The Letitia Carson Legacy Project is a partnership of five organizations – Black Oregon Land Trust, Oregon Black Pioneers, the Linn-Benton Counties NAACP Branch, Mudbone Grown, 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.
Together, on Letitia’s land, we connect past with present, history with reconciliation. We imagine a 21st century version of her homestead: a place for storytelling, living history, land stewardship, community building, and healing. The LCLP prioritizes teaching, research, and engagement that explore and illuminate Black and Indigenous identity and experience.
This land is unique. The Letitia Carson homestead is the only site in the Pacific Northwest – and one of two known sites in the West – that the public can visit to learn about a Black pioneer who settled there.