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Remote Wonders cover image

Remote Wonders

An Explorer’s Guide to Southeast Oregon

Melvin R. Adams

“This is a fresh and interesting introduction to the accessible part of southeastern Oregon’s semiarid country...As a 23-year veteran of the region, I found much in the book that is new to me.”—Dr. William H. Lyons, archaeologist

At first glance the landscape looks desolate—a barren realm of basalt rims, high cold deserts, dry lakes, and vast expanses of grass and sage. In fact, it is a place where petite flowers bloom on rock shelves. Tiny organisms thrive in hot springs and water saltier than any ocean. Even some of the soil is unique—a special combination that collects and retains water and allows ancient pine stands to survive. The diminutive pika harvests meadow grass, building miniature haystacks to store food for the winter. When the time is right, thousands of tiny green and black frogs emerge from mud cracks along a lake perimeter. There is also human history, evidenced by petroglyphs and remnants of ranches, mills, and mines. Indeed, remote southeast Oregon is a rich wonderland of mountains, forests, creatures, and more—one well worth exploring

Designed as a road tour guide, Remote Wonders is an ideal introduction to Oregon’s magnificent corner. Individual chapters highlight notable natural and historical features. The book includes essays, numerous photos, and a pull-out map keyed to selected sites. Supplemental information includes side trip recommendations, potential hazards, when to travel, and what to bring.

Born and raised in Oregon’s Outback, the author’s affection for the region shines through. Ultimately, Melvin Adams hopes his book will entice readers to visit and delight in this wild steppe country.

ISBN 978-0-87422-332-3
Paperback $19.95 list


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Wagons to the Willamette

Captain Levi Scott and the Southern Route to Oregon, 1844-1847

Levi Scott and James Layton Collins
Edited by Stafford J. Hazelett

After the death of his beloved wife, a devastated Levi Scott and his youngest surviving son left Iowa for Oregon. Their overland journey—rife with quarrels, stolen horses, arduous river fords, con artists, and death—ended when he and John finally arrived in Oregon City in November 1844.

In the early 1840s, emigrants who reached The Dalles and chose to continue to the Willamette Valley were required to embark on a perilous raft trip and portage down the Columbia River. Answering the plea of settlers and the provisional government, Scott participated in two expeditions seeking a better, safer way through the Cascades. The first was unsuccessful but the second, organized by Jesse Applegate in June 1846, yielded the southern route through the Umpqua Valley, three mountain ranges, and the Black Rock Desert. Early on a July 1846 morning, the party found the Humboldt River along the established California Trail.

At Fort Hall, Applegate recruited parties to travel the new route. Scott led the initial wagon train west while others went ahead to prepare the road. He details a harrowing trip that included long stretches of unwatered desert, soda plains, mirages, a heroic mother, dense timber, and steep canyons.

In 1847 Scott led a second group to the Willamette Valley over the alternate trail. He retraced it again in 1849 when he served as a guide for the resupply of the Mounted Rifle Regiment. He faced narrow escapes and witnessed several deadly encounters with Native Americans. Later he ran cattle, founded Scottsburg, and participated in Oregon’s territorial legislature.

As he neared his ninetieth birthday Scott employed his friend James Layton Collins to help him record his life story, but the memoir was never published. Now edited and extensively annotated, Scott’s autobiography has become Wagons to the Willamette. An exceptional contribution to Oregon Trail history, his reminiscence is the only first-hand account written by someone who not only searched for the southern route but also accompanied its first wagon train.

ISBN 978-0-87422-333-0
Paperback $29.95 list


Chance for Glory cover

Chance for Glory

The Innovation and Triumph of the Washington State 1916 Rose Bowl Team

Darin Watkins

In 1915, American football was still in its infancy. The first Rose Bowl was just in its planning stages. East Coast teams were becoming household names, but what chance did a West Coast team with a losing streak have in achieving any fame or prominence?

Chance for Glory chronicles the untold story of the Washington State University football team of 1915 when William “Lone Star” Dietz, a Native American, was hired as the new coach. His innovative strategies and knowledge would help a group of undersized players to become giants on the football field, and soon Washington State would be a household name across America.

Author Darin Watkins captures the history of the first Rose Bowl tournament. He finds the larger stories behind events and follows this magical 1915 season from its early days to its triumphant conclusion.

