Residents of the tiny town of Linkville, Oregon, suffered a double hardship in the winter of 1889/90. First a disastrous fire wiped out the business district of the community that would later be renamed Klamath Falls.

A few weeks later, that summer’s crop-shriveling drought yielded to one of the harshest winters ever to be seen in the Klamath Basin.

Judge Alfred Leavitt, recalling that memorable winter some 40 years later in an article for the Evening Herald newspaper, told of one rancher who ran out of hay for his herd of at least 300 cattle a few miles north of Linkville.

The rancher hired several men to break a trail through drifted snow and push the herd to a south-facing slope, in hopes the cattle could survive on native mountain mahogany leaves. Most died anyway.

Judge Leavitt also recalled another man’s desperate move to save his family that lived near Keno, about 10 miles southwest of Linkville. He walked to town through deep snow, leading the family cow, and returned the following day burdened with as many supplies as he could carry, and his cow laden with three 50-pound sacks of flour.

Source: Evening Herald newspaper, Dec. 5, 1929.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at