A Scottish Syndicate in the Redwoods: Monopoly & Fraud in the California Redwoods, 1882-1892
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.
by Marvin Dale Shepherd
Paperback, 192 pages
courtesy of Humboldt County Historical Society