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As It Was: Timber Companies Acquire Land through Homestead Act

In January 1900, Friedrich Weyerhauser founded the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company in Longview, Wash., with 900,000 acres of Washington timberland. From there the company purchased large tracks of railroad lands for sale by the government and became the world’s largest private timberland owner.

In 1905 Weyerhaeuser bought 16,000 acres of forest in the Jenny Creek watershed. This tract was described by the Klamath Republican weekly newspaper as the “most desirable body of standing timber available in the Pacific Northwest…because of its accessibility to the markets of the coast and the interior…”  Lumber could be hauled conveniently to railroad lines in either Klamath Falls or Ashland.

Anne Foley, in her book titled “Lincoln on the Greensprings,” said some timber companies also anxious to acquire forested public land saw an opportunity to take advantage of the Homestead Act. They made arrangements with people to homestead on 160-acre parcels of timberland for the five years required by law to “prove up,” which also required two neighbors to vouch for the homesteader.  When the ownership of the land was legally established, the hired homesteaders handed it over to the timber companies involved. 

Sources: Foley, Anne E. Lincoln on the Greensprings. Medford, Oregon: Southern Oregon Historical Society, 1985. Print; "PFT Launches Campaign to Complete Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument." Pacific Forest Trust. Pacific Forest Trust, 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. https://pacificforest.org/about_us.html; Weyerhaeuser. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Shockey has been a long-time JPR contributor and enjoys supporting the Southern Oregon Historical Society and JPR by digging up regional stories.