Chapter 9


Page 3

These words, so Aubury contended hotly before a committee, were intended to make it easy for Yard, T. B. Walker, Curtis, Collins and Holbrook, the Diamond Match Company and others to get hold of the millions of acres that were in temporary reserves; and the averment was made that, as miners, the convention had no interest in promoting the interests of timber grabbers, inasmuch as the miners were amply protected and free to operate within the reserves.

There was some talk to the general intent that "fine words butter no parsnips," or something to that effect, referring to the befogged language of the preamble, but the resolutions were adopted by the committee and never came to an open debate on the floor of the convention. Aubury talked about a "packed committee" and the aftermath of the convention was general unpleasantness. Threats were made by some persons in interest that Aubury would be removed from the position of State Mineralogist, but that seemed a remote possibility as, Governor Pardee stood behind him.

The filing of locations continued by wholesale, and State Mineralogist Aubury continued his protest against the "land grabbing." The newspapers devoted columns to the wholesale locations. Complaints against Yard and his associates were filed in the land office at Susanville. At this time the route of the Western Pacific had not been surveyed, and had it become known that the Gould’s were surveying a railroad hundreds would have filed on mineral claims along the probable route and the difficulty of obtaining a right of way would have been far greater.

One month prior to the March 1903 incorporation of the Western Pacific, H. H. Yard, whose operations in the vicinity of Oroville and along the Feather River had caused much speculation as to whether he had been securing rights of way for a transcontinental railway, finally consented to talk with the newspapermen. Up until that time he had remained silent regarding his plans, keeping every one guessing. Some of the people of Oroville and vicinity were disposed to regard this silence and his heavy expenditure of money as part of a scheme of the Southern Pacific Company to obstruct the plans of the Stockton and Beckwith Pass Company to gain a route for its road, but Yard emphatically said that he was working with no purpose of aiding the Southern Pacific.

"I have no business relations with the Southern Pacific Company," he said, and then referring to the reports from the north concerning the fight that was in progress between the right of way agents representing himself and the Stockton and Beckwith Pass syndicate, he remarked: "We purpose to build a road. We have secured terminal facilities at Oroville and my agents are going ahead getting rights of way as fast as they can. In other words, we have gone into the field to stay."

Yard, however, would not explain just who besides himself was included in his "we." He declared that his plan was to build a road along the Feather River up to its headwaters, with the intention of invading a rich district which it was purposed to develop for business. He had already completed his right of way from Oroville across the river, a distance of seven miles, and he stated that of the fifty-five miles of the proposed Butte and Plumas Railway he had already secured thirty-five miles of rights, and fifteen out of the twenty-five miles of the Indian Valley Railway. Both of those corporations were of his creation, the two concerns being found advantageous in securing a route. Originally all of Yard’s operations had been under the incorporated name of the North California Mining Company. Under his present plans Yard said his rail lines would be about eighty miles long and would extend through about fifty miles of rich timber land, much of which had passed into the control of Eastern timber men, who welcomed the proposed new road.

Finally in July 1903 all the complaints of miners in California concerning the taking up of mineral lands on timber claims were to be investigated as special agents of the Federal Government began traveling through several of the mining counties getting facts to report to Washington showing that grabbing had been going on in California on a great scale. In five years one Eastern man had succeeded in having 500,000 acres of land, all classed as timber land, placed in his name. Miners had complained that in some of the tracts covered by these claims there were mining properties that had been worked for years. A great tract in Butte and Plumas counties amounting to 130,000 acres had been taken up by one combination as placer claims. This was reported to be timber land.

State Mineralogist Aubury again on June 14, 1905 made charges that thousands of acres of valuable land in Butte, Plumas and Siskiyou counties had been secured illegally and he placed information in support of his charges in the hands of the special prosecutor for the government in the Oregon land fraud cases. Specifically the state mineralogist alleged that H. H. Yard, who now represented the Western Pacific railroad in the matter of securing right of way, and T. B. Walker, the millionaire of Minnesota, had both illegally filed on lands located in the northern counties of California. It was the contention of Aubury that thousands of acres filed upon as mineral lands were non-mineral in character. The state mineralogist had already made a report upon the operation of Yard to the department of the interior. Yard admitted that he and his associates had secured 100,000 acres of mineral land in Butte and Plumas counties, contending that all lands had been legitimately secured and were mineral in character.

In 1906 a resolution was adopted by the California legislature in special session asking that the federal law requiring $100 in assessment work shall be performed annually on each mining claim be suspended for the year in so far as California was concerned. A special local interest was attached to the matter because of the belief by many that Yard's North California Mining Company was backing the resolution.

That mining company's holdings in the Feather River region was now estimated at up to 200,000 acres and while it was generally believed that the land was principally valuable for timber and taken for that reason, still it was filed on as mineral land. Yard had been careful to comply with all laws bearing upon such locations, as it was announced that he was preparing to begin assessment work on the claims for 1906. In order to protect his holdings an annual outlay of about $12,500 was required and naturally he was looking to save that expenditure if possible. The disaster in San Francisco after the earthquake perhaps suggested a way.

Many California mining projects depended upon capitalists of the San Francisco area and as they were now in a bad way to supply cash the legislature adopted the resolution asking the suspension of the federal law as to mining assessment work for the year. Who suggested this plan was not known but Yard was in attendance at the sessions and as he had large interests at stake, suspicion fell upon him. In the beginning Yard spent money with a lavish hand, but recently he had been inclined to curtail all expenditures, and probably $12,500 looked worth saving, even to him.

Should the resolution be noted upon favorably by congress it would mean the loss of a good many dollars to local men who are employed upon assessment work in the mining sections.

By August 1906 the United States Government had finally begun to take interest to the timber steals in the northern part of California. The acquisition of vast tracts of forested land in Butte and Plumas counties by a few individuals was now to be investigated. H. H. Yard alone had located 365,000 acres in Plumas County as placer claims. An investigating party was appointed on August 9 consisting of A. C. Shaw, of the Forest Service, Edward C. Finney, law examiner of the General Land Office and L. G. Gillett, J. A. Dorsey and W. L. Walker of the Geological Survey who would first give its attention to the situation in Plumas County, where there was said to be a fertile field for the proposed inquiry.

It was still not clear who was backing the North California Mining Company. The Western Pacific, or those closely connected with it at one time were accused of being associated with Yard, but when the government declined to permit the road to cross the Plumas Forest Reserve, presumably because of the state mineralogist’s report, Gould's company declared it had no connection with Yard's enterprise. The government claimed that the land taken up by Yard was timber and not mineral, but it appeared he had proceeded under good legal advice and to be safe from the claims made by the government.

The placer locations by H. H. Yard and others had drawn so much attention that the Federal Government authorized the appointment of a commission composed of geologists, forestry experts, surveyors and a representative of the Attorney General's office at Washington to make an investigation. This commission was to arrive in California about September 1 and go to work in Plumas and Butte counties at once.
H. H. Yard said about the coming investigation of the placer locations that he had made:

“If the Government is about to act, as has been reported, it is a good thing. I shall be glad to give the investigators all the help I can and all the information I have is at their command. Three years ago I sent to Secretary Hitchcock of the Interior Department a map showing all the locations I had made in Butte and Plumas counties. Since then I have made a number of locations in Butte, Plumas and several other counties.”

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