Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-xii

For as long as I can remember, I have used history as a means to psychically ground myself in a particular place. This was especially important when I was seven years old, and my family moved from California’s bustling Bay Area to Aloha, Oregon, then a semi-rural suburb of Portland in the Willamette Valley. I felt as if I had traveled from the center of the universe to a distant and culturally bereft satellite. But as I roamed my new elementary school library, I noticed the omnipresence of something called the Oregon Trail in...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

On March 31, 2016, Washington state senator Pramila Jayapal issued a press release outlining her efforts to review racially offensive geographic names throughout the state.1 In an earlier newspaper editorial, the Seattle-based Democrat wrote, “We have a responsibility to ensure that we create a welcoming environment for all people in our country to enjoy our public lands and that we honor the contributions of so many people of color who were some of our earliest and most intrepid explorers.”2 Jayapal identified three features in Wahkiakum County in southwestern Washington among her initial...

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1. James D. Saules and the Black Maritime World

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pp. 13-34

On a cloudy July evening in 1841, a black man named James D. Saules sat shivering on the shore of Baker Bay, located east of Cape Disappointment on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River. He tried to warm himself by a small spruce bonfire he had helped build, but his damp wool sailors’ garments—now his only worldly possessions—made this difficult. While collecting firewood, he and his crew members had failed to find any food, and Saules was now experiencing severe hunger pangs. About two miles away on the opposite side of the cape, ocean breakers were demolishing the...

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2. The United States Exploring Expedition and American Imperialism in the Age of Sail

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pp. 35-64

As a marginalized black man in antebellum America, Saules had little personal stake in the success of the US Ex. Ex. This should not obscure the fact that Saules himself was an agent of empire, and his labor power directly contributed to the goals of American colonialism. Because he served as a cook, the white officers and midshipmen of the expedition likely considered Saules to occupy the lowest rung of the mission’s hierarchy. But Saules served a crucial function for the expedition. If the adage is true that an army marches on its stomach, it is also true that a naval crew sails on its stomach. And regardless...

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3. The Settler Invasion

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pp. 65-88

Sometime prior to the spring of 1843, James D. Saules and his wife sailed up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers to their new home in Oregon’s loamy Willamette Valley. The immense agricultural potential of the area likely appealed to Saules since he could support a young family through the sheer fecundity of the soil. But Saules was not alone. At around the same time he starting tilling his land, nearly one thousand Anglo-Americans began their six-month overland journey west. Unlike Saules, most hailed from the nation’s interior and probably had never set foot aboard a deep-sea...

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4. The Cockstock Affair, the Saules-Pickett Dispute, and the Banishment of Saules

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pp. 89-118

By late 1843, Saules, like John McLoughlin, realized that the Anglo-American settlers represented the Willamette Valley’s future. And for a man whose livelihood revolved around commerce, the arrival of the Oregon Trail immigrants may have even portended an uptick in his freight business. Perhaps he even thought he and his wife might blend in as yet another local farm family raising its own food and bringing the surplus to market. Less than one year later, however, Saules faced the grim reality of his dwindling position in the new settler society. At the same time, many of the new settlers also realized...

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5. Saules in Exile, The Oregon Question, and the Return of Black Exclusion

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pp. 119-152

As the American settler colonization of the Oregon Country continued in the mid-1840s, one might assume that the provisional government would hold fast to its segregative practices. Yet this was not exactly the case. James D. Saules and other nonwhites did not simply go away as many settlers had wished. The provisional government could pass laws but had difficulty enforcing them. This was due to both the vastness of the Oregon Country and the lack of an effective police force or jails to house criminals. Therefore, the heterogeneous culture of the lower Columbia River region continued to exist,...

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Conclusion

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pp. 153-162

The last specific mention of Saules in the historical record places him in Astoria on July 4, 1849. In 1869 Charles Melville Scammon penned an article for the Overland Monthly titled “In and around Astoria.” In it, Scammon quoted an attendee of the 1849 Fourth of July celebration who remarked, “Old nigger Saul, one of the Peacock’s crew, was the fiddler. When we began to dance, the floor was a little wavy; but it was all on a level afore morning, though!”1 Scammon was never one to avoid poetic license, but this is an apt final image of the protean Saules: earning money by performing for white...

Notes

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pp. 163-196

Index

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pp. 197-202