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October 23, 1863: Seiad Valley

October 23, 2013
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Seiad Valley; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

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Klamath River; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

From Scott’s Bar we followed down the river three miles to the Klamath River, and then followed down that. High mountains rise on both sides, perhaps five thousand feet above the river, and in many places the canyon proper is at least three thousand feet deep. In the bottom of this gorge flows the river, swift and muddy, and precipitous canyons come down from either side. The trail is at times over rocks close by the river, at others it winds over spurs and ridges and abounds in picturesque views.

There was no tillable land as we passed along, but formerly there were rich placers, and ten years ago a large population lived in this canyon, and you will see some places noted on your maps; but all this has passed away, the miner leaves only desolation in his track, and everywhere here he has left his traces.

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Hamburg; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

We passed what was once the town of Hamburg, two years ago a bustling village—a large cluster of miners’ cabins, three hotels, three stores, two billiard saloons, and all the other accompaniments of a mining town—now all is gone. The placers were worked out, the cabins became deserted, and the floods of two years ago finished its history by carrying off all the houses, or nearly all—the boards of the rest are now built into a cluster of a dozen huts. A camp of Klamath Indians on the river bank is the only population at present! Their faces were daubed with paint, their huts were squalid. Just below were some Indian graves. A little inclosure of sticks surrounded them. Each grave is a conical mound, and lying on them, or hanging on poles over them, are the worldly goods of the deceased—the baskets in which they gathered their acorns, their clothing and moccasins, arms and implements, strings of beads, and other ornaments—decaying along with their owners.

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Hamburg Cemetery; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

In contrast with this was a sadder sight—a cluster of graves of the miners who had died while the town remained. Boards had once been set up at their graves, but most had rotted off and fallen—the rest will soon follow. Bushes have grown over the graves, and soon they, as well as the old town, will be forgotten.

Friends in distant lands, mothers in far off homes, may still be wondering, often with a sigh, what has become of loved sons who years ago sought their fortunes in the land of gold, but who laid their bones on the banks of the Klamath and left no tidings behind. Alas, how many a sad history is hidden in the neglected and forgotten graves that are scattered among the wild mountains that face the Pacific!

The population has not entirely left this portion of the river, however. Here and there may be seen a white man, and industrious Chinamen patiently ply with rockers for the yellow dust.

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Seiad Valley; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

About midway between Scott’s Bar and Happy Camp a side stream of considerable size comes in from the northeast, called Sciad Creek, and here is a fertile little flat of about a hundred acres, the best ranch perhaps in the entire county of Siskiyou. It is known as the Sciad Ranch. We crossed the river by a ferry to it…It is a delightful spot—it seems an oasis in a desert. Here lives a thriving New York farmer, from Ulster County or Orange County, named Reeves, and he is making money faster than if he were mining for gold. He treated us very kindly indeed and we luxuriated on delicious apples, pears, and plums. His table groaned under the weight of well-cooked food, in pleasing contrast with the miserable taverns of the last few days, and we did ample justice to his good fare.

He came here in 1854, and says that the first year he raised twenty thousand pounds of potatoes per acre, which he sold for fifteen cents per pound! But times and prices have changed. His potatoes yield this year about fifteen thousand pounds per acre, and he complains that he gets no price for them—he sells them at four cents per pound, only about $2.40 per bushel—his fruit goes at 12 1/2 cents per pound. The place is a pretty one, picturesque, and fertile. But he wants to get away. He has some pretty little girls growing, who are here caged up from the world, from society, from schools, and all means of improvement—no wonder he wants to sell out.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2013 4:59 pm

    Anyone who isn’t clicking on Mr. Brewer’s photos is missing a great treat.

    • William H. Brewer permalink*
      October 29, 2013 8:24 am

      Thank you! It’s been fun going out there and getting them…

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