprehensive review of the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum holdings.

Lansing’s Menasha history is complementary to Smyth’s book on the Millicoma, and the two together present a fine history of pre-1900 forests, and the early logging and sawmilling businesses they spawned. The books on school and railroad history provide the definitive works on these topics. An additional value are the excellent maps included with these latter two works, with exacting locations of early schoolhouses, school districts, and railroad lines. A final feature of all three books is their excellent bindings, paper quality, and photo reproduction.


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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