Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 19

The Homesteaders:

We have two known homesteader sites on the ranch and they are deemed historical on our Non Industrial Timber Management Plan.  Both sites, we are told, were homes for the Smith brothers.  Not sure if that is accurate information  as it is purely anecdotal.

But the sites are real.  As is the artifacts of days gone by we find scattered around.  Mostly just their garbage, as in old bottles and cans, some broken tea cups.  Some days its fun to dig around in.  Mostly I just sit and ponder the life they might have lived. 

Those who settled in remote areas, like Salmon Creek faced a life of hard work just to transport the necessities of life. The first homesteaders packed in a few basic articles by mule or horseback.  Every few months, they might have made the journey down the mountain to the nearest town nestled along the Eel River.   As I stand in these remote locations on our property and try to imagine being the person who ran the broken sewing treadle machine laying at my feet.

I am a bit overwhelmed. At a trot, it takes over an hour just to ride a horse from my home to this location, and over 2 hours on foot.  This is rough, steep country and I have good roads and trails to traverse.    It had to be a lonely, and in our climate, soggy  existence. 

I wander over and sit by the pond and listen to the birds call and the gentle swish in the trees and  time slows down and I realize amidst the hardship, life was perhaps simpler.

Looking at an old map from 1921 I see that our ranch was mostly Burnell Land, but there is one t-shaped piece that was owned by the Sage Land and Imp. Co. and it also is the area where I think these two homestead sites are located.  We have seen evidence of and heard that split products were made here: stuff like railroad ties, grape-stakes, fence posts and shingles.  Salmon Creek was also well known during prohibition as one of the best sources of bootleg whiskey.  Kind of funny because this area is now well known for some of the best marijuana.   

One of the sites had a historic apple orchard.  In the old days, before the fire, we would take a jeep or horse ride up to the "Smith Orchard."  Only a few straggly old trees were left, but it was pretty cool and what apples the bears left tasted good.  The Canoe Fire burned them up.  After the fire we planted a few back, but they too have struggled to survive.

This site has a fantastic spring and last fall Mark decided to put in a little dug out pond for the stock.  What he didn't know was that there once was a pond here and it had just silted up.  When the bulldozer entered the area and scraped away a bit of dirt it sank and sank fast.

 Before he knew it, he had a nice sized hole, only problem was our  CAT was stuck in the middle of it.   I can tell you he had some tense moments/hours as he tried to find something to wench from as this area was part of the 2003 fire and only had a few burned out stumps and trees.  Eventually Mark got it out and there is a nice little pond again at this homestead site.

Another historic site we have on the property is Briceland Charlie's place. He was also known as Indian Charlie or Charlie Briceland.  He was well known in the area and one of the last of his tribe, so the oral histories he told are priceless.  He came from the Briceland area, but  for a time he lived in the upper area of Salmon Creek on what is now our property.  We've dug around in his garbage too and found some cool old milk bottles.  I've read that there was a school near his place at one time and that Charlie took care of the children's horses while they were at school.

We also have numerous Native American village sites.  They are small and most located on a nice shelf above a natural pond or creek.  These sites were seasonal as they traveled around during the year harvesting as nature provided.  During the creation of our timber plan all of these sites were duly marked and protected.  We've had some people come out to the ranch to spend the night at a village site amidst some cedar trees and they say it is a very spiritual experience.

We appreciate what little history we know of this land and hope to learn more as time goes on.  We are all just passing through and need to remember those who came before and those who will come after.

*A lot of the historical information came from our dear departed friend Jonell Monschke,  who made the historical contributions to the  Salmon Creek Watershed Assessment.   


  1. That's really cool. I love that kind of every day history. Just curious, were the Smith Brothers the ones who made cough drops? ;)

  2. I love this kind of stuff. It's amazing to think back to what life was like. I tell you, I'm not sure I'm tough enough to have eeked out a living then.


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