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The Story of Happy Camp

January 26, 2011

by Judy Bushy

Happy Camp is located at the top of California in Siskiyou County deep in the heart of the Klamath National Forest and on the banks of the Klamath River at the confluence of Indian and Elk Creeks.

Karuk woman on Happy Camp mural

Karuk woman on Happy Camp mural

The people of the Karuk Tribe, meaning “upriver” people, have lived here since before history. In July 1851 a group of prospectors arrived from downriver, prospecting as they came and made camp here. They named the camp “Happy Camp” and that became the name of the town that grew up here. Many other sites of gold discovery became ghost towns, but Happy Camp endured.

Miner on Happy Camp mural

Miner on mural by Diane Hokanson

Miners at Thompson Creek area saw a large, ape-like creature which scared the Chinese miners, so that they wouldn’t go back to work for days. Today modern “Bigfoot” teams camp out and look for the legendary creature with modern technology. If no large apes are found, they’ve at least had a great time camping in the forest.

When mining declined, the lumber industry became the chief occupation. The Klamath National Forest, Happy Camp District, was founded here in 1905. Happy Camp was well known as the Steelhead Capital of the world! Fishing and hunting as well as the natural beauty brought visitors, and when the road was completed in 1928 travel became easier

Happy Camp built theLog High School

state of Jefferson roadstop

State of Jefferson Roadstop 1941

The State of Jefferson Scenic Byway is a memorial to a movement to carve a new state from Oregon and California. Due to the lack of state maintenance of roads and services, a movement to secede from California and Oregon and become the” State of Jefferson” was begun in the 1940’s.This “revolt” was every Thursday but ceased December 7, 1941 with Pearl Harbor when we rejoined our “united” country to help win a war. Mines from the area provided needed resources and the roads were improved to bring them out for the war effort.

When the last large lumber mill, Stone Forest Mill, closed in 1995, the community diversified in small business and recreation opportunities. Visitors and new residents come to escape the congestion of the city for the natural peace of the country life. The government of the Karuk Tribe remains here and provides a great deal of help to all the people of the area. Panning for gold, rafting or kayaking down the Klamath, hiking, biking, backpacking or camping draw many visitors each summer. Viewing wildlife, rock hounding, especially for Happy Camp jade, and a vast array of outdoor family recreation are available. The community is surrounded by wilderness areas: Red Buttes to the east, Siskiyou to the west, Marble Mountains to the south, and Kalmiopsis wilderness by the Oregon Caves to the North in Oregon.

Volunteers from many service and social organizations have a big impact on the community. Hometown festivals, like the Bigfoot Jamboree each Labor Day weekend, provide parades, fun, food and celebrate community values. It’s a friendly little town!

Come and visit, we’d be glad to have you!

Bolan Lake

Why History?

January 24, 2011

I have never taught history,
but history has taught me much.
David Starr Jordan

Truly free man will not regard the past as a castle to be defended. . . . for him the past will be a wonderland to be reinhabited by exploring the very places men have adventured in bringing the possible into reality.

Man does not set out on the sea of possibility empty handed and without charts. He brings with him the accumulated riches and wisdom of the ages.

Trust in where there is joy in being alive. Adventure occurs where there is the trust that, “All things work together for good” even in and through and beyond mans darkest hours of despair in the face of stunning natural catastrophe and unspeakable human perseverance

…Adventure is risk…
Without the risk of adventure, men could not act, and the miracle could not happen.

Arnold Come. Reluctant Revolution. How to Live with Change and Like It.

Our Happy Camp Log High School built 1933

January 21, 2011

Community United to build high school

by Judy Bushy
The Log Memorial Building on 4tth Avenue & East Street is an important part of Happy Camp’s History. It shows how one man with a vision of giving the young people of Happy Camp an education, and enlist the support of many community members that out of the unity of working together towards that purpose, great things could be accomplished. Times looked bleak in 1933 and the country was in the great depression, but that obstacle didn’t stop the community from completing a high school in Happy Camp.

In 1922 Gorham Humphreys had started a school for Happy Camp Students that included the first two years of high school. The classes were held at the local grammar school. Mr. Taylor was the school’s first teacher. He was followed by Miss Rudd, who taught for four years. The two year course was discontinued in 1928 for about three years, according to Justice Court Judge Philip Toleman. He was speaking at a dinner served by high school home economics department.

Humphreys obtained re-establishment of the two year high school after campaigning at his own expense to the district board. There were about 30 students then and they needed a four year course and a separate place from the grammar school which was also overcrowded. On March 3, 1933 with all the banks in the country closed and the depression in full swing, Gorham Humphreys, Dr. Mason and Judge Toleman presented to the district board the Grange plan to get the people together to build a school for Happy Camp. Toleman said that, “the board had a really a tough row to hoe, taxpayers were broke and appeared to request all expenditures be cut to the bone.” Still, Ed Kaupp of Mt. Shasta helped turn the board in favor of the project and they promised $500 for the purpose.
Bert Newton donated the land, helped build the Log High School and lost his life due to illness contracted when serving at a school activity. Bert Newton had started freighting with horses from Hornbrook to Klamath River points in 1910. From 1919 to 1930 he carried mail and parcel post from Hornbrook to Happy Camp, burying freighter franchises from Walter Bower and George Howard. By 1927 a new era had arrived—the automobile was replacing horses everywhere. So that spring he turned 57 head of stage horses loose with a herd of wild horses on the Bogus Range. He couldn’t even give them away!

Meanwhile, in 1920, he and his partners, his brother I.S. Newton and Harry Pence, had purchased most of the unimproved land in Happy Camp, erected a store, some cabins, a campground and a saw mill. He built the first building on what is now the Happy Camp Ranger Station at 2nd Avenue and Airport Road, and leased it as headquarters to the Forest Service for many years. The Log High School was then where the present high school is located.

Gorham Humphreys initiated the idea of the high school building and must have been able to convince many in the community of the value of proceeding to build, as it seems the community worked together with uncommon unity.

Logs for the new log high school were donated by the Forest Service and cut under the direction of Bob Titus. Toleman was in charge of the building operations. Milt Fowler set the foundation forms. Gravel was hauled by Ralph Gordon. Pete Grant, Mike Effman and others chopped notches in the logs. When things got “bogged down” in August (of 1933) men weren’t able to come when needed and a few forgot that they had pledged a certain amount of labor and many in town thought maybe they had “bitten off more than we could chew…” That is when the women of the Grange put on a couple of noon picnics to get a large group together to put on thee roof. Other women encouraged the work on optimistically. Ora head (Mrs. Guy Head) encouraged the workers to stay with it, urging all to remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day>”

In September, two large classrooms were ready for Mr. Lowe and Miss Fite, the teacher, to begin classes. The people of Happy Camp had built a high school for education of its young people with only about $1,000 from the District Board.

In November of 1933 a dedication was held. At that time, Toleman said, “we were hearing a lot about the age of rugged individualism that was past. At this time I would like to say that it was that spirit, combined with a will to help each other that did the job. And in passing I believe that it is proper to note that the teachers who lead in the education of our youth and who at times may wonder if their efforts are really appreciated cannot help but feel that the answer is YES, when they have occasion to work in or even hear of a high school that has grown under the conditions that this one has here in Happy Camp.”

The first graduating class in 1935 included Mae Barney, Marshall Vanhoy, Ruth Baker, Robert Humphreys, Nina Sedros, Edna Fowler, Paul Good, Geraldine Titus, George Logan and Florence Sutcliffe.

Gorham Humphreys must have felt great happiness when his son, Robert was one of the first graduates of the school. He had seen a need for a high school and enlisted others to work with him to bring his vision to reality. Several children had died but his surviving four daughters and son had a great example of a father concern for their education. Of his daughters, Bertha married Tom Carter who was Forest Ranger. Viola became a nurse, Aurelia was a teacher and Hazel went to college in Marin County and then married Finley Joyner. The son, Robert who graduated in 1935 died in Italy on the last day of the war in Europe.

Eventually a new high school building was needed. The principal, Arthur French, said “For two and one-half years teachers and equipment have been crowded together into 2,400 square feet of floor space.” The new building was expected to cost $438,000 and the bond bill was to be voted on according to the April 16, 1955 Klamath River Courier. “The new facility provided large modern home economics room and a complete science room. It would also allow development of a commercial department and library.” Dr. Jere Hurley, Superintendent of Siskiyou County’s Joint Union High School District gave the speech dedicating the new building to “the principles of democracy and the constitution of the United States, to all students –past, present and future.” Short addresses were also given by Sharon Titus, Carol Evans and Gene Erskin of the High School Student Board.

The old Log Memorial Building was to be moved to another site, and perhaps used for a library or museum. It was believed to be the only high school building constructed of logs still in use at the time. When “Old Timers” look at the Log Memorial Building they recall how the whole community united in the effort to bring education to our children.. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we work together toward our goals!

Sarah’s Poem Aobut Our Log High School

January 20, 2011


From “Before The White Man Came”
by Charles S Graves c1934

Composed by Sarah Barney and sung by
Sarah and Mae Barney during the ceremony
of dedication of Happy Camp High School.

Down in a valley
In Happy Camp,
In our log High School
A tribute by all;

Willing hands lended
Lumber was bought,
Logs brought from mountains
To our School lot.

Community Spirit
Labor and toil
Community Spirit
For our High School.

Indian Creek murmurs
Down ‘neath the bank,
Whispering a message
As it goes by.

We’re proud of our High School
Our vision came true,
That we had pictured
From years before.

It’s through our efforts
Burdens and trials,
That our log High School
Stands here today.

Community Spirit
Labor and Toil
Community Spirit
Made our High School.

Editor’s Note: See more information on the Log Memorial High School in Happy Camp and how it was built on the Community page.

Early photo of little log high school & students. 


Indian Creek

Indian Creek, downstream from the Eddy.

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Happy Camp River Access Buck

A buck at the Happy Camp River Access.

Elk Creek Bridge

The Elk Creek Bridge.

Klamath River

Downriver, about four miles.