© 2023 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Oregon-California Surveyors Face Mishaps in 1868

The boundary between the Oregon Territory and Mexico had been established as the 42nd parallel-north-latitude until 1848, when Mexico ceded territory to the United States that became known as the State of California.

It was another 20 years before a survey crew established the boundary on the ground between Oregon and California.  A question lingered over whether certain lakes belonged to Oregon or California.

An eight-man survey crew, accompanied by seven Army soldiers, started their work at the point where Oregon, California, and Nevada meet northeast of Cedarville, Calif.  As they worked their way west, a few mishaps hindered their work.

A broken barometer prevented them from taking elevation readings, and their supply wagon overturned and sank while attempting to cross Lost River at a hazardous ford near the present-day town of Merrill, Ore.  The survey party camped beside the river for a few days while additional troops from Fort Klamath retrieved the wagon.

By the time the survey crew reached the Siskiyou Mountains, it had established that Goose Lake and Lower Klamath Lake would be shared equally by Oregon and California, while Tule Lake lay almost entirely in California.


Sources: "Oregon Boundaries." Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society, oregonhistoryproject.org/historic-viewers/oregon-boundaries/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018; "California and Oregon Boundary Survey." San Francisco Bulletin, 3 Nov. 1868, p. 2. genealogybank.com. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018; "Boundary Line." Albany Register, 12 Dec. 1868, p. 3. genealogybank.com. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.

Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.