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As It Was: 1868 Drive Moves Umpqua Valley Cattle to Central California

Although legendary cattle drives are frequently associated with states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, stockmen in Oregon and Northern California drove not only cattle but also horses, mules and sheep in the days before railroads and trucks reached the region.
In fall 1868, Robert Hutchinson herded 1,600 head of beeves from the Umpqua River Valley to Central California.  An item in the Dec. 1, 1868, issue of the Portland Oregonian reported Hutchinson’s route to California went by way of Link River at the southern end of Upper Klamath Lake.  Such a drive would have required many miles through the Cascade Mountains and circling Mount Shasta.

The newspaper said Hutchinson planned to winter the herd on the ranch of Shasta County pioneer settler Maj. Pierson B. Reading and to sell the cattle in the spring of 1869.

The Southern Oregon drives shortened over the years as the Southern Pacific Railroad moved north.  In later years, livestock could be loaded onto railcars in Etna, Dorris, Midland, Chiloquin, and Kirk in northern Klamath County.

Present-day cattle ride in trucks from Oregon to markets in California.


Sources: "State Items." Oregonian, 1 Dec. 1868 [Portland, Ore.], p. 2. genealogybank.com. Accessed 23 Nov. 2018; Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California. Lewis Publishing Co., 1891. CAGenWeb Project, www.cagenweb.com/shasta/bios/readingpb2.html. Accessed 23 Nov. 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.