Presentation will discuss slavery in the Oregon Territory and a landmark court battle

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn author Greg Nokes will speak about his book Breaking Chains at Champoeg State Heritage Area on Feb. 8.The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the Champoeg State Heritage Area will celebrate Black History Month with a book presentation and author visit.

On Feb. 8 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. West Linn author and former Associated Press and Oregonian reporter R. Gregory Nokes will speak about slavery in the Oregon Territory, as well as the story of the only slavery case adjudicated in the Oregon Territory’s pre-Civil War courts: Holmes v. Ford.

The presentation is free and open to the public, although a $5 parking day pass is required for park visitors. Champoeg State Heritage Area is located at 8239 Champoeg Road NE, St. Paul.

In his book “Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory,” Nokes tells the story Holmes v. Ford. On Feb. 8 he will expand on this story, which details the plight of Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children.

The Holmes family was brought as a group to Oregon by their owner over the Oregon Trail in 1844, expecting to soon be freed in a region closed to slavery. But slaveholder Nathaniel Ford, destined to become an influential Oregon legislator, ignores the law and keeps them in bondage.

Holmes and his wife gain their freedom in 1850, but Ford refused to give up their three children. Despite being illiterate and with the odds stacked against him, Holmes took his former owner to court in an attempt to get his children back.

“Breaking Chains” sheds light on a somber part of Oregon’s history, bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience. The book will appeal to readers interested in Pacific Northwest history and in the history of slavery in the United States.

Come meet the author and hear about this chapter of Oregon’s history.

For more information, contact park ranger Dan Klug at 503-678-1251, ext. 222, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

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