Peter Lassen and His Trail



peter lassen

Peter Lassen

In 1848, leading a small wagon train, Peter Lassen took the Applegate Trail that branched off the Humboldt route at later Lassen Meadows (modern Rye Patch Reservoir) and continued through the Black Rock Desert and High Rock Canyon of northwest Nevada. At Fandango Pass near the northeast corner of California the Applegate Trail continued west around Goose Lake and then northwest into Oregon while Lassen's Trail turned southwest and followed the Pit River. It ended at the present town of Vina on the Sacramento River, the site of Lassen's Rancho.


The Peter Lassen Thread on the OCTA-sponsored Yahoo Overland_Trails Discussion List began on November 11, 2005 when Wendell Huffman asked the question "What did Lassen know when he turned north on the Applegate Trail in 1848?"

The thread continued into December 2005 with the following people contributing to the discussion with additional comments and information:

  • Will Bagley, prominent author, editor and historian. Will has written or edited several books on western History including the award-winning Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Norman, University of Oklahomas Press, 2002). He also writes a column called "History Matters" for the Salt Lake City Tribune.
  • Don Buck, a retired California educator, is an expert on the trails leading into California. Don is the editor of the esteemed OCTA mapping manual, Mapping Emigrant Trails, and formerly chaired the OCTA Publications Committee. He also is heavily involved in marking the trails for Trails West and has contributed to the Trails West guidebooks.
  • Stafford Hazelett, a researcher and field surveyor of pioneer emigrant trails of Oregon and northern California with the Silvas.
  • Wendell Huffman, a Carson City librarian and historian who has researched extensively on the railroads that went over various Sierra Nevada passes.
  • Kristin Johnson, librarian, author and Donner Party historian. See Kristin's excellent Donner Party website.
  • Art Porter, now retired, worked for 31 years for the BLM in Lassen, Modoc, Humboldt and Washoe Counties. Art presently focuses his historical research on William Warner but is still fascinated with the stories of Peter Lassen.
  • Richard Silva is an expert on the Yreka Trail, He and his wife Orsola have surveyed just about every inch of the trails from California to Oregon and Oregon to California. Dick and Orsola are presently working on a couple of projects along the Nobles Trail.
  • Richard Stillson, a retired economist, Ph.D Stanford 1970, who has taken up history as a second career. He is now Adjunct faculty, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA with a Ph.D from John Hopkins University. Richard grew up in California and the history of the West is both his hobby and his specialty in history.

    Don Buck and Dick Silva do not subscribe to the Yahoo discussion list and so did not partake directly in the discussion. Stafford Hazelett, however, submitted their contributions to the group.

    Richard Stillson quoted extensively from his book Spreading the Word: A History of Information in the California Gold Rush (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming, 2006).

    Will Bagley quoted extensively from a draft of "The Long and Arduous Journey": The Story of the Oregon & California Trails. A Historic Resource Study and Narrative History of the Oregon & California National Historic Trails in the Twenty-first Century, which, when completed, will be released by the Park Service on the web. The University of Oklahoma will publish a different copyrighted version as part of a trilogy called "The Long and Perilous Journey."


For more information:
see Don Buck's article on The Murder of Peter Lassen and Edward Clapper in the Winter 2004 edition of Trail Talk.
There is a Photo Tour of the Lassen Trail on the Trails West website.

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