“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Kirk in Klamath County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)

A Sordid Wild West Story

The History of Military Road

A Sordid Wild West Story Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 7, 2020
1. A Sordid Wild West Story Marker
Captions: (middle left) "Camp Day," shown here, was a temporary encampment in the Klamath Basin used by the Army over the summer and fall of 1860. Troops came in response to ongoing problems between Indian groups and Euro-American settlers along the southern emigrant trail. At the time, the Klamath Basin was home to the Klamath in the north and the Modoc in the south.; (map; top center) When company surveyors reached the Cascade summit, they deliberately swept south into the Klamath Reservation in order to acquire the rich land resources found there, rather than going east into Boise. More than 110,000 acres of Tribal lands were deeded to the company, including lush meadows along the Williamson and Sprague Rivers and tens of thousands of acres of prime grazing land. -- In spite of all the backroom dealing, Oregon did end up with decent roads. Willamette Pass (HWY 59) and Santiam Pass (HWY 20) began as pack trails. Improved for wagon use in the mid-1860s, these roads continue today as vital crossings over the Cascade Mountains.; (oval portrait on right) Private road companies made little effort to build bridges, prevent erosion, or even construct permanent surfaces; the object was to get title to the adjacent lands. Many of the roads consisted only of blaze marks on trees. -- The 1860s road building fraud extended into the highest levels of state politics and was investigated by Congress in the 1880s. An 1888 New York Times article reporter that Oregon Governor George L. Woods (shown here) certified the land grants in spite of the fact that he hadn't even seen over 150 miles of the "pretended roads." All the road companies sold the lands they took in payment for road projects. Over the years some lands were returned to the federal government and some were involved in legal wrangles. Other lands remain as private holdings. Many are now held by large timber companies.
Inscription.  You're standing on part of a wagon road built in the 1860s by the Oregon Central Military Road Company and the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company.
In the 1860s, the new state of Oregon needed better roads for commerce and communication and to allow the military to rapidly respond to conflicts between settlers and Native Americans. Lacking the funds to build roads, the State invoked the federal Wagon Road Act of 1864, granting private industry ownership of lands along the roads as payment for road construction.
Most of the companies awarded these contracts were incompetent, and bribery, and payoffs were common business practices.

Fear of the Native American tribes in Eastern Oregon lead to both for building and road building and became an excuse to confiscate Tribal land. Fort Klamath (shown in the background) was occupied by the First Oregon Cavalry.
The Klamath Tribes' homeland was significantly diminished after the Oregon Central Military Road was built across land granted to the construction company through the Wagon Road Act. Tribal members protested, but at that time they had
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no political influence and were unable to change the outcome.
Klamath County operates a small museum on the site of Fort Klamath, located on Hwy 62. Fort Klamath is infamous for being the site were Captain Jack and three others of the Modoc Tribe were hanged in 1873,
Erected by Klamath County Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: MilitaryRoads & VehiclesWars, US Indian.
Location. 42° 55.804′ N, 121° 35.014′ W. Marker is in Kirk, Oregon, in Klamath County. Marker is at the intersection of Military Crossing Road (County Route 677) and Silver Lake Road (County Route 676), on the left when traveling north on Military Crossing Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Chiloquin OR 97624, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 2 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Steam, Iron, and Strong Backs (approx. 8.6 miles away); Geologic Apocalypse (approx. 8.6 miles away).
More about this marker. This marker is located in the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
A Sordid Wild West Story Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 7, 2020
2. A Sordid Wild West Story Marker
Copy of the New York Times "Unblushing Land Frauds" article image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 7, 2020
3. Copy of the New York Times "Unblushing Land Frauds" article
Click on image to enlarge it.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 7, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 7, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 124 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 7, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Jun. 5, 2023