What people are saying:

“This game reminds us champions are found within ourselves. Cougs everywhere can stand proud knowing the first Rose Bowl Championship was our championship.”
Bill Moos, Director of Athletics, Washington State University

“Chance for Glory is Americana at its finest. Against the backdrop of early football history comes a true story of courage and determination that took the Washington State Cougars to the first Rose Bowl. Watkins’ storytelling makes the past come alive as vividly as if we were watching it on the big screen. I can’t wait for the movie.”
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and award-winning author of The Marquette Trilogy

“Whether you’re a football fan, lover of history, or you just enjoy a good story of rising above adversity, Chance for Glory contains everything you’re looking for. After reading this book, you’ll either be proud to be a Cougar or wish you were one.”
Patrick Snow, Author of Creating Your Own Destiny and The Affluent Entrepreneur

“The Rose Bowl has become a masterpiece of our society and Washington State was there at the very beginning.”
Keith Jackson (’54 WSU), ABC Sportscaster who coined the Rose Bowl Game’s signature phrase, “The Grand Daddy of Them All”

Aviva Publishing, 2015
Hardbound $25.00 list


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Encounters with the People

Written and Oral Accounts of Nez Perce Life to 1858

Compiled and edited by Dennis Baird, Diane Mallickan, and William R. Swagerty

Organized both chronologically and thematically, Encounters with the People is an edited, annotated compilation of unique primary sources related to Nez Perce history— Native American oral histories, diary excerpts, military reports, maps, and more. Generous elders shared their collective memory of carefully-guarded stories passed down through multiple generations. One described the level of attentiveness required to preserve their oral history as “so still to listen that you could hear a bird take a drink of water on the other side of the mountain.” The work begins with early Nimiipuu/Euro-American contact and extends to the period immediately after the Treaty of 1855 held at Walla Walla.

The editors scoured archives, federal document repositories, and state and local historical museums in search of little-known documents related to regional cultural and environmental history. Most of the selected material is published for the first time or is found only in obscure sources. Part of the Voices from Nez Perce Country series, Encounters with the People includes a thorough, up-to-date, annotated bibliography. Those interested in the Nez Perce, Native American Studies, Lewis and Clark, early missionary work, and Inland Northwest settlement will find it an essential reference work.

Co-editor Dennis Baird is a professor emeritus at the University of Idaho, and is the author/editor of eight books. Diane Mallickan is Nez Perce and Shoshone Paiute. Following studies at the University of Idaho, she became a park ranger and has served for more than two decades. She wrote a research paper on Starr Maxwell which was used in the University of Idaho Library reprint of Memorial of the Nez Perce Indians Residing in the State of Idaho to the Congress of the United States as well as Snake River Basin Adjudication testimonies. William R. Swagerty is the director of the John Muir Center at University of the Pacific and a contributor to the Smithsonian’s Handbook of North American Indians.

ISBN 978-0-87422-330-9
Hardcover $50 list


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Developing the Pacific Northwest

The Life and Work of Asahel Curtis

William H. Wilson

Asahel Curtis arrived on the Puget Sound in 1888. The teenager labored on farms and eventually in his older brother Edward’s successful Seattle photography studio. By 1895 his extended family resided together in the city. With their support, Asahel set out for Skagway, Alaska,in September 1897. Armed with a box camera, he captured numerous images of the Klondike gold rush, recording the trail, miners, gold creeks, and Dawson City. But after he returned home in 1899, he found himself at odds with Edward over those very photographs.

The conflict led to a lifelong estrangement. Asahel partnered with William P. Romans to form another studio, and in time opened the Asahel Curtis Photo Co. Although he earned his living as a commercial photographer, his major focus was outside the camera lens.

He married Florence Etta Carney and in 1907 purchased a small, irrigated farm in the Yakima Valley. Curiously, Asahel did not drive. But as a man who acted on his convictions, he became a dedicated member of the good roads movement. He battled issues surrounding highway beautification, crumbling roads caused by a burgeoning trucking industry, an international highway connecting Puget Sound with Alaska, and Yellowstone Trail Association activities. His overarching goal was not personal gain, but economic development and increased tourism for Washington.

Asahel had an enduring passion for Mount Rainier. He climbed its spectacular heights on multiple occasions and was a founder of the Seattle Mountaineers Club. He also chaired the Mount Rainier Advisory Board, fighting long and vigorously for the advancement of Mount Rainier National Park.

