Chapter 9

NORTH CALIFORNIA MINING COMPANY

Page 4

"AII these locations have been made, as far as I know, in accordance with all lawful requirements. On the locations that we desired to hold we have regularly performed our annual assessment work.”

"In some instances we made mineral locations and, soon afterward, timber entries, under the timber and stone act on the same lands, so that they are covered with two sets of entries. In other cases we have contested timber entries, and in every such instance our mineral claims have prevailed in the local land office.”

"We have allowed scrip entries to prevail over our mineral claims without contest. This was allowed simply because of the trouble involved and the comparative inaccessibility of the local land office at Susanville, in Lassen County. These lands are undoubtedly mineral. They contain large beds of auriferous gravel. The particular lands to which I refer are the Jacob H. Cook or Santa Fe Railway scrip entries, immediately west of Indian Valley, Plumas County, in two townships.”

"I anticipate no trouble from the coming investigation. I do not know that any false affidavit has been made and I know that I have not caused the making of a false affidavit. None was necessary.”

"In the placer locations we complied strictly with the law and followed the usage of the past thirty years. I took advice from the best lawyers in California to learn whether there was any local law or custom other than those in force in Colorado, Utah and Montana, all mining states.”

He also said that under the lava capping that covers large parts of Plumas County there were rich deposits of gold, contained in ancient river channels; also that he was ready and willing to prove the mineral nature of the land to the government's experts when they came along.

Aubury had figured that Yard’s costs on the 1877 locations so far made by him or those working with him had not exceeded $26,500. The timber on this land, supposing it to average $20 an acre, would be worth $5,300,000 which left the land standing in a profit of $5,273,500 that he had made for himself and his associates, by his wholesale making of placer mining locations in Plumas and Butte counties. Aubury also said that the land was not capable of producing any profit, for the greater part, if worked as placer mines, but the timber on the land was worth a great deal of money.

To have placers patented by the Government it was necessary to perform assessment work to the extent of $100 a claim a year. On the basis of 1877 claims this called for assessment work by Yard, so Aubury remarked, to the extent of $187,700 a year, or something more than $750,800 in a period of four years. What assessment work had been done on the Yard lands Aubury considered to be farcical as a qualification for holding down mines for patenting.

It was late in August that E. C. Finney and A. C. Shaw, appointed to investigate the acquisition of land in Butte and Plumas counties by H. H. Yard, arrived in Oroville to begin their investigations. They would examine the claims for the relative worth of the land for timber and mineral purposes. Other agents would then perform a more careful examination into the mineral character of the ground. Those working with Yard were of the opinion that there could be but one result of the investigation. They acknowledged that much of the land pre-empted was valueless for its mineral wealth, but stated that patents had not been taken out upon such land. They further asserted that Yard had performed his assessment work in strict accordance with law and defied the inspectors to find any irregularities.

When the investigators begin to inquire whether H. H. Yard and others had used the law relating to placer locations to get possession of vast tracts of timber land in California they were surprised to learn that Yard was a member of the executive committee of the California State Miners Association, an organization that was formed to protect the interests of miners.

This was all the more strange to the investigators when they heard from the State Mineralogist that Yard, in common with other operators in the California field, had lapped locations, sometime in his California career, over those of miners who have been in quiet possession of mineralized lands for years, and that the lands are still held by Yard, despite the miners' protests.

A. Tregidgo, president of the California Miners' Association, confirmed to the investigators that Yard was an executive committeeman in that body. It was also learned that the official headquarters of the association in San Francisco had been moved to a building on Sutter Street in which Yard had his offices. In that, his position is such that in itself it ought to protect him against the imputation of working against the interests of California miners, yet that he was so working was an allegation that the State Mineralogist had made repeatedly and had embodied in official reports.

Although Yard and others appeared in the role of "placer miners," it was alleged before the government investigators that Yard and the others had not opened up any mines on any of the half-million acres they had filed upon as placers. It was also alleged as a singular coincidence that no land had been taken as placers that was not timbered, and the further allegation was made that all the locators were really after the timber, which was very valuable, and that the placer locations were made only because other forms of entry were unavailing to break into a forest reserve.

Yard in his business activities, according to his own story, had a dual character, one of which seemed to conflict with the other. Thus he was a "placer miner" by reason of his mining locations, and he was also a producer of timber and stone because of entries made under the timber and stone act and which overlapped or covered in many instances those very placer claims.

When asked about the conflicting claims Yard stated; "Yes, it is true that I have made placer locations within the temporary reserves set apart by the order of the Secretary of the Interior, dated October 15, 1902, and I have been justified in doing so by reason of the character of the land located upon. These locations are distinctly mineral. They are capped with lava and have auriferous gravels within their boundaries. Moreover, my right is protected and strengthened by filings under the timber and stone acts. These latter filings in some instances cover or overlap the mineral locations.”

It was the opinion of some of the most enlightened mining lawyers that the two such filings contradicted. The first sets up that the land is mineral. The timber and stone act procedure, under the rules of the General Land Office of the United States, required the person filing the timber and stone claim to take oath that there was no mineral on the land and none within six miles of it. This peculiar situation left the people of the state in suspense as to whether Yard was a miner only for the purpose of filing on timber lands.

During the first week of July 1907 the Land Office at Susanville began notifying certain mineral land claimants that their locations had been contested by the Forest Service of the United States, and that the hearing of the cases would take place during the latter part of August and the early part of September. The publication of these notices was the beginning of a lively contest for the possession of a large territory in Plumas County claimed directly or indirectly by the North California Mining Company as mineral lands. The Government claimed that the tracts mentioned in the contest notices were not mineral in character and that the required development work had not been performed by the claimants. The Government doubtless will have present at Susanville numerous expert witnesses to prove the non-mineral character of the land and to show that the proper development work has not been done.

On February 27, 1908, a transcript of the testimony adduced at the hearing was forwarded from the Susanville Land Office to Washington D. C., together with the conclusions of the register and receiver thereto, as follows:

"Honorable Commissioner of the General Land Office, Washington, D. C.:

"Dear Sir—In view of the foregoing and after careful examination and consideration of the voluminous testimony submitted we are of the opinion that the allegations set out by the protest are clearly substantiated. Although it appears that deposits of gold in small placer formations have been found upon some of the locations, the evidence as a whole falls far short of proving the land to contain any appreciable amount of gold, and it does not appear, therefore, that the land covered by the locations contain known valuable deposits sufficient in extent to render them chiefly valuable for mining purposes. The allegations set forth in said protest are sustained and the said mineral locations are held to be invalid. Very respectfully,
"T. A. ROSEBERRY, Register.
"ALFRED H. TAYLOR, Receiver."

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