Chapter 9

NORTH CALIFORNIA MINING COMPANY

Page 5

The decision caused much excitement in Butte and Plumas counties for the reason that other large tracts of land which had been secured under the claim that they were mineral in character were really covered with good timber and hearings could result similarly to those that had taken place in regard to the Yard holdings. One of the bitterest fights in the history of the state had been waged during a series of years between Lewis E. Aubury, state mineralogist, on one side and various men and corporations concerning the grabbing of lands that were non-mineral by the use of the placer location law, and also in connection with lands that had been mined for years and which were filed upon with scrip, homestead preemptions and under the timber and stone act.

Aubury in making a public statement said; "I have acted in the interests of the miners of California. I have been abused for this by parties who are trying to grab the public lands. In other portions of the state, notably along the mother lode, various means have been devised by land grabbers to get possession of great tracts of land where the mineral character of the lands is unquestioned. Unless something is done the mineral industries of this state will be set back many years and the output of gold in California will be for a long period, as it is now, much less than it ought to be, Just because the mineralized lands have been grabbed and are being held in comparatively few ownerships in certain localities. The entire state is interested in this matter, so is the entire United States, which looks to California for a large share of the necessary annual gold production. The decision of the land office at Susanville upholds all the contentions that I have made regarding the notorious Yard claims, which represent one of the largest land grabbing schemes on record."

It was released on April 14, 1908 that H. H. Yard, whose operations in government land in Butte and Plumas counties had lost his fight for the possession of something like 265,000 acres along the Feather River. The land office at Susanville handed down a decision and report which set forth that in ninety odd claims there was no evidence of mineral. Therefore the lands that were taken by Yard, largely through dummy locators under the plea that they were mineral in character, could not be held by him, they were determined to be timber lands.

The decision contained the statement that the area held by Yard had timber that was worth $320,000 and that Yard was able to offer only three dollars worth of gold that was taken there from. In addition to this the land office decided that Yard's "assessment" work on the ninety odd claims was not valid. The greater part of this work was found to consist of tunnels made by old prospectors before Yard took the land up. Telephone lines and roads that had been constructed since Yard filed his claims were held by the decision not to be lawful "assessment work" on mining claims. The text of the decision is as follows in part:

"The prospects made by the defendant (Yard) as well as those made by the government prove conclusively that there is no placer gold in the claims that would justify the declaration that the land is mineral in character."

The claimants appealed from the decision of the local officers to the Commissioners of the Central Land Office, but on August 27, 1908, the Commissioner sustained the local officers.

On September 25, 1908 the decision of the Susanville land office relating to 13,000 or more acres in the Butterfly, Clear Creek and Shoofly districts was upheld by the Commissioner of the General Land Office of the United States.

In 1902 Aubury had called the government's attention to the alleged fraudulent entry of timber lands in Butte and Plumas counties by H. H. Yard. Yard had entered by placer mineral location 265,000 acres of land and this decision may apply on all of his locations, as it is alleged that they were all of the same character.

It was said in the letter ordering the hearing that the charges were that the lands were of non mineral character; that no mineral had been discovered on the lands, and that the proper development work had not been performed. It was also charged that some of the locators, not for their own benefit but in the interest of Yard, joined in the locating of the land.

The hearing was ordered to determine only the character of the land and the validity of the locations. In the testimony before the commissioner it was brought out that most of the claims were located in 1902, and that in all of the cases the locators and the grantees had ample time and opportunity to explore and develop the claims, but in no instance, did they show that mineral in paying quantities existed in any of the locations.

The finding of the commissioner was as follows:

"The prima facie showing by the government that the lands do not contain such valuable deposits of mineral as would subject them to entry under the mining laws and regulations has not been met or overcome by the defendants, and it is accordingly held that the locations were invalid when made, because of the insufficiency of discovery, and that the prospecting thereon since the dates of location has failed to show the lands to be valuable for their mineral deposits, and it is, therefore, insufficient to warrant locators in continuing in possession thereof."

"Now," said Aubury on June 11, 1909, "a dispatch from Oroville, under date of June 10, says that Yard has sold his timber holdings in Butte County to the Mercantile Trust Company for $180,000 and that the understanding here is that these lands are to be transferred to a new lumber company, which may enter into traffic arrangements with the Truckee Lumber Company. In view of the fact that the government has declared the timber locations of H. H. Yard in Butte County fraudulent, I do not see how the buyers can obtain title to those lands."

Aubury's statement was made on account of several complaints he had received from miners regarding the patenting of mining claims in national forests. Aubury said that many complaints had been received from miners, and that the American mining congress appointed a committee to investigate the matter.

At a conference with Secretary Garfield, Gifford Pinchot and Land Commissioner Dennett, Aubury complained that in most cases the special forest agents were not qualified to pass upon the land alleged to contain minerals, and upon his showing Secretary Garfield appointed a corps of practical miners to take charge of that work.

In order to prevent unscrupulous parties from acquiring timber land under the guise of mineral land, the forest service had been compelled to regard with suspicion the location of mining claims in the national forests. This attitude was due primarily to the location by Yard and associates of 205,000 acres of timber land as placer mines in Butte and Plumas counties. Aubury exposed the scheme at the time the locations were made, and through his efforts they were shown to be fraudulent and canceled.

First Assistant Secretary of the Interior Frank Pierce then made a decision in July 1909 that declared invalid certain mining locations claimed by H. H. Yard and the North California Mining Company for land in the Plumas National Forest in California. This decision was the culmination of the controversy between the Government and the mining claimants, which was actively begun on March 16, 1907.

Through cooperation between the department of the interior and the forest service a geological examination was made of part of the land in dispute. In consequence of this examination the North California Mining Company relinquished locations covering about 34,000 acres of land, and charges were made by the commissioner of the general land office against locations for 11,000 acres.

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