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At the edge of history: The Francis S. Landrum Historic Wayside

The footprints of history overlap each other and are as fragile as a trail across the beach.

When a collection of agencies and history buffs dedicated the Francis S. Landrum Historic Wayside on July 4, 1996, they thought they'd put a permanent mark on thousands of years of history. But soon, budgets began to shrink and the wayside began a struggle to survive.

"They spent a lot of money to build it," said Todd Kepple, Klamath County Museum manager, "but nobody now has money to do much with it."

Funding for the wayside project came primarily from Klamath County Federal Highway Enhancement funds, ODOT and the Applegate Trail Coordinating Council.

Kepple said museum staff and volunteers try to keep the wayside functioning, but are left with few options.

"We have a number of people interested in the wayside, but right now about the only thing we can do is put the flags up in spring and take them down at the end of summer."

He said a lack of signs on the highway to help motorists find the wayside is also a problem.

"Most people just blow on by without knowing it's there."

The wayside was dedicated to Francis Landrum, a Klamath County businessman with a passion for Oregon and Northwest history. It also commemorates the pioneers' southern route to Oregon, the Applegate Trail.

The 1996 dedication marked the 150th anniversary of July 4, 1846, the day the emigrants first passed near this spot.

Before explorers came west, this was the homeland of the Modoc Indians, who were never consulted when Spain and the U.S. signed a treaty in 1819 dividing the territory at the 42nd parallel of latitude, which is the southern border of Oregon and runs through the Landrum wayside.

Land to the south became Mexico after the Mexican Revolution of the early 1820s, although, for a few more years, Russia held a tenuous claim to parts of the territory. When Mexico lost its war with the United States in the late 1840s, the U.S. took control of California.

At about the same time, the U.S. and Great Britain avoided war by settling their joint claims to Oregon.

So much history attached to the 42nd parallel, and yet, until 1868, it was just a line on a map. No one had surveyed and physically marked all of it.

U.S. Surveyor Daniel Major, who had an impressive reputation and national experience, was hired at $60 per surveyed mile, but at times his final line zigzagged off course as much as a half-mile.

Francis Landrum wrote of Major's work, "The present appraisal of Major's line, a century later, shows that he ran a mediocre to average survey."

Apparently, Major got it right at the wayside. An interpretive sign says his line lies directly under the gray stone obelisk that marks the 42nd parallel.

Before he died in 2002, Francis Landrum was able to look out from his wayside and stand on that line — a line at the edge of all that history.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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