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The Great Depression Brings People to the Forest

The Great Depression brought many settlers to Siskiyou County from the towns, cities, and flatlands of California.  Historian James McNeill has written that people built shelters wherever they could along the streams and rivers, including tar paper-covered bark shanties.

To keep up with the influx, forest rangers put in long hours. The ranger station in the Klamath Forest became an important source of information for the new generation of “squatters.” Men arrived, many  with their families, looking for any kind of job, asking not only where, but also how to mine for gold. 

The rangers instructed the newcomers on how to build sluice boxes or rockers. They also helped many through the winters.

The Evan’s Mercantile store on the Klamath River collected money to donate to those with nothing.  Ranger Lee Waddell delivered food on horseback to those who were isolated while he worked to make sure streams were not polluted.  Rarely did people get “out of line” and the Forest Service overlooked many federal laws and restrictions, knowing people had to survive.


Source: McNeill, James. "These Changing Years." Siskiyou Pioneer and Yearbook. Vol. 5. No.6. Yreka: Yreka Historical Society, 1983. 31-33. 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.