Ora Evans Head Remembered

Ora Evans Head was born to Nathan D. and Edith Gordon Evans on February 2, 1894. The place of her birth on the old Evans Ranch on the east side of the Klamath Rover near China Creek. They were among the first pioneers in the area, then farmers, and later merchants.

She lived some of her early years on that same ranch along with two sisters, Maude and Pearl, and a brother, Neil. They were hard years, filled with chores and few of the niceties of today. Some winters were long and the food scarce. She loved cabbage which still tasted good to the end.

In order to attend school, Ora traveled by horseback or by horse and buggy to a country school located at Grider Creek near Seiad. There she first met Guy Head, whom she later married.

She had spoken of coming with her father into Happy Camp to buy the staples for the winter. It meant an overnight trip by buggy and crossing the river on the ferry at the Gordon Ranch. When her family moved into Happy Camp to establish and operate a general store, life changed and became much easier in many respects. Ora began attending school in Happy Camp and continued attending this school from then on.

She often spoke of the Chinese mining people, their town within this town, with its center near the present Pence home. The Chinese treated her kindly, much as they would treat one of their own children. From the Chinese people she learned stoic patience, acceptance of life’s cares, and love of Chinese ginger candy which stayed with her for the rest of her life.

Because her mother was so very ambitious for her children’s further education, she established a boarding hotel while Nate carried on the store business. After graduation from elementary school, Ora attended Teacher’s Normal School at Chico, California. She graduated from that school in 1915. She taught at the Horse Creek Country School with twelve kids for two terms before entering into her 47 year marriage commitment to Guy Thomas Head on the eve of Christmas of the year 1917. They were married in Yreka, California.

Ora and Guy began their married life in Happy Camp, but moved several times to accommodate the varied occupations of Guy Head. One of Guy’s first jobs was that of a stage driver and mail carrier. He handled a four horse team on the route from Happy Camp to Yreka. The road was made of dirt and many times the mountain roads were quite perilous as it traversed along the river and over the mountain. The round trip took about ten days. Humbug Mountain near Yreka was the steepest and the toughest to cross. He spoke of many mishaps—getting through mud, fording creeks, meeting schedules and overnighting at Hamburg, Horse Creek and other spots where fresh horses were kept. Ora mentioned only in passing what a hard trip it was to go into Yreka for doctors, on business or to move. They were of tough pioneer background and took life as it was without complaints.

Before their marriage, Guy Head had tried the logging occupation. Soon after they were wed, he moved his bride to a logging camp on the mountain near Fort Jones, where she lived in a tent. It was a hard life for them. Their first child, a son was born in Fort Jones in 1918. Two seasons passed there, washing clothes by hand and struggling to keep up. The logger’s life then took them to the pine forests of Chiloquin, Oregon, where he logged with his teams of fine horses for Ewana Box of Klamath Falls. They stayed in that line of work eight more years and three more babies were born. There were two daughters, one of them quite tiny, and another son burn to them. They purchased a house of Klamath Falls, and intended to make it their way of life for the future but a crushed leg injury in 1929 created a change in their intentions.

The death of her father, Nate Evans, in 1925, put the Evans General Store under the management of Oras sister, Pearl and her husband Arthur Attebery. Pearl died on October 7. 1929, making it necessary for Ora and Guy to return to Happy Camp. This move changed their lives again. They formed a business partnership with Ora’s brother-in-law, Arthur Attebery. The Evan’s Mercantile, a general store in Happy Camp was founded in 1930.

The young couple, with firm desire for a better way of life for their family of four children and security for themselves, tackled the new business with great vigor. It was the beginning of a great deal of work to become the fulfillment of a dream. Their natural gifts, honesty, strength, perseverance, and pure stubbornness made the business grow and thrive. They went through fires, floods, depression and a world war. They were parted from their two sons to the Army and a son-in-law to the Navy during the duration of the war. It gradually became a three store complex. A ranch on Indian Creek allowed them to get back to horses, cattle and ranching. Her life in the store was a satisfaction as well as a constant struggle.

In 19312 with the founding fathers of the town, Ora and Guy contributed to the building of the only log high school in California. It began to rise during the depression with donated skills and with very little funds. It was almost completed in 1933 when their oldest son was among the first 32 students to attend the opening session. Her other kids attended as they were ready. That high school was an important milestone in the progress of Happy Camp and a lasting gift to the children of our town. It remains in use today for various community purposes and there are plans to use it in the future as a library or museum.

In 1948, the partnership between Ora Head, her husband, Guy Head and Arthur Attebery was dissolved. Arthur retired to his new home on Indian Creek, but the business continued with the help of two sons upon their return from the Navy, until 1956, when the elder son left the business and went into lumber in Happy Camp.

Guy T. was killed by a train-pickup crash in Montague as he was heading home with a load of grain for the store on November 17, 1964. Ora carried on the business with the help of her youngest son, Guy Gilbert, selling out to him in 1977. By now the ranch on Indian Creek had been sold. She retired to her small house on Buckhorn Road and was attended by her faithful friends and ladies from the Happy Camp Bible Church. Her church has been a solace and her source of strength. She considered it her privilege to serve, and it was one of her joys of this life. She had been a constant member in her teenage years. She encouraged and contributed much to the building of the log cabin church was built in 1928. It carries on without her now, but had claimed her as their oldest member at the time of her departure. When there was no preacher, she conducted the Sunday School on her own. Lena Grant Swearingen came to help after the war. The two of them kept the church going through many years as others came to help for a time and frequently moved on after few years.

After a fall from a chair in her home in 1982, causing a broken hip and after many complications, she was moved to Eldorado Convalescent Home in Placerville, California in 1986 to be near her eldest daughter, Celia Wayland of that city. Ora’s son, Guy Gilbert Head died in 1988 while she was still living with her daughter.

Her life spanned from the horse and buggy days to the travel of jets and even rockets to the moon; from the lonely isolation of reading by candle light to television, computers and crowded cities. If you had told her so long ago when she was on her father’s ranch that she would see so many changes and wonders of man, she would not have thought it possible. She lived each day the best way she could, with God’s help and with good humor. None of her life was easy, but it was a busy and productive life among the people and town she loved.

She left behind one son, Edward E. Head of Happy Camp, Two daughters, Celia Wayland of Placerville and Ruth de Couz of San Jose, California., Eight grandsons, two granddaughters, five great-grandsons and six great-granddaughters were the other descendants still living.

Ora Evans Head died peacefully at the age of 95(soon to be 96) in Placerville, California, on Tuesday January 23, 1990. She was laid to rest beside her partner and only love, Guy Thomas Head. With her passing goes out one of the last pioneers who helped to shape out country into the great country that it is. Her life in Happy Camp will be remembered with thoughtful praise and heartfelt thanks.