This Road We Traveled

Drama, adventure, and family struggles abound as three generations head west on the Oregon Trail.

The Memory Weaver

Love is more powerful than the fiercest tragedy.

A Light in the Wilderness

A Light in the Wilderness is a story of grace and courage in a time of trial. WILLA award winner.

Promises of Hope for Difficult Times

A caregiver’s journey.

The American Dream

Contains A Mother’s Cry from The Midwife’s Legacy

One Million Books in Print

Read about Jane's milestone of achieving One Million books in print.

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A Light in the Wilderness (2014)

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Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.

Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. And she will soon have another person to care for.

As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

A Brief Biography

Carson, Letitia


Birth Year : 1814
Death Year : 1888
Letitia Carson was a free African American woman who was born in Kentucky. She was one of the early African Americans to be listed in the U.S. Federal Census as living in Oregon.
Letitia's husband was an Irishman named David Carson (1800-1854). The pioneering couple and their two children lived in Benton, Oregon Territory, according to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census. The couple had come to Oregon in 1845, and their daughter Martha was born along the way, their son Adam around 1853.
When David Carson died, Letitia and her children were left out of his estate settlement, and Letitia filed suit against the estate for her children's benefit. She won the lawsuit and settled on land she had purchased near South Myrtle Creek,today known as Letitia Creek. She is buried near her property now on private land.
Letitia Carson was a well known mid-wife in the county. The Letitia Carson Pioneer Apple Tree was named in her honor; it is thought that Letitia planted the tree, and researchers named the tree while completing a cultural resource inventory of the property owned by Oregon State University.




Letitia's Homestead Deed




Click image to view 9 page .pdf documentation for Letitia's homestead.

Why this Story?


"Letitia's story of one of the first black women to cross the Oregon Trail in 1845, give birth along the way, and have a Missouri man impact her life here in Oregon after the death of her common law white husband is a compelling story of courage and commitment . . .How could I not pursue that story?" Jane Kirkpatrick

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A Light in the Wilderness

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Praise for Jane Kirkpatrick's A Light in the Wilderness

Kirkpatrick (The Daughter’s Walk) exercises her considerable gift for making history come alive in this real-life tale of a freed slave who travels across the country to Oregon Territory in the late 1840s. Kirkpatrick draws an indelible and intriguing portrait of Letitia Carson, an African-American woman who obtains her freedom and then determinedly makes her own way in a unsympathetic society. Among her allies are her common-law husband Davey, an Irish immigrant; Nancy Hawkins, a white woman whose family is also headed to Oregon; and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian whose separate story in Oregon Territory eventually converges with Letitia’s life. Letitia is fully imagined, and Kirkpatrick skillfully relates Letitia’s thoughts, cementing a bond of empathy between character and reader. Betsy is underdeveloped in comparison to many of the other secondary characters. But, on the whole, Kirkpatrick’s historical homework is thorough, and her realization of a little-known African-American pioneer is persuasive and poignant.  - Publisher's Weekly


"Thank you for telling our story. I'm not sure how you got inside the skin of a black woman, but you did. I loved this book!" - Gwen Carr of Oregon Black Pioneers.


"I finished A Light in the Wilderness last evening and found it a captivating read. Excellent work! Jane writes with great sensitivity to the feelings of Letitia Carson and other characters, and to the environment in which they lived and traveled. Her extensive research into the life of the Carsons is reflected in the depth of her writing.  Several passages were especially moving to me "Findin' time like it was lost. I looked in nooks and crannies trying to find more time for us...minutes driftin' like snowflakes meetin' on the taste buds." Very nice writing.
   - R. Gregory Nokes, author of Oregon book Award Finalist Breaking Chains, Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory.

"I just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I can't dismiss the emotion that sharing Letitia's life has brought to me.  "Thank you" hardly seems enough to say to you for letting me spend the last few days immersed in the heart and soul of Letitia Carson.  You have an amazing knack for putting flesh on the bones of historical people." - Jean Hendrickson, Asotin, Washington. A fiction reader.

* The image in the rotation above and noted with an asterisk (*) is by Alison Saar, titled Washtub Blues, 2000, and is a color woodcut 30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.9 cm) Copyright Alison Saar, and used by courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

Author's Insight

This is the first book I've written with much of the research completed before the story was brought to me. Thirty years previous, two former Oregon state university students Janet Meranda and Dr Bob Zybach discovered the court records and never forgot Letitia's story. They brought it to me believing a novel would tell it best. Their research and progress on a nonfiction book about her and Davey's life can be followed at Friends of Letitia Carson.





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"Jane, you were a wonderful presenter and writer’s friend at the recent Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.
The evaluations were unanimous that you hit all the right notes and nourished the spirits of our conferees."
Clint Kelly, Program Coordinator