The best books of Oregon pioneer history

Who am I?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.

I wrote...

Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

By Tom Fuller, Art Ayre,

Book cover of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

What is my book about?

Travel through time as we trace the lives and occupations of twenty Oregon pioneers from state founding and into the 21st century. With many never-before-seen photographs and diaries of those who lived the life of true pioneers. We weave into the narrative many fun and interesting facts about life in three major periods of Oregon history. We also feature special sections on minority and indigenous people who form a vital part of Oregon history. “An immersive read” one reviewer said.

The books I picked & why

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The First Oregonians

By Laura Berg (editor),

Book cover of The First Oregonians

Why this book?

I love the authenticity of this book. The voices are of First Residents, not settlers. It gives the reader the inside story as to what native Oregonians thought of incoming pioneers and how they impacted tribal life. It captures not only the decimation brought on native tribes but also how they reconstructed and revitalized themselves over time. To truly understand Oregon you must understand its native residents - this book accomplishes that in spades!

With Her Own Wings: Historical Sketches, Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Pioneer Women

By Helen Krebs Smith, Gladys Chilstrom,

Book cover of With Her Own Wings: Historical Sketches, Reminiscences and Anecdotes of Pioneer Women

Why this book?

We often think of Oregon pioneers were hardy men setting off for a new promised land. In reality, the women who made the perilous journey and carved a life out of the Oregon wilderness are the real heroes. This book captures the pioneer spirit of the women who ventured out west, and those already in the land. One of the things I like best about this book is the narrative fashion - as if we are living in the shoes or moccasins of the women featured. There is a great article about Sacajawea, the only woman in the Lewis and Clark expedition.


By Helen Rees Guyton,

Book cover of Schoolmarms

Why this book?

This book details the life of Ada Bell, a young woman who traveled all by herself to the tiny community of Bakeoven, Oregon to teach school. The “town” consisted of a hotel, a blacksmith’s shop, a store, a post office, a stage stop - and not much more. Ada got off the stage with no idea where to go or how to start her life as a teacher. Ada encapsulates the pioneer spirit as she forges a life and impacts the lives of her students over the years.

Christians on the Oregon Trail: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Early Oregon, 1842-1882

By Jerry Rushford,

Book cover of Christians on the Oregon Trail: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches in Early Oregon, 1842-1882

Why this book?

You may not realize that the reason many came across the Oregon Trail was because of their religious and moral beliefs. Christians on the Oregon Trail highlights many well-known Oregon pioneers and details how their Christian beliefs inspired them both on the trail and once they arrived in Oregon. Some of those detailed are: Jason Lee, the Whitmans, Reuben Lewis, and many others. The book gives you also some of the theological underpinnings of the pioneers. 

The Doctor in Oregon: A Medical History

By O. Larsell,

Book cover of The Doctor in Oregon: A Medical History

Why this book?

The history of the medical profession in Oregon is not what you might think. It wasn’t started by a bunch of scientists. Early “practitioners” were more snake oil salesmen than doctors. In fact, it was many years before any sort of standards existed. O. Larsells book gives all that history in all its less-than-stellar beginning. Among those highlighted are William Lysander Adams who was a vocal opponent of medical quackery.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Oregon pioneer history, Oregon, and Native Americans?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Oregon pioneer history, Oregon, and Native Americans.

Oregon Pioneer History Explore 5 books about Oregon pioneer history
Oregon Explore 35 books about Oregon
Native Americans Explore 105 books about Native Americans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Moccasin Trail, Out West: An American Journey, and The Jump-Off Creek if you like this list.