Developing the Pacific Northwest is the first full-length biography of the photographer/booster/mountaineer. Along with comparisons to work by his brother and other contemporaries, the author devotes attention to Asahel’s earlier years, his family and business relationships, his involvement with irrigation and cooperative marketing in eastern Washington, and his beliefs about resource development. Taken together, they provide a comprehensive study of this premier Pacific Northwest photographer.

ISBN 978-0-87422-331-6
Paperback $29.95 list


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Wild Place

A History of Priest Lake, Idaho

Kris Runberg Smith with Tom Weitz

Remote and rugged, Idaho’s Priest Lake has remained a wild place. Even today, the upper lake is accessible only by foot, mountain bike, or boat. Despite being a favored location for Native American encampments, brutal winters discouraged any permanent settlement. Finally, beginning in the 1890s, adventurous souls—a wide cast of homesteaders, prospectors, speculators, and loggers—all dazzled by its natural resources, tried their best to tame it, with limited success.

Priest Lake’s impressive white pine forests did not escape notice, but grand turn-of-the-century Western expansion bypassed the area, sparing its idyllic beauty. Most venture capitalists considered the ore and timber too expensive to extract. At the same time, forestry leaders like Gifford Pinchot were guiding the country toward new land management and conservation ideals. By creating the Priest River Forest Reserve in 1897, President Cleveland expanded federal influence over the region and introduced an enduring tension between public and private lands. Still, over the ensuing decades industrial and recreational use increased.

The Dalkena Lumber Company won a Forest Service contract in 1914, and within three years, there were thirteen logging camps. The Diamond Match Company was another major lumber harvester. Along with timber, summer cottages were in demand, and rangers doled out national and state land permits in mounting numbers. Families christened their cabins with names like the Playawhile, Sylvan Haunt, Slabsides, and This-L-Du as they created a seasonal community cherished for generations.

Devastating wildfires—especially in 1926—also initiated profound change. During the Depression a few years later, work by the Civilian Conservation Corps centered on fire suppression, although conservation efforts and recreational improvements were also part of their mandate. After World War II, population growth accelerated. Electricity became commonplace in the 1940s, and in 1947, a local newspaper crowed, “Priest Lake has become a cult with many vacationists.”

Today, every privately-owned acre and lot represents past optimism, opportunity, hard work, greed, or politics. Wild Place traces those remnants—focusing on little-known yet captivating stories of the colorful characters who navigated Priest Lake’s demanding physical, political, and economic challenges.

ISBN 978-0-87422-329-3
$24.95 list


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River Song

Naxiyamtáma (Snake River-Palouse) Oral Traditions from Mary Jim, Andrew George, Gordon Fisher, and Emily Peone

Collected and edited by Richard D. Scheuerman and Clifford E. Trafzer
Foreword by Carrie Jim Schuster
With color plates by John Clement

“An invaluable treasure of Indigenous insights and experiences not previously publically shared, River Song is a wonderful entry into what is most cherished within the homes of four Naxiyamtáma family traditions.”—Rodney Frey, Professor of American Indian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Idaho and author of Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: The World of the Schitsu'umsh - Coeur d'Alene Indians

For many generations into the twentieth century Mary Jim, her family, and their ancestors lived a free and open life on the Columbia Plateau. They moved on horseback from the Snake River to Badger Mountain to Oregon’s Blue Mountains. They interacted and intermarried within a vast region in the Northwest, and their stories are rich in content, interpretation, and nuance.

Denied a place on their ancestral lands, the original Snake River-Palouse people were forced to scatter. After most relocated to Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, and Colville reservations, maintaining their cultural identity became increasingly difficult. Still, elders continued to pass down oral histories to their descendants, insisting youngsters listen with rapt attention.

Beginning in the 1970s and continuing over three decades, Naxiyamtáma elders—in particular Mary Jim, Andrew George, Gordon Fisher, and Emily Peone—chose to share their stories with a research team. They hoped to teach American Indian history in a traditional manner as well as refute incorrect versions. In the process, multiple themes emerged—a pervasive spirituality tied to the Creator and environment; a covenant relationship and sacred trust to protect and preserve their traditional lands; storytelling as a revered art form that reveals life lessons, and finally, belief in cyclical time and blood memory.

