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One Complicated Story: Imperfect Apostle John Beeson, Advocate for Native Americans

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John Beeson. Courtesy of Jan Wright

John Beeson isn’t a household name. He doesn’t have mountain peaks in southern Oregon named for him. An English emigrant, Beeson settled in Illinois in the 1830s, and his farm served as a waystation for the underground railroad, before walking with his wife and son as far west as Talent. An early settler in the Oregon Territory, Beeson took on the unlikely role as an advocate for Native American rights—a stance so unpopular during the brutal Rogue River Wars in 1855, that he had to flee.  

But the full breadth of his story may finally have its day. Through a Kickstarter campaign, Wright is raising money to publish her book about John Beeson, titled Imperfect Apostle John Beeson, Advocate for Native Americans. Beeson and his family traversed to Oregon in 1853. His advocacy for Native Americans’ rights lead him to opposition and potential danger because of his beliefs, eventually leading him to leave his family and Oregon.

I have been gathering photos, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, and oral histories for over two decades,” Wright says. “My search has taken me to New York and Illinois where the Beesons once lived and to Massachusetts, Connecticut and, of course, Oregon.”

Wright has written numerous historical works, such as articles for Southern Oregon History Today, Images of America: Talent, and wrote a small book titled Celebrating 100 Years, Ashland Library. Her research for Beeson started with his son, Welborn Beeson.

“But after decades of research, the bulk of what I have found about John Beeson has national appeal and is so interwoven with the Native Americans that I couldn’t resist anymore.”

Her book will follow the life of Beeson, focusing on what he stood for and his role as an activist. Considered irrational and sometimes misunderstood by his own enemies, Wright’s research is to understand what Beeson stood for.

I also want to explore the personal emotional toll of his single-minded mission and the repercussions on the family he left behind,” she says. “With this book I would like to deepen a sense of history and place in the Rogue Valley and make Beeson a household name.”

On her Kickstarter page, she says, “I am as compelled to write his story as he was to take up his calling.”

Her research hasn’t been easy and is never ending, but she’s grateful for those who have contributed thus far to her Kickstarter campaign to fund the book.

“Historical writing always defers to its sources,” she says. “I have to squeeze details out of the primary and secondary documents that others might miss and understand the context and surrounding characters that enter into the scenes of John Beeson’s life. Tracking down personal mentions and opinions about his work have been difficult. I have encountered a few mysteries that so far have no paper trail. Kickstarter has created a sense of community and responsibility. My backers have been amazingly generous and enthusiastic and have changed the way I view the book project. I feel as if John Beeson is working behind the scenes and still wishes his message of peace to thrive in these troubled times.”

To learn more about Wright’s plant to write this book and even help back it on her Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/235507129/imperfect-apostle-john-beeson-advocate-for-native.


Imperfect Apostle John Beeson, Advocate for Native Americans Book Talk

7 pm, Friday, June 9

Ashland Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland


Imperfect Apostle John Beeson, Advocate for Native Americans Kickstarter Deadline

Tuesday, June 13


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