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Extreme Weather in 1889 Strikes Klamath River

The summer of 1889 was especially dry in Beswick and the Butte Valley along the Klamath River.

Wells and springs ran dry and the hay crop was poor.  The extreme weather was followed in November by a storm that left three feet of snow on the ground.  That was followed by a blinding blizzard that dropped an additional three feet of snow.

The weather drove cattle into corners and canyons, their carcasses not found until spring.  A few surviving stragglers were so sick they had to be shot.  Thousands of cattle died.  From Boice, Doris, and Meiss of Butte Valley to the Ward Ranch on the Klamath River, ranchers lost up to two-thirds of their stock.  Farmers reported the lack of hay forced horses to eat their manes and tails.

Disaster followed disaster when warm Chinook winds melted the snow in February, creating spring floods that roared down the Klamath River, gaining 92 feet up the canyon walls. 

That summer, farmer Louis Hessig made sure he filled his barn with enough hay to keep his remaining cattle alive the following winter.


Source: Overton Hessig, Alice. Looking Back: The California-Oregon Stage Road. Carson City, Nevada: Self, 1978. Print.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.