All four of the featured elders had ties to the Plateau people’s leadership families and had lived in the traditional way—gathering, hunting, and fishing. They participated in the ancient Wáshani religion and were raised to honor the Creator through First Food ceremonies. In their retelling, the authors have endeavored to capture their original voices and remain true to Snake River-Palouse oral traditions.

Creation stories include “The Creatures of Cloudy Mountain,” “Why Coyote Made the Palouse Hills,” and “The Origin of Palouse Falls.” Although narratives told by other groups are similar to Mary Jim’s “How Coyote Learned to Fish,” and Gordon Fisher’s “How Beaver Brought Fire to the People,” the versions in River Song offer a distinct Naxiyamtáma perspective.

Authors Richard Scheuerman, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Seattle Pacific University, and Clifford Trafzer, Distinguished Professor of History and Costo Chair in Native American studies at the University of California-Riverside, previously paired up to write the award-winning book, Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Pacific Northwest. In River Song, they also describe their method and approach—one that will serve as a model for conducting Native American cultural research.

ISBN 978-0-87422-327-9
$27.95 list


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In the Path of Destruction

Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

Richard Waitt

A napping volcano blinked awake in March 1980. Two months later, when that mountain roared, Jim Scymanky was about twelve miles northwest, logging a north slope above Hoffstadt Creek. “Rocks zinged through the woods, bouncing off trees, then the tops of trees snapped off… Suddenly I could see nothing…it got hot right away, then scorching hot and impossible to breathe. The air had no oxygen, like being trapped underwater…I was being cremated, the pain unbearable.”

Mike Hubbard was further away—sixteen miles northwest, near Green River. “It was hard to breathe, my mouth hot and full of dust. I was on my knees, my back to the hot wind. It blew me along, lifting my rear so I was up on my hands…It was hot but I didn’t feel burned—until I felt my ears curl.”

Ken Sugarman’s encounter came on a highway near Yakima. “My wife and I drove toward Tieton fifteen miles northwest. Only five minutes since the kids mentioned the cloud, ash rained heavily, the sky so dark I had headlights on.”

Steve Malone, at the University of Washington Seismology Laboratory, was inconsolable. “We’d failed. For two months we’d counted and located thousands of earthquakes, looked for changes to anticipate an eruption. Then it just happened. It killed many people. It killed David Johnston. We could hardly work.”

Author Richard Waitt was part of a U.S. Geological Survey team doing volcano research in the Cascades, and was one of the first to arrive following the mountain’s early rumblings. His journey collecting eyewitness accounts began with a conversation in a bar the third week after Mount St. Helens erupted. The couple he met barely outraced a searing ash cloud, and Waitt realized their experiences could inform geologic studies. He eventually conducted hundreds of interviews—sometimes two and three decades later—often making multiple visits to gather additional details, correct errors, and resolve discrepancies.

A meticulous scientist with intimate knowledge of Mount St. Helens, Waitt delivers a detailed and accurate chronicle of events. He tapped numerous primary sources—interviews, legal depositions, personal diaries, geologists’ field notes, radio logs, and police records. Newspaper stories and even sun shadows on photographs revealed additional intricacies. In the Path of Destruction’s eruption story unfolds through unforgettable, riveting narratives—the heart of a masterful chronology that also delivers engrossing science, history, and journalism.

ISBN 978-0-87422-323-1
$22.95 list

View the book trailer

Listen to Richard Waitt's interview about how eyewitness accounts helped scientists on OPB's Think Out Loud.

Here are links to book excerpts as well as short clips of Richard Waitt discussing the landslide, what actually took place, and why he wrote his book.


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Native Trees of Western Washington

A Photographic Guide

Kevin W. Zobrist

Soft layers of moss and pine needles carpet the ground as dappled sunlight or misty rain filters through the forest canopy’s branches. Western Washington woodlands can be enchanting. Fortunately these magical places are abundant, covering half the state’s soil. Affording beauty and recreation as well as economic value, they endure as one of the area’s most important natural assets.

In Native Trees of Western Washington, Washington State University’s Kevin Zobrist examines regional indigenous trees from a forestry specialist’s unique perspective. He explains basic tree physiology and a key part of their ecology—forest stand dynamics. He groups distinctive varieties into sections, describing common lowland conifers and broadleaved trees, high-elevation species found in the Olympic Mountains and western side of the Cascades, and finally, those with a very limited natural range and small, isolated populations. Numerous full-color photographs illustrate key traits.

