Chapter 9

NORTH CALIFORNIA MINING COMPANY

Page 2

In order to carry the products of the mines and mills that he would have in operation with his North California Mining Company Yard organized the Butte & Plumas Railway and Indian Valley Railway companies and sent out crews who began surveying for the new roads.

Articles of incorporation for the Butte and Plumas Railway, fifty-five miles in length, to be built from Oroville as far as the junction of the North Fork and the East Branch of the Feather River in Plumas County, were filed on October 30, 1902 in the office of the Secretary of State. The authorized capital stock of the corporation was $1,000,000, represented by 10,000 shares of the par value of $100 each. The survey had been made and right of way lands bought. It was supposed to be part of an overland road that was to use Beckwith Pass.

A month and a half later articles of incorporation for the Indian Valley Railway, twenty-five miles in length, to run from a point on the Feather River along Indian Creek to Crescent Mills, Plumas County, were filed on December 15, 1902 in the office of the Secretary of State. The directors of the new incorporation were Henry H. Yard and Samuel L. Gillin of Belmar, New Jersey; John Taresh, Adolf Eckman and Carleton Gray of Oroville. The capital stock was set at $1,000,000 and the line would connect with a proposed railroad from Sacramento into the mountains of Butte and Plumas counties.

Preliminary surveys up the Feather River Canyon were being made by John Taresh for the Butte & Plumas Railway. As to who was financing all this activity was kept secret. The transit men and stake artists of the survey crews were forbidden even to let their loved ones know where they were and correspondence could only be exchanged through the Denver office of the Rio Grande.

It was also about this time that the Stockton and Beckwith Pass Railroad began surveying a route through the Feather River Canyon, and the two corps of surveyors came to have many altercations over their work. Although both groups were being paid by the Rio Grande, Yard said nothing, and the war between the surveyors was allowed to continue.

Yard and others had already attracted attention and had come under scrutiny by Lewis E. Aubury the State Mineralogist of California. On November 10, 1902 Aubury sent a report to the Secretary of the Interior at Washington in which many assertions were made to show that the mineral interests of California were in danger, owing to the greed of eastern and other speculators and land grabbers, who had adopted one method or another of getting hold of the public domain.

The State Mineralogist and the Sacramento Valley Development Association being satisfied that mineral lands in California were being secured under timber entries and that timber lands were taken under placer locations, memorialized President Roosevelt to withdraw from entry part of "the public domain” in California pending an investigation. The response to this was an order temporarily withdrawing from entry the lands in the Susanville district.

Immediately following this action Aubury took steps to justify the allegations, by sending Horace Stevens to the Susanville and Marysville districts as a special investigator to collect facts pertinent to the issue. A report concerning the Susanville district and also, to some extent, relating to the Marysville district was then received by the State Mineralogist from Mr. Stevens who promptly had the reports typewritten and accompanied by a communication from the State Mineralogist forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior.

The first report included statements of exceeding interest to the people of California and especially to the miners, in whose behalf and in response to whose complaints the State Mineralogist had undertaken to reach the real facts. For instance it was alleged in the mineralogist's report that a party of men numbering eight, who were H. H. Yard. J. P. Cleary, W. Haines, F. E. Emlay, N. J. Conover. R. T. Hall, W. B. Allen and W. S. Jackson, had, under placer mining claims, filed upon all the region along the north fork of the Feather River, beginning at a point a few miles north of Oroville in Butte County, as far as the intersection of the east branch, in Plumas County, thence taking a strip five miles wide on each side of the latter stream to the town of Shoo Fly, where Spanish Creek empties into the east branch of the north fork of the Feather River. These locations, it was declared in the report, covered an area of 40,000 acres in Butte County and upward of 65,000 acres in Plumas County, or a total of more than 100,000 acres, with several more counties yet to be heard from.

“In the Susanville Land Office," so read the report, "the cash receipts for the quarter ending October 1, 1902, were $61,826.07, as against $4,613.62 for the preceding quarter, a gain of $57,212.45. None of this money came from forest reserve lieu or state indemnity selections, as the government receives no indemnity from that source. Since January 1, 1902, there have been filed 503 timber and stone entries in this office under the act of June 3, 1873, and if payment is made upon them all it will involve the sum of $200,000 to be paid to the Government."

The text of the report concerning the timber entries in the Susanville district that had been filed during the 1902 calendar year was as follows: "Of the 503 timber entries filed in the Susanville Land Office since the first of the year, aggregating more than 80,000 acres, I do not believe that ten of them were in good faith. In addition to the 80,000 acres taken under the timber and stone act of June 15, 1878, since January 1, 1902, there have been selections made at the Susanville Land Office under the forest reserve lieu land act of June 4, 1897, aggregating 103,425.57 acres and these figures do not include the enormous quantity that has been located by process of state indemnity lieu selections, which I estimate at 70,000 acres or more, or a grand total of 250,000 acres in a single land district since the rush began."

The main purpose of the State Mineralogist in ordering the investigation was to protect the interests of the miners of California. Enough was reported specifically concerning their troubles, by reason of the wholesale grabbing of public lands to make several interesting chapters. Mr. Stevens prefaced his report to the State Mineralogist by a general statement that his conclusions were based on facts that had come under his personal observation, all hearsay evidence having been eliminated from the consideration. Among the instances supplied were timber claims which were reported to have interfered with existing mineral locations.

A singular situation was alleged by Mr. Stevens in one part of the report. He said that a system had been adopted by one set of speculators by which eight locators, at a cost of $8 per section of 610 acres, besides the expense of survey, if any, could tie up all the vacant land in the United States. These people under the guise of locating placer claims were reported to be really securing a right of way for a railroad to open up a timber belt in the Big Meadows country. Similar proceedings had been begun in the Susanville land office and the register of that office had rejected entries for such tracts under the law of June 3, 1878, unless proceedings were begun to disprove the mineral character of the land. The idea of this form of protection to the miner was reported to have originated with Arthur W. Keddie of Quincy and upon its face seemed fair enough, but it proved to be liable to abuse in the manner indicated as reported to the State Mineralogist. Six hundred claims of the sort mentioned were to be offered to the land register of the Susanville district for filing.

The struggle between Aubury and those taking timber lands under placer locations took on an intense form during the California Miners' Convention in November 1902 when a heated fight occurred in committee over a preamble and resolution that ran in part as follows:

"Whereas, The Secretary of the Interior, under date of October 15, 1902, issued orders withdrawing from settlement, entry, sale or other disposal under the public land laws certain lands within certain designated areas within the counties of Plumas, Lassen. Shasta, Trinity, Siskiyou and Tehama, and designated in said order of withdrawal as Lassen Peak Reservation, Klamath Reservation, Mount Shasta Reservation and Diamond Mountain Reservation, respectively, pending an investigation of the advisability of making said reserves permanent; and

"Whereas, This association has maintained a broad position favoring the conservation and preservation of forests and streams, yet it believes that to permanently establish the proposed reservations would most seriously affect the future prosperity and industrial activity of the said counties named without any compensating benefit, either locally or to the State at large, as the creation of said reserves would accomplish the object sought only to a limited extent, if at all, as by, far the greater portion of the watershed affected does not influence either agriculture or navigation."

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