The Letitia Carson Legacy Project is a partnership of four organizations – Black Oregon Land Trust, Oregon Black Pioneers, the Linn-Benton Counties NAACP Branch, and Oregon State University – committed to honoring Letitia Carson’s legacy. The Project focuses on the Black experience in Oregon while connecting these women and communities to the Indigenous people of this region.
Oregon State University’s Soap Creek beef ranch, north of Corvallis, in Benton County, Oregon, includes a site significant to the history of Oregon’s early Black residents.
Letitia Carson, a formerly enslaved woman, came to Oregon in 1845 and was one of the first Black woman settlers in Oregon. She and her husband, David Carson, settled on land that is now part of the Soap Creek beef ranch. Because of Oregon’s exclusion laws and the whites only provision of the 1850 Oregon Donation Land Claim Act, Letitia Carson was forced off her land. She filed two lawsuits in the mid-1850s against the administrator of her late partner’s estate. Despite the Oregon Territory’s exclusionary laws, Letitia Carson won both suits.
Although there are no visible remnants of the Carson homestead, the open prairie land and tree lined Soap Creek are a powerful reminder of the hard work and success achieved by many of Oregon’s early Black residents, despite the many obstacles they had to endure.
We envision creating, on Letitia Carson’s land, a 21st century version of her Soap Creek homestead to inspire, educate, and nurture Oregon’s future generations of Black and Indigenous growers, gatherers, foragers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. We imagine experiential learning and applied research opportunities for OSU students and faculty. We imagine welcoming kids, families, and community members to the land to learn and share Letitia’s inspiring story.
This site is unique: nowhere else in the U.S. West – possibly in the whole country – can the public visit and participate in programs on land once owned by a Black pioneer.