In addition, Zobrist discusses notable features, offering information about where to find particular species. He includes brief lists of some common human uses, citing Native American medicines, food, and materials, as well as commercial utilization from the time of European settlement to the present day. The result is a delightful and enlightening exploration of western Washington timberlands.

ISBN 978-0-87422-324-8
$18.95 list


Follow Kevin Zobrist on Twitter: @WSUExtForestry

Check out the Great Tree Hunt

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Barnyards and Birkenstocks

Why Farmers and Environmentalists Need Each Other

Don Stuart

Rural America is struggling. The average farmer is now 57 years old. Family agriculture is gradually fading, leading to declines in related industries. Food sources—increasingly anonymous, industrial, and international—are also less secure. Despite these concerns, many communities regularly convert prime farmland to environmentally harmful applications.

Yet food cultivation, too, has profound ecological consequences. Working agriculture occupies fully half of the total U.S. land base, and farms consume eighty percent of the nation’s water. Although they often prevent sprawling development, improve water quality, or provide wildlife habitat, they also pollute rivers, drain wetlands, or emit destructive greenhouse gasses.

Don Stuart believes these two dangerous trends—the loss of farms and damage to ecosystems—are connected, and that a major cause is the political deadlock between farmers and environmental activists. Instead of achieving a reasonable balance, this stalemate stalls funding for incentive programs and prevents progress toward essential regulations.

Stuart offers a radical proposal: collaboration would advance the economic needs of one group while furthering the conservation efforts of the other. With a goal of promoting understanding, he presents opposing perspectives on topics such as incentives, regulations, government spending, environmental markets, growth management, climate change, public lands grazing, and the Federal Farm Bill. He points out costs of continued political impasse. Finally, drawing from a lifetime spent settling conflicts, he identifies characteristics of successful community programs to suggest a model for a prosperous, healthy future.

Author Don Stuart served as the Pacific Northwest Regional Director of the American Farmland Trust for 11 years, and before that he was the executive director of a commercial fisheries trade association and the Washington Association of Conservation Districts. Currently, he engages in private consulting work on agriculture and environmental issues.

What readers are saying:

“[Don Stuart] forcefully makes the case that there is significant peril to the goals of each [side] if the current stalemate over environmental concerns about farming operations continues unresolved. This book is a valuable resource for farmers, environmentalists, academics, policymakers, students and regulators.”—Peter Goldmark, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands

“The author is uniquely qualified to comment on the conflicts and common interests of farmers and environmentalists from long experience on both sides. People…will find [his] insights on the two camps extremely useful in tailoring programs effectively.”—Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest Regional Director, American Farmland Trust and coauthor, Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers

Don Stuart's web page

Listen to Don's radio interview on KEXP's Mind Over Matters with Diane Horn

ISBN 978-0-87422-322-4
$28.95 list


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Yellowstone Summers

Touring with the Wylie Camping Company in America's First National Park

Jane Galloway Demaray

“The author [tells] an important story here, not just of her great great uncle’s contributions to the history of Yellowstone, but also of the fascinating politics and economics of park concessions administration...a thoroughly readable and engaging study.”—David Wrobel, professor of history, University of Oklahoma

In 1872 Congress established Yellowstone National Park, and its vast wonders soon mesmerized early sightseers. One of them, William Wallace Wylie, visited in July 1880. The school superintendent was immediately smitten. He returned to Bozeman, Montana, and arranged his first tour group a few weeks later. His initial effort evolved into a full-fledged business, and from 1896 to 1905 the Wylie Camping Company fed, sheltered, and guided thousands of Victorian vacationers through relaxed week-long tours of geysers, hot pools, waterfalls, and trails.

Despite the park’s wilderness setting, Wylie lured travelers with promises of comfort, ease, and delicious meals, claiming such luxuries as “woven wire springs under fine mattress beds; no sleeping on the ground…fine covered buggies to ride in.“ His “new method of caring for tourists” embraced separate dining tents, partitioned sleeping tents heated with stoves, informative outings, and fresh-air bonfires. His policy of hiring honest, hard-working college students and teachers who utilized the park as an outdoor classroom set an example for concessions throughout Yellowstone and other national parks.

