Proving up and pulling out : archaeology and history of early 20th century homesteading in southwestern Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6108vg47g

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  • The Forest Homestead Act of 1906 precipitated one of the final rushes for free land in American history. A nascent land management agency, the USDA Forest Service, created a systematized process for the review and documentation of purported forest homestead claims. One hundred years later, the forest-homestead examination files of the then-Crater National Forest (now the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest) in southwestern Oregon provide an historical record that exposes the motivations and actions of numerous individuals as they negotiated the steps entailed in the public-land-disposal process. Archival research and archaeological survey form the dual methodological approaches to determine answers to several questions, among them: who were the people who attempted forest homesteading in a rugged mountainous setting, and what were their primary motivations?; what sort of housing did they fashion for themselves in the higher slopes of the Cascade Range and Siskiyou Mountains; where upon the land did they choose to place their habitation areas?; what were the spatial arrangements of those habitation areas?; and, what today is the nature of the archaeological record of the forest homesteading phenomenon of the early 20th century? This research indicates that the high-volume timber lands of the southern Cascades and the rugged Siskiyou Mountains proved a singular enticement to the residents of Jackson County, Oregon. Vernacular housing was typically the standby structure of the American 'pioneer' ---the log cabin---often ineptly built, sparsely furnished, and infrequently occupied. The would-be homesteaders' actual use of the land was light, often less than one per cent of the total 160 acres they each claimed. The archaeology and history of southwestern Oregon in the early 20th century demonstrates that forest homesteading was less an agricultural endeavor than a speculative pursuit to gain free land. And everyone---men and women, farmers and teachers, doctors and lawyers---wanted free land.
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