Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Promised Land

Mrs. Jennie F. Lyford
Wayland, Mass.

Dear Madam:

Your letter of recent date in regard to Sec. 29 T. 33 S., R. 39 EWM in Malheur County, Oregon has been received and while this county has an area greater than the combined states of Mass. and Rhode Island I am sufficiently familiar with the entire county to tell you something of your land.

You ask me if I can dispose of your land.  I cannot and do not think I could give it away.  I am not in the real estate business, but have practiced law for about 40 years and while lawyers are often accused of crimes and misdemeanors and practices not consistent with good morals, justly or otherwise, yet I have never known a lawyer who has been guilty of selling such land as yours, even to an enemy; this for two reasons, first the honor that every lawyer possesses would deter him from an act of this kind, and secondly, he could not sell it.

I assume that you got this in a lottery scheme conducted by the old Southern Oregon Military Wagon Road Company, who possessed a military grant of land across the state, some 20 years ago, and, if so, it is one of the penalties of gambling or expecting something for nothing.

If the gambling microbe has entered your system and you must gamble, hunt up a poker game at home and sit in but leave western land games to the people of the west for your money would be more secure and as certain of return if secured by a chattel mortgage on a school of codfish in the Atlantic Ocean.

I would like to tell you that you had a fine property; that your land was valuable; had veins of silver and gold and a fine oil prospect and grand forests of pine and fir, but being a follower of Diogenes I am unable to do so and must tell you the truth.

Your land has no present value.  It lies on the west side of Crooked Creek in the southern part of the County and is without water or any hope of water.  It is very high, rough, rocky and destitute of vegetation of any kind and the whole section would not support more than one jackrabbit and his wife and, if there were any children, they would be compelled to go to Nevada to keep from starving to death.  Your land is about 111 miles from a railroad and not more than 20 from Hades and owing to the roads and nearness to the latter place, few people go to the railroad.

Grant said that you could deal with a surplus easier than with a deficit, but this would not be true as to your land or like land and in the lottery scheme it would be better that you drew five acres than 640.

The old Bay State has some poor land but is has Yankees to go with it, and a Paiute Indian would not camp on this section.  It were better that you had a section of “Blue Sky” for then the Assessor could not reach you and blue sky is not unpleasant to the eye.

I am sorry that I have not the time to say more of your land and land schemes in general, but probably after you have read this, you will not care to go further into the subject.

I can only salute you as being a fellow freeholder of the County of Malheur and express my sorrow that you have so much of it.

Yours truly,

Wm. E. Lees
Attorney at Law

Transcription of an old photocopy from the files of the University of Oregon Bureau of Governmental Research and Service, now closed.  I obtained a copy when I worked there in 1984; the original appeared to be part of the Bureau’s original files from the 1950s, but was an old document and probably came to the Bureau from an earlier source. The lawyer really existed, lived at least in later years in Nampa, Idaho and did practice in Malheur County. Crooked Creek is shown in the right location on an 1881 map of the region.

1 comment:

tgronke said...

It sounds like the old version of the 20th century free or cheap land scam, best known from its practice in the swamps of Florida. Even in the late 1990's to early 2000's, there were scams where folks were buying tiny slices of land for $1000 or less in god-forsaken bits of Nevada and Wyoming, sans any water rights or mineral rights.