But operating the Wylie Camping Company was a formidable task. There were bears, runaway horses, and cantankerous stage coach drivers. Anecdotes include observations of wildlife, the arrest of a bison poacher, and an altercation with the park’s game warden, Buffalo Jones. In order to serve his unique clientele, Wylie contended with park superintendents, railroad officials, Washington, D.C., legislators, and various other political personalities. Eventually the demands became too great, and he sold his business. But the Wylie Camping Company and its owner’s unswerving efforts helped develop, define, and preserve tourism in the West, particularly in America’s first national park.

ISBN 978-0-87422-328-6
$24.95 list

Check out the author's site

Watch Jane Galloway Demaray's KXLH news interview


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Battle Ready

The National Coast Defense System and the Fortification of Puget Sound, 1894-1925

David M. Hansen

Today, altered landscapes and an array of concrete structures—remnants of Puget Sound fortifications—serve as silent reminders of a unique chapter in Pacific Northwest history. The ocean inlet’s wide entrance, deep waters, and recurrent fog left it vulnerable to attack. The waterway finally became part of the National Coast Defense System in 1894, when the value of real and personal property along its shores surpassed $160 million.

With the completion of construction on Point Wilson, Admiralty Head, and Marrowstone Point, the harbor became one of the most heavily guarded in the United States. Continued technical advances improved batteries, carriages, guns, communication, and fire control. Effective resistance also relied upon maintaining a sufficient number of highly trained enlisted men.

The removal of guns for use in World War I, as well as the redirection of specialized troops to field artillery units heralded the system’s demise. Eventually, armed forces abandoned permanent fortifications in favor of mobile artillery. None of Puget Sound’s five forts ever saw battle, but like many military installations, perhaps their greatest value rested in the strong deterrent secured by their existence.

Battle Ready describes the designs, innovations, and frustrations that were part of implementation as well as the experience of serving in the fortifications during the period of their greatest importance. The extensively researched volume summarizes the fascinating saga of Washington State’s seacoast defense and presents the broad story in both a national and local context.

What readers are saying:

“A contribution to the field… the first scholarly attempt to describe the evolution of the seacoast defenses of Puget Sound and to put them in the context of national defense policy.”—Bolling Smith, Editor, Coast Defense Journal

“A scholarly study of the Puget Sound forts has been a long time coming, and is sorely needed...I welcome this work.”—William Woodward, Ph.D., Professor of History, Seattle Pacific University

ISBN 978-0-87422-316-3
$32.95 list

Read the Bellingham Herald review

Read the Kitsap Sun review

Read The Olympian feature article


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Rethinking Rural

Global Community and Economic Development in the Small Town West

Don E. Albrecht

The vastness and isolation of the American West forged a dependence on scarce natural resources—especially water, forests, fish, and minerals.  The small towns clustered near these assets were often self-sufficient and culturally distinct. By 1941, mass media, as well as improved transportation and infrastructure, propelled these sequestered settlements into the mass society era. Today, the internet is shaping another revolution, and it promises both obstacles and opportunity. Some formerly prosperous communities struggle to survive, while others attempt to cope with unprecedented growth.

Seeking to understand the impact of a global society on western small towns, the author, Director of the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University, conducted strategic planning roundtables in thirteen states. The gatherings brought three major concerns to the surface: sustaining natural resources, creating vibrant rural economies, and enhancing educational and employment prospects.  Rethinking Rural summarizes characteristics of the isolation, mass society, and global society eras, provides an overview of western environmental history, explores the significant challenges identified during the forum discussions. More importantly, it offers guidance to community leaders, policy makers, and scholars seeking ways to address poverty, increasing inequality, and shifting demographics, as well as resource management and conservation issues.

ISBN 978-0-87422-319-4
$28.95 list


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John Mullan

The Tumultuous Life of a Western Road Builder

Keith C. Petersen

John Mullan’s celebrated road—a 625-mile link that connected the Missouri and Columbia Rivers—established the West Point graduate as an accomplished engineer. After completing the Northwest’s first engineered highway at age thirty-two, he lived for nearly another half century, a period of dynamic change. When he died in 1909, automobiles were making their initial crossings along his route. The arterial eventually became a critical link in America’s longest interstate freeway, I-90. Yet despite frequent mentions in books about the nineteenth century Northwest, the soldier/explorer has remained little more than a caricature: a dashing young Army officer who comes West, builds one of its most important thoroughfares, and then disappears from regional literature.

Now, in lively prose, Idaho State Historian Keith Petersen takes a fresh look at Mullan, whose road significantly impacted the development of the Northwest. His story includes business partnerships and personal relationships with some of the West’s most intriguing characters: Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, General William T. Sherman, Chico founder John Bidwell, Idaho gold discoverer Elias Pierce, Yakama Indian chief Owhi, and others. The first comprehensive portrayal of John Mullan’s life, this deeply researched biography probes the explorer’s complex personality, his rise to fame, and his fall from grace.

What readers are saying:

“Petersen’s biography infuses John Mullan’s many-sided story with both the road-builder’s personal energy and a thorough context of the forces that drove his work. It also casts an unflinching eye on the military aspects of Mullan’s experience in the Interior Northwest, and what that meant for the tribes. A full account, gracefully rendered.”—Jack Nisbet, author of Sources of the River; The Mapmaker’s Eye; and The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Pacific Northwest

“It turns out John Mullan was a human being. Aspects of Mullan’s life have been studied in depth, but few, if any, had taken a clear-eyed look at the whole picture until Keith Petersen came along to fit the pieces together—Mullan’s boyhood days, the hunger for success and fame that drove him—sometimes to maniac extremes—in family and professional relationships, in explorations and road building exploits, and in his later careers as a developer and attorney.”—Kim  Briggeman, Missoulian reporter and Mullan Road historian

John Mullan places Mullan’s life squarely within the context of the times and explains how his driven and sometimes knotty personality led to his success and his failures.”—Jon Axline, author of Conveniences Sorely Needed: Montana's Historic Highway Bridges, 1860-1956; and Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Montana History

ISBN 978-0-87422-321-7
$32.95 list

Read the Missoulian article about Keith and his book!

Read the review on HistoryNet

At the recent John Mullan conference, Keith spent time with a New York Times reporter. Read the article.

Keith also spent a day with Washington State Magazine reporter Eric Sorensen. Read the article.


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Coal Wars

Unions, Strikes, and Violence in Depression-Era Central Washington

David Bullock

Sleepy little Roslyn has always been a coal town, ever since a railway company opened the first mine in 1886. Strikes are a way of life for central Washington miners and their families, but Tuesday, April 3, 1934, is different.  This time, the labor shutdown divides families and pits neighbor against neighbor. Fearful children beg their fathers not to cross picket lines. “I’d rather have you yellow than dead,” one sobs. Supporters of the Western Miners Union of America—ordinary wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters—pelt cars with rocks, rotten eggs, pine cones, and cow pies. They curse and shriek insults. As the morning wears on, their taunts and assaults escalate.  They fight for their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons—tough men performing dangerous jobs.

The striking laborers typically spend ten or more hours at the workplace.  Dressing, preparing lights and equipment, and traveling into the mine shaft are all done on their own time. Some trips take nearly an hour each way. The miners and their families want safer working conditions, fair wages, and a six-hour workday. They had expected their longtime national union, the United Mine Workers of America, to stand strong during contract negotiations. Instead, UMWA leaders chose dismissive actions, setting the stage for the rise of a new local organization, the Western Miners Union of America.

With a country in the midst of a national economic depression, the fledgling group faces opposition from a mighty labor union, a powerful railroad empire, and even their own government. Communist activists and other radical labor groups offer support. But when conflicting alliances turn residents of Roslyn, Cle Elem, and Ronald against each other, a heated and violent battle follows, leaving deep, lasting scars.

Author David Bullock witnessed the bitter sentiments first hand. His grandfather, a Roslyn miner, lived through the events depicted in Coal Wars. Fully documented, his refreshingly balanced account is brought to life through interviews with local residents, newspapers, court documents, and corporate archives. Capturing the details surrounding a dual union movement in the 1930s American West, the narrative also describes the region’s melting pot of working families and the socio-political impacts of New Deal policies on their lives.

ISBN 978-0-87422-325-5
$24.95 list

Listen to Heath Brown's interview with author David Bullock on New Books Network

Read the review in the Ellensburg Daily Record

Read the review in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin


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Red Light to Starboard

Recalling the Exxon Valdez Disaster

Angela Day

Minutes before supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, before rocks ripped a huge hole in her hull and a geyser of crude oil darkened the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, the ship’s lookout burst through the chart room door. “That light, sir, it’s still on the starboard side. It should be to port, sir.” Her frantic words were merely the last in a litany of futile warnings.

A parade of promises began the next day. Exxon Shipping Company president Frank Iarossi declared, “If it is a claim that is associated with the spill, we’ve assumed full financial responsibility.” A week later, Alaska Governor Steve Cowper spoke at the Valdez Civic Center. “We don’t want anybody to think that they have to hire a lawyer and go into federal court and sue the largest corporation in America…The state of Alaska represents you. And we want to be sure that…people who are damaged by this, get compensated fairy and quickly.” He also indicated that the state would see to it Prince William Sound was cleaned up, regardless of the cost.

Eight days after the disaster, Valdez native Bobby Day flew over the spill and knew his life as a herring fisherman—a population that would be decimated by the spill—was shattered. He also struggled with feelings of betrayal and guilt and later, a divided community. His intimate portrayal lends a local perspective and provides an insider’s look at commercial fishing.

Lengthy investigations revealed cover ups, covert operations, reckless corporate management, numerous safety violations, and a broken regulatory process. At the time of the spill, oil flowed through the Alyeska pipeline at a profit of $400,000 per hour, yet In the end, the ten thousand fishermen affected by the spill spent nearly twenty years in litigation and received little compensation for their losses. Despite a massive cleanup effort, oil remains on the beaches and continues to impact marine life.

Redlight to Starboard documents a story that stunned the world, recounting regional and national events. The compelling narrative explains how an industry often seen as greedy came to be entrusted with a spectacular, fragile ecosystem, and discusses the governmental and public policy decisions that contributed to the disaster, as well as personal and environmental consequences. It also follows policy steps taken since the spill and through opportunities for citizen input and oversight, offers hope for preventing future disasters.

ISBN 978-0-87422-318-7
$19.95 list

ForeWord Magazine Indiefab silver award logo Spur Award winner logo


Western Writer's Association Best Contemporary Nonfiction
ForeWord Reviews' Indiefab Book of the Year - Silver in History
ForeWord Reviews' Indiefab Book of the Year - Bronze in Ecology & Environment

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Listen to Angela Day's interview on KCHU radio's Exxon Valdez 25th anniversary program


Forthcoming Releases

Instilling Spirit

Students and Citizenship at Washington State 1892-1942

William L. Stimson

On a frigid winter morning, young men and women proceeded toward a lonely brick building on a windy hill above Pullman, Washington. There to enroll in college, many came from farms and were deeply grateful for the opportunity. It was January 13, 1892, thirty years after the passage of Justin Morrill’s Land Grant Act and opening day for the Agricultural College, Experimental Station and School of Science of the State of Washington.

The new scholars received personal attention, which was not always the case at other institutions. Germany’s renowned universities were insulated by design—no one should disturb a professor while he was thinking. Harvard’s Charles W. Eliot followed that philosophy, as did Henry Philip Tappan, president of the state college in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

But in Pullman, as in the country’s other small institutions, even the tumultuous early years revolved around relationships. Third president Enoch A. Bryan shaped the school from 1893 to 1916 and often greeted individuals by name—even as the student population grew. By 1900 the campus had a dozen red brick buildings, all surrounding “The Quad.”

Bryan believed in teaching through experiences, and hired “active learning” advocates like William J. Spillman. Once, speaking to agriculture teachers, the famous researcher told them to skip lectures about oat diseases and instead take pupils to the field to count damaged oat heads. “You are not teaching agriculture, you are studying agriculture with your students.” Interestingly, the college’s chief scientist was also its first football coach.

The campus championed involvement—whether in music, sports, politics, or debate—until for the majority it became an unquestioned value and essential part of learning. Professors were accessible, often inviting students to their homes in the evening. Even decades later former pupils give glowing accounts of their mentors. As they participated in mascot antics, the Greek system, upheavals in student body politics, and the 1936 strike, state college students also deeply influenced faculty and administrators.

Instilling Spirit traces Washington State University’s early decades, offering a unique perspective on the college experience as it developed in the United States and the Cougar community.

ISBN 978-0-87422-334-7
Paperback $22.95 list


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Instilling Spirit

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