The Founding of Happy Camp after Blackburns’ Ferry

Sunday Morning for the Miners

When Happy Camp became a town, it was a part of Trinity county.
Harry Wells had History of Siskiyou County published in 1881. It tells how Happy Camp left Klamath County and became part of Siskiyou County which was provided for March 28, 1874, but contingent on a vote. It wasn’t to be easily accomplished,until finally there was a meeting of commissioners to divide up the valuation, debts and cash on hand of the respective counties August 14, 1876.

in the spring of 1851 a Ferry on the Klamath River, five miles below the mouth of the Trinity, was established. The proprietors were Gwin R. Tompkins and Charles McDermit, and they placed it in charge of Blackburn, before they went off prospecting in Oregon. They left Blackburn and his wife with a shanty by the Klamath River. James Sloan, Mr. Janalshan and Mr. Bender assisting, had a tent on the other side of an open air kitchen and dining room.

They talked differently in those days, and Harry Wells tells how “One day, Mrs. Blackburn, a noble woman of the brave pioneer class that have been led by love to follow the footsteps of their idol into the very heart of the wilderness, noticed that the stock of bullets had become exhausted. She immediately molded a large quantity, and by this prudent act and her afterward heroic conduct saving the lives of herself and her husband that self-same night.“

In the night the three assistants were killed in the tent, but the last gave a cry of warning. Alerting, Blackburn and his wife who were able to fight off the attackers.
In the morning, A. E. Raynes, William Young and William Little came on the other side of the River looking for ammunition for occupants of a cabin where they had stayed overnight. The first body that they found, when turned over, turned out to be Mr. Blackburns’ father whom he had not seen for ten years, but was coming from Trinidad to see him. The three men left the Blackburns’ there and went to Trinidad to raise ten men to come and help them.

On the way back, above the Lagoon, these thirteen men came upon canoes with Redwood Creek Indians and had a battle before the Indians withdrew. They then came upon Bald Hill Rancheria and were going to attack, but the occupants had “departed to more peaceful scenes.“

At the mouth of the Trinity River, Durkee’s ferry, they believed the large Rancheria of Klamath River Indians who they believed had attacked Blackburn’s place, but they’d been warmed of the attack and only a few of the 300 occupants were still there, so the party disbanded and went their several ways. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the owners in Oregon went to examine the site. The place was deserted and left in “ruin and desolation” so they left off pursuing and got back to prospecting up the Klamath River.

Then Harry Wells tells about the founding of Happy Camp and the Fight at Lowden’s Ferry
To Quote Wells, “The founders of Happy Camp, late in July 1851 were Charles McDermit, Abisha Swain, Gwin R. Tompkins, Charles D. Moore, Thomas J. Roach, L. H. Murch, J.H. Stinchfield, Mr. Cochrane, Jeremiah Martin, William Bagley, Daniel McDougall, Jack McDougall, William McMahon and James Carr. They built a cabin which they used as a store-house, and Cochrane remained there to look after the property and mules, while the others scattered along the river mining. Sundays, all met at the cabin.”

With the prospects looking good, around the campfire, the men decided to name the camp, Happy Camp! Happy Camp has endured for 167 years! Many places were abandoned, as prospectors went to where the rumors of gold strikes sounded promising, but Happy Camp is still here.

It had previously been named Murder’s Bar from two prospectors, William Mosier and (Mr) McGee (or by some given as Mr. Reaves) deaths, but a short time before. Therefore, miners were afraid to trust the occupants of the Rancheria upriver a bit. The injunction to keep away from the cabin was not heeded and the sad events at Lowdens Ferry followed. Sadly, conflict, and vengeance were prominent in the early days, bringing death and vigilantism. It has taken time and the healing of many wounds, to have the community work together in unity, but Happy Camp is a happy place, and the neighbors work together as willing volunteer, building a log high school (1933) a Fire Hall and Grange, and the former Clinic on Parkway. when we work together amazing things area accomplished!!

Note:Redick McKee mentions the camp on November 8, 1851 as “Mr. Roache’s Happy Camp at the place called Murderer’s Bar.” Before that, the Karuk name for the site previously there was Akuknihraanhirak. Much later, H. C. Chester, who interviewed Jack Titus about 1883 states that Titus claimed he named the town when his friend, James Camp declared, This is the happiest Day of my life” when he arrived here but this was a decade later.

Little Log Chapel in the Hills 1928

by Leon L. Loofbourow
We have all read of the original John Wesley runing three times around the Charter House school quadrangle each morning to build up his weak body. But haven you heard of one John Wesley who won the 462 mile marathon race from San Francisco’s City Hall to Grants Pass Oregon?
In 1927 the Redwood Empire Association, as its advertising featujre, planned an Indian Marathon Race over the Redwood Highway. Of eleven entrants, two boys from our work on the Klamath River won first and second places! John Wesley Southare received first award for completing the race in less than a week–as I remember it, in six days, twentythree hours and sixteen minutes.
This particular John Wesley story begins a century ago when the California gold rush, kuje tge Jubgdin if Geavebm gathered all kinds. He sought his fortun e far down the Klamath River. I have never heard how much “dust” he acquired. But he married an Indian woman and when the placers played out, unline many of the miners, he stayed by his family on the Klamath. Their oldest son was named Lee in loyalty to the great Christian captain of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee.
I was guest one night in the Lee Southard home. (We were to try our luck for bear next day.) At family prayers my host brought out his Bible and old Moody and Sankey song books. I thought I would try out the family knowledge of the Scriptures, so suggested that we repeat together instead of reading. All went well with the group through Psalm 23. Some of the circle were uncertain on Psalm 1. But Mr. Southard and I kept going until I thougth it wise to call our Bible marathon a tie, and we prayed. But it made me realize that ‘Forty -Niner John Wesley did not leave his faith in Louisiana–he had “taught it diligently” to his son.
The Lee Southards named their first born, John Wesley, for his grandfather. In the Redwood Empire Marathon the newspapers thought they must have “heap big Injun” names for the runners, so a waiting world was informed that MAD BULL won the race. But Mad Bull was only the way the papers featured John Wesley Southard, son of School District Trustee–Church School Superintendent Lee Southard, grandson of ‘Forty-Niner John Wesley Southard.
Months later I heard that a younger brother of John’s had died and wrote to the family. I quote from Lee Southard’s answer:
“We have one consolation, that those who die without the law shall be judged without the law, and Gorham was a good boy and never harmed anyhone. But he never had chance of a religious training further than his mother and I had taught him. Should you ever get back up this way I wish you to preach his funeral.
The next summer the log church in Happy Camp was built, its nearest meetinghouse neighbor being 75 miles away. The first service in it was the memorial for this boy who “never had the chance of a religious training further than what his mother and I taught him.”

Fire Siege of 1987 Remembered

Happy Camp “87 fire by Jim Waddell Happy Camp “87 Fire by Kerry Waddell

20th Anniversary of Fire Siege ’87

The above photos of Happy Camp during the ’87 fires are by Jim Waddell and Kerry Waddell respectively. Thank you for sharing the photos with Happy Camp News readers!

Just two days before Labor Day, 1987, after a summer of rainless heat had baked the woods to kindling, over 11,000 lightning strikes hit and the western states began to burn. During the following 8 weeks the worst fires in nearly 100 years devastated 9 states, including 1,300 square miles in California and Oregon. The wildfire devastation included 406 square miles of the Klamath National Forest and became known as “Fire Siege ’87”.

During the first week of the fires 1,274 people were involved with fighting 20,675 acres of wildfires on the Klamath National Forest. By the eighth week 75 wildfires had burned a total of 258,764 acres, or 15%, of the 1.7 million land base of the Klamath National Forest.

The lives of three firefighters were claimed by “Fire Siege ’87” on the Klamath National Forest. Heavy smoke trapped by temperature inversions plagued firefighters and rural residents for weeks on end. Firefighters from across the country, including U.S. military, federal,  state and county agencies, as well local residents joined forces to combat the fires. At the peak some 8,003 people battled the wildfires.

The parallels between “Fire Siege ’87” and the recent China-Back and Elk Complexes are impressive,  stated Forest Supervisor Peg Boland. “It takes all of us working together to manage a major fire suppression incident. The help we recently experienced is an excellent example of working together to successfully achieve a common goal that benefited the communities as well as National Forest natural resources.”