Homesteading in the Klamath Basin
Wednesday May 18, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Hear the word homestead and you probably think of mid-nineteenth-century pioneers. But homesteaders were settling the Klamath Basin, at the Oregon-California border, as late as 1949.
In 1903, the federal government began draining water from Lower Klamath and Tule Lakes. Newly exposed land was offered for farming in 1917. After World War I, veterans were given homesteading preference. More land was made available to veterans after World War II. In 1946, 86 parcels were distributed through a Bureau of Reclamation lottery. The homesteading program ended with the last lottery drawing in 1949.
Through hard work and determination, the homesteaders turned bare land into productive family farms. They grew potatoes and grain crops. They dug wells, built irrigation systems, houses and schools. With few resources to start with, they worked together and built community. One post World War II homesteader recalled, "The war was finally over, and everyone was eager to start a new life. Because of our ages and experiences we all had a good deal in common and we needed and found each other's support and help."
Now, as drought and politics over water threaten the future of Klamath Basin farms, these homesteaders and their descendants are meeting the challenges with community strength and pioneer resolve.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Foster, Doug. "Reclamation Pioneers: Family Farming on the Klamath Irrigation Project," Southern Oregon Heritage Today, February 2002, Vol. 4, No.2, pp. 8-14.