Georgie Press, 2015. Trade Paperback. Item #272949
184 pages. The first modern account of the money and fraud behind the large timber holdings in Humboldt County, California. In the 1870s and 1880s, corrupt land agents backed by Edinburgh investors paid sailors and other itinerant travelers to file claims for timberland and then transfer them to large holding companies. Virtually all the lumber fortunes in the region were built that way.
In 1882, three lumbermen in Humboldt County, California and a Scottish commission merchant in San Francisco developed a plan to acquire over 50,000 acres of redwood timberland located in northern California, and to sell them to a Scottish syndicate. The plan involved hundreds of entrymen, post-dated land entry forms, and ethically challenged government land office employees, all managed from a back-room office in Gorham Barnum's Saloon. The three men also developed a second plan to create a monopoly in the manufacturer of redwood lumber by purchasing the assets of four lumber companies and becoming the largest manufacturer of redwood lumber in the world. The second plan involved a $4,000,000 investment from another Scottish syndicate. Government investigators believed that the first plan was fraudulent and indicted eleven persons who were directly involved. The notoriety of the first plan became attached to the second and was partially responsible for the failure of the attempted monopoly after only 19 months of operation. Shepherd vividly details the process for acquiring the redwood timberlands and the attitudes of the entrymen as well as the lumbermen that prevailed in that pioneering era. He addresses the land laws, inadequate funding of the government land office and the limited oversight that was provided while passing government lands into private hands. He also describes the attempted bribery of two government investigators and the intimidation of some of the entrymen after they agreed to become government witnesses.