Troublesome trespass at Davis Lake leads to altercation
The Homestead Act of June 11, 1906, provided that forest land primarily valuable for agriculture could be made available, occupied and eventually be patented as a homestead.
This act resulted in most of the land that even could qualify remotely as suited for agriculture being claimed.
One of the most troublesome claims was the infamous House Case at Davis Lake. Davis Lake is located in southern Deschutes County and northern Klamath County west of Crescent.
A man named House applied for a homestead claim along the banks of Davis Lake in 1915. The claim was rejected by authorities as not meeting the criteria for a homestead claim. He reapplied, and again, his claim was rejected.
He decided to build a cabin on his submitted claim and ignore the rejection of his claim. Steps were taken to evict him, and the area of his rejected claim became part of the Deschutes National Forest late in 1915. A U.S. Marshal was requested by the government to escort Mr. House to Portland where he was brought before the U.S. Court.
House managed to get the ear of Senator Lane, who apparently told him to go back to his claim and stay there. House returned, and the U.S. attorney dropped the case.
The next move by House was to refuse to let L.L. Jones' sheep pass along the lakeshore in front of his cabin. He told Jones to go back through the lodgepole, yet the road always had been the stock driveway as well as a wagon road.
Forest Ranger Mahn at Davis Lake called Supervisor M.L. Merritt at Bend, and Merritt drove to Davis Lake. He interviewed Jones and Mahn and then, on the advice of the U.S. Forest Service attorney in Portland, went with Jones to Klamath Falls to seek redress through the county district attorney.
The district attorney told them that if House were in trespass, they should take action to stop the trespass before coming to him. Merritt and Jones returned, defeated.
Jones made one more attempt to get his sheep across the meadow, determined to disregard House entirely, but House was in the road with a rifle. He was valiantly backed by his wife. Jones retreated and sent for Ranger Mahn, who was at a nearby ranger station. Mahn arrived and argued with House regarding the matter. House then made a big mistake. He and his wife jointly attacked Ranger Mahn. Mahn kept away from Mrs. House and gave Mr. House a significant licking.
The sheep passed by, and the next morning, the House family hitched up their one horse to a wagon and loaded the family household belongings, and they left for parts unknown. He was never heard from again.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.