Jan Meranda and Dr. Bob Zybach will give a presentation February 28th on Letitia Carson, an early black homesteader who struggled to hang onto her property at the end of the Oregon Trail.
Letitia Carson, a former slave, was one of the first black women to cross the Oregon Trail in 1845, along with her white husband, David. Their daughter Martha was born along the way, and their son Adam around came several years later. When David Carson died, Letitia and her children were left out of his estate settlement, and their land was taken from her by Greenberry Smith, a wealthy white landowner.
Letitia’s story is significant because she fought for years to regain her property and eventually won, becoming the first black woman to make a successful homestead claim in the Pacific Northwest. Zybach is a forest scientist with a Ph.D. in environmental sciences. He and Meranda, a writer and genealogist from Salem, have collaborated on researching Letitia Carson’s history for nearly thirty years.
Jane Kirkpatrick drew on their research to write her 2014 novel A Light in the Wilderness, and Meranda recently published the first in her series of biographies on Carson, Freedom’s Light: The Letitia Carson Story Begins. Zybach’s article, “Strangely Absent from History: Carson vs. Smith, 1852-1857,” appeared in a recent issue of The Oregon State Bar Bulletin.
This program, on Tuesday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the Newport High School Boone Center, is free and open to the public. Copies of Jan Meranda’s book will be available for purchase and signing. For more information, go to www.newportlibrary.org or call 541-265-2153.