Meeting the Sewells

Meeting the Sewells

Resource Guide for Educators


A collaboration between the High Desert Museum, Oregon Black Pioneers and North East Production, Meeting the Sewells offers the unique perspective of one of the first Black families to settle in Central Oregon.


Guiding Questions:

These questions help students identify themes in each section of the video related to Oregon’s history. The Sewells were the only Black family for decades who lived in the Canyon City area and their experiences were unlike those of Black individuals in other areas across the region and the country. 

Chapter 1: Columbus Came West

  • Why did Columbus decide to move to Canyon City, Oregon?
  • Why do you think Columbus could make more money as a “teamster” than searching for gold? Include evidence from the video to support your answer.

Chapter 2: Louisa’s Laundry

  • What expectations does Louisa have for her son Joseph? Why?
  • What kind of work keeps Louisa busy?

Chapter 3: Here in Oregon

  • How large was Canyon City in 1848 compared to when Louisa moved into town? Why did the town change in size? Use evidence from the video.
  • List three examples of ways Black emigrants and other people of color experienced discrimination in Oregon in the mid- to late-1800s.

Chapter 4: Settling In

  • What did you learn about life in Oregon from Columbus’ story about the snowstorm in Central Oregon? Use evidence from the video.
  • Louisa explains contrasting experiences for people of color in Canyon City. Give a positive and negative example of White settlers interacting with people of color.

Additional information:

Curriculum associated with this video and the primary sources used in its development is currently being produced with Oregon Black Pioneers and High Desert Museum. The curriculum should be released in Spring 2023. If you would like to be emailed when the curriculum is released, please complete the form below.

Meeting the Sewells is based on an actual family who made a home in Central Oregon. These images are from the Grant County Historical Museum’s archives.

Louisa Sewell with son, likely Thomas

Possibly Columbus Sewell

Joe Sewell

Possibly Thomas Sewell

“Meeting the Sewells” is made possible by

With support from

Special thanks to the Grant County Historical Museum for support during the research for

Meeting the Sewells!