North Fork Pioneer Woman
. . . . .. The next day she and Amos borrowed a small boat and rowed against the current for 6 hours until arriving about a mile from what was now their homestead. A kind neighbor invited the family to spend the night, and they were all too glad to remove themselves from the rowboat.
Letter To Her Mother
Clara Haring was born in London, England, the daughter of William and Emma (Hanman) Gamble. She immigrated with her parents and older brother to the United States in 1863 when she was 8 years old. Her father worked as a farmer in Iowa and Missouri before moving with the family to Coos Bay in 1873. A year later, Clara met and married Amos L. Haring in Coos Bay.
The North Fork area of the Siuslaw River was part of the original homeland of the Siuslaw Indians until 1875, when the government opened the coastal valley for homestead settlement to non-Indians. While on a hunting trip in 1878, Amos discovered the North Fork. At the time, only one white settler had established a homestead there. Undeterred, Amos filed a claim for a 160-acre homestead. He built a two-room cabin of hand split cedar with one window and an opening for the door. In 1879 he brought Clara and their 2 children to settle at the homestead. Clara covered the window with muslin and hung a blanket over the doorway as a substitute door.
In a letter to her mother, Clara wrote of the move from Coos Bay to Florence with her husband and their 2 children (Clara and Walter). It was “a long cold ride up the beach. We left Coos Bay at 2:30 that morning . . . . arrived in Florence just before 6 that evening. We spent the night in a three-room shanty they called the hotel . . . it did not look very inviting”. The next day she and Amos borrowed a small boat and rowed against the current for 6 hours until arriving about a mile from what was now their homestead. A kind neighbor invited the family to spend the night, and they were all too glad to remove themselves from the rowboat.
Clara became the first white woman to live on the North Fork, and their daughter Emma was the first white child born (1880) on the North Fork. In those early years while Amos was away working on boats for a month or more at a time to supplement their income, Clara remained on the homestead raising the children and doing chores to maintain their farm. In her letter, Clara admitted that “as the days and weeks went by, it began to get a little lonesome”. They seldom received mail, as the Post Office was a long distance away in Gardiner. Fortunately, after a few months, an arrangement was made with a man who travelled to Gardiner on a weekly basis and agreed to collect their mail for 25¢ per letter. She was delighted when a mail route was finally established between Gardiner and Florence.
Initially, there were 5 families living on the Siuslaw River. The first settlers had come in 1877 and although land claims had been taken, the Harings were the only white family on the North Fork of the river. Later, 2 other families moved to the area. There were 10 claims taken with cabins built on 6 of them. Men lived in them much of the time although the land was not surveyed until the following year.
After 10 years of living in their 2-room cabin, Amos built a large two-story house to accommodate their growing family of 9 children. Gladys (Gentry) Haring married Albert, the youngest Haring son and in a 1975 interview, described how in the early days the Harings produced butter, eggs, cheese, potatoes and fruit to take to Florence by rowboat and trade for groceries, clothes or cloth to make clothes. Little cash was used. The family fished in the river, setting nets for fish, which were taken to the cannery to be canned for the winter. The family established a vegetable garden, orchard, and productive dairy on their homestead. Butter was churned and shipped in 100-pound quantities for sale in San Francisco aboard schooners. The orchards were abundant with apples, cherries, plums and potatoes – with the excess used for bartering with the Indians. In turn, the Indians traded with clams, salmon and crabs.
To maintain the household, Clara bought four or five 50