For me, it is an exceptional find. At the bottom of box filled with old pictures from Del Norte County, under the flap, I realized there were some pictures, paper-clipped together.
When I pulled them out, in my hands were photographs that dated back to the mid-20s, though I’m certain they are reprints. At first I had no idea who the people were in the pictures so I set them aside with the intent to return to them at a later date.
That later date arrived and finally, I unclipped them to discover a faded card stuck in between the photos. The card reads: “The Roberts and the McBeths of Klamath Glen, uranium mining, abt. 1926.”
After a bit of online searching, I located a collection of pictures within the Humboldt State University photographic achieves that a Ruth Roberts, originally of Piedmont, California, took from 1915 to 1933. Furthermore, she became curator of the Del Norte County Historical Society Museum and the McNulty Pioneer Home in Crescent City, where she lived until she died on November 15, 1967.
As a kid, I didn’t know very much about ‘Old man’ McBeth other than he scared me. He was rough and gruff and didn’t put up with a lot of anything, having even thrown a wrench at me when I screwed up while helping him change the oil on the 1913 fire truck housed at what was then the Yurok Volunteer Fire Department.
Also as a kid, I remember seeing the two Redwood trees on the McBeth Ranch in the Klamath Glen that were known as the Hanging Trees. Published in the 1950s by Frances Turner McBeth, the book “Lower Klamath Country,” has a lot of great history on Del Norte County.
In it she describes: “In the fall of the year 1861, many of the Indians along the lower Klamath River had left their homes to go up-river and camp while gathering their winter’s supply of acorns. The annual fall pilgrimage was a major event in the life of the easy-going Indian.
Jard and his companions, Magash and brother, together with their women and children, were camped for a time at Tar-tare, a pretty spot of open land up the river from Terwer Valley. While the men hunted and fished, the women and children gathered acorns, smoked and dried the game and fish, and also laid in a supply of materials for basket making.
However, the soldiers had been sent to the Klamath to set up a fort at Terwer. There had been uprisings of the Indians, some of whom were friendly toward the whites.
The fort covered several acres of land lying between the banks of the river and the strip of redwoods that grew at the toe of the mountain. There were commissary buildings, barracks, officers’ quarters, and a lumber mill, well equipped with machinery, as well as vegetable gardens, flower plots, a dairy and work animals.
Everything had been provided to assure the comfort of the several hundred soldiers, officers, and the wives and children of members of the fort.
The floods of the winter of 1861 and 1862 had washed away most of the buildings and the fort was almost wrecked. In places, ten to 15 feet of alluvial soil had been washed out.
Death of a deserter Among the soldiers at the fort had been a man who had formerly been a bridge-builder. He deserted from his company, and not having been” caught, he had gone back to building bridges.
He had finished a wire bridge at Martin’s Ferry, some 40 miles up the river, and had come back down the river on a hunting trip; and was camped at Wats-Kaew. (Wats-Kaew is now known as Joe’s Prairie; it was renamed for the deserter after his death).
Jard, Magash, and his brother must have found the deserter in the clearing. They knew he had money with him; his body was found and it was reported that he had obviously been murdered.
Fort Ter-wer had on its payroll three friendly Indians who acted as scouts and detectives for the Government. One of these men was Chick-a-saw, Jimmie Jack’s grandfather. One was Captain Mike, an uncle of Peter Williams, and the third was Wet- luk, called George by the white men.
The scouts had been up and down the river and had stopped at Tar-tare, where Jard and his party were camping. Seeing no men about, they had inquired about them.
A little girl told the scouts that the men were up on the hill, pointing across the river to Wats-Kaew; the scouts suspected something was not quite right in the camp. It was found out later that the girl had heard her people talking about the murder. At the time she knew that the men had gone back to Wats-Kaew to bury the murdered deserter.
The Indian scouts turned in their reports; weeks went by and the bridge builder did not return to Martin’s Ferry. Suspicion was directed at the party of Indians camped at that time at Tar-tare.
The men of that party had been in hiding on Red Mountain, but a watch was kept on Jard’s home at Ah-loils, on the banks near where Ter-wer Creek empties into the Klamath, and also on the home of Magash, at Hah-paew, a few miles farther down the river, near where the town of Klamath now stands.
The suspected Indians gained confidence and returned to their homes. It was then an easy matter for the officers of the fort, with the assistance of Chic-a-saw, Captain Mike and Wet-luk, the Indian scouts, to take them into custody and place them in the jail at Fort Ter-wer.
Magash, however, escaped from jail and despite flying shots, succeeded by swimming low, in reaching the further side of the river at Yah-quelare, or McGarvey’s Creek, where he hid in the woods, but as he knew his brother was being held for trial, and rather than surrender he separated from him, Magash crossed back to the fort and gave himself up.
Captured and executed Early in 1862, after due military trial, the guilt of the three was established. They were taken into a grove of redwoods near the fort to be executed.
Two redwoods were notched to support the crosspiece, a plank was fixed for the prisoners to stand on, the nooses had been adjusted; but before the plank was taken out from under their feet, they were told to make their last statements, and Jard spoke thus: “Boys, be good and everybody be friends. Let white men and Indians always be brothers.”
When the plank was taken away, the struggles of two of them ceased in a few moments, but Magash, the knot on his neck not having been adjusted properly, threw his arms and legs up over the crosspiece, and the soldiers were obliged to hold him down by the feel until he died, which was at least an hour later.
Fort Terwer was evacuated in June 1962, and the site has grown back to forest land and been converted into farming. The slash mark on the trees can be seen and the names are still plain; the date is clear, but the new growth of bark has slowly covered the main body of the slash.”
She reportedly heard the story from Frank Woods, who had heard it from Starwen Bill, a blind Indian who had lived all of his life on the Klamath. Frank died in 1933.
Bill was a boy of perhaps fourteen at the time of the triple hanging and in 1929 when the story was first related to her, he was probably the only eye-witness of the event still living. He died in 1935.
How Frances relates to the McBeth clan, I’ve not figured out yet. But I do know she also wrote the history book titled “Pioneers of Elk Valley : Del Norte County, California.”
The unfortunate part about these pictures is the fact that no one in any of the pictures is individually identified. So I had to do some researching to learn what I could about Andy McBeth and his family.
He was born Stewart Andrew McBeth, to Charles Perry McBeth and Emma Jane Foster, September 18, 1901 in Arcata, California and died August 5, 1984 in Medford, Oregon, of a brain aneurism. His wife, Thelma Batt McBeth died of liver cancer while living with her sister Nina in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 2, 1985.
The two separated in 1965, but never divorced.
They also had a son, Darrel, who had water on the brain and fell from the kitchen sink which worsened the situation and resulted in his death. He was less than three-years-old when he passed away.
Andrew, Thelma, and Darrell are buried in same grave site, in Crescent City, California.
Thelma and Andy also have a daughter Andrea, who was born December 16, 1947 in Crescent City. She married Richard Lane September 7, 1968 in Klamath, however he died in 1973. She married for a second time to Donald Platsis, whose originally from Berkeley, California.