Kinship, environment and the Forest Service : homesteading in Oregon's Coast Range Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/st74cw549

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  • The settlement history of a remote area in the Coast Range of Oregon, from the 1870s to the 1930s, is examined through factors that may have influenced the success or failure, and length of residence of the homesteaders and later residents. Despite the rugged and isolated location, a small community of scattered settlers managed to build comfortable homes, cultivate gardens, orchards and grain fields, and raise goats and other livestock. Yet, while a few were able to make a marginal living in this mountainous area, many more were unsuccessful. The successful homesteaders often had to fmd outside employment and they relied on game, fish and some wild plants for diet staples. Most of the homesteads changed hands frequently and eventually, in the 1930s, all but a very few sold their land back to the government. Environmental changes, including at least one pre-settlement forest fire, kinship ties, and changing federal homestead laws clearly influenced settlement of the study area. These influences are revealed through an extensive investigation of historic, archival and genealogical records, and interviews with former residents. Within the Siuslaw National Forest, the changing homestead laws, the Forest Homestead Act of 1906 in particular, greatly affected the ability to acquire a homestead and limited the homestead acreage available. Personal and settlement data on all 89 homestead claimants, whether successful or not, and 35 timber patentees, in Township 12 South, Range 9 West, Willamette Meridian, is gathered into a database and analyzed. The settlement history of a related group of settlers is explored in detail to reveal how kinship ties and other factors influenced the family's migration to and from the study area. Finally, a more in-depth investigation of two of the homesteads provides insight into how these people lived, the architecture of the buildings and their physical arrangement on the landscape, what kinship ties they had and how those ties may have influenced their settlement success. The written and oral records proved to be valuable sources of unique information, but they also had limitations. Archaeological and other physical data, which was only minimally investigated, may provide additional information on the homesteads. The significance of these historic homesteads can only be determined after more similar homestead studies are completed. Only then can a contextual analysis of these homesteads within a broader group be accomplished.
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