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Legends Remain about Tall Timber Mary

Mary Morris was a Shasta Indian who lived around the dawn of the 20th century along Moffett Creek not far from the Forest House Ranch and Yreka, Calif.  She was married for a time to a white soldier from the Modoc War.

Some people called her Timber Mary, but there is little explanation of why, unless it was related to her being very tall, as in “tall timber.” 

Not only was Mary tall, but also very strong, as witnessed in Fort Jones and Yreka where she traveled on foot to sell bags of wild plums, a highly prized and hard-to-find fruit.  It was said she could carry 50 pounds of groceries without much effort on her 10-mile hike home through the mountains.

One night Timber Mary stopped at the Forest House for shelter, but the inn was filled and all beds taken.  The proprietors, who knew her well, made a bed for her by turning over the large dining room table, and putting down a mattress and some blankets.

Another story, written in pidgin dialect, tells how when asked how many eggs she wanted for breakfast, she responded, “I’m not ‘bery’ hungry. I think six.”

Source: Burton, Fred W. "Timber Mary..." Siskiyou Pioneer, The 3.8 (1965): 39. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.