Life in the Soap Creek Valley

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1881 c Ebenezer Bryce's Cabin in Utah

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1915 c Reuben Shipley's cabin

Although we have a limited understanding of Letitia and David’s time and lifestyle in the Soap Creek Valley from 1845 to David's death in 1852, we can use primary documents and Oregon settlement history to fill in a more substantial understanding of their Soap Creek Valley homestead.

According to historian Bob Zybach, David likely purchased or leased Letitia in Missouri, maybe as late as 1844. He had a hog farm and a house in town, beginning in 1838 or so, and these were sold or transferred to his family after his death. Though we are unsure of how she moved from Kentucky to Missouri, Dr. Zybach has recently written to an expert on the topic and hopes to get a better idea of this speculation.

After settling in the Soap Creek Valley, they built a cabin on their homestead. While this is the only documented building on their Soap Creek land, an outhouse, smokehouse, and barn or stable were likely buildings. There is no physical or photographic evidence of their cabin, but because of general similarity across the U.S. west, we can use examples to paint a clearer image of what David and Letitia lived in. Ebenezer Bryce's c 1881 cabin can be used as a similar example of what David and Letitia's cabin would have been like as many of the log cabins in the US had a similar style, shape, and size at that time. Reuben Shipley's cabin dates back to as early as 1860 and gives us an even closer understanding of Letitia and David's cabin as Reuben and Mary Jane Shipley were other early Benton County Black residents.  

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 1905 View of the Carson lands in Soap Creek Valley


 Andrew "Jack" Carson's bed, 1840s, 50s circa

We know from Letitia’s second lawsuit that she was the primary cattle raiser, but the 1852 Estate Appraisal document shows that they also raised his, oxen, and horses. As far as crops go, we know David and Letitia grew apples and potatoes. Meat was raised on native grasses, and wild berries and filberts were likely harvested in season. Additionally, the quality of Jack’s likely bed indicates that David may have been a fairly good builder. It is quite likely the first cabin was rudimentary, maybe w/o windows or door hinges, and then was extended or improved as sawn lumber became available, or extended as Jack was born.

This bed may have been owned or used by David and Letitia Carson who settled near Soap Creek, Benton County, Oregon in the mid-1840s. While there is no direct evidence proving this claim, there is also no evidence refuting it. According to the Benton County Historical Society, Jack Carson is believed to be the first child of African American descent born in Benton County.

It is possible that the bed came to be in the Rumbaugh family's possession through Honorine Read (Dodele), the donor's great-great-grandfather's sister, who married Charles Read, a neighbor of the Carsons. Genealogical research provided the connection between the donor's family and the Carsons in the mid-19th century. Nancy Hawkins was an acquaintance of Letitia Carson; they traveled on the same wagon train to Oregon. Widowed Nancy Hawkins remarried Thomas Read who took a donation land claim located just to the southeast of the Carsons thus reestablishing the relationship between Nancy and Letitia Carson. Nancy Hawkins Read was the mother of Charles Read who married Honerine Dodele the sister of the donor's 2nd great-grandfather. It is important to note that the donor indicated the bed was "used" by the first black child born in Benton County so it may have been owned by the Reads.

1947 Photograph of a Carson Donation Land Claim Apple Tree

1941 Aerial View.jpeg

This is a photo of an old apple tree on the original Carson DLC that Dr. Zybach and two other students named the “Letitia Carson Apple Tree,” while they were developing a cultural resource inventory (“C.R.I.”) for OSU Research Forests. According to Dr. Zybach, "It was a very old tree with good apples that a previous OSU student had photographed in 1947 and I’m told it is no longer there." Additionally, Dr. Zybach mentioned it in his MAIS Thesis saying, "This photograph was taken in 1947 by OSC student, Robert Wilson. The photograph was made available to OSU student researchers in 1990, who subsequently named the tree in honor of the photographer (Zybach et al., 1990). Ten, or more, pioneer orchards still exist in Soap Creek Valley, many still producing fruit or nuts 100 to 150 years after their establishment. Hundreds of wilding cherry, apple, pear, walnut, and plum trees in The Valley may be descended from these pioneer plantings."

Soap Creek Valley Life c. 1900

These images are from a collection of images scanned in from 4"x5" glass plate negatives that were donated to the Soap Creek Valley schoolhouse in 1980 accompanied by handwritten notes by Myra Moore Lauridsen. The images seem to be from around the early 1900s. Although they date nearly 40 years after Letitia moved from the Soap Creek Valley, they paint a portrait of the life of Soap Creek Valley settlers in a time period similar to, adjacent to Letitia's. The surrounding land and lifestyle mirror what David and Letitia experienced during their time in the valley, giving us an idea of what life would have been like for them when photographs were too new to have captured Benton County, Oregon.

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1900s c. Sheep on the Hill, Soap Creek Valley

This early 1900s photograph shows sheep at the Glenmore Ranch in the Soap Creek Valley. According to Myra, this is an image showing “Glenmore Ranch” Our house, sheep on the hill. “Billy-Bow-Legs” in front. I should have been on him and sheep on the Sheep Hill. Maybe me or Mercle (on) the horse.” 

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1900s c. Horse in Soap Creek Valley Pasture

This early 1900s photograph shows a horse with sheep in a Soap Creek Valley pasture. According to Myra, this is an image showing a "horse with sheep in pasture." 

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1900s c. Cook wagon in the Soap Creek Valley

This early 1900s photograph shows a cook wagon in the Soap Creek Valley. According to Myra, this is an image is a "Cook wagon about 1902 or 03 on Sam Moore place or Tom Bakers place. Dad took the picture." 

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1900s c. Soap Creek Valley Park

This early 1900s photograph shows the Moore family in the yard of the Moore's ranch home. According to Myra, “This we called a park. It was in the back part of the ranch. Very pretty. I think I am on the horse.” 

Next Exhibit: Letitia Carson v. Greenberry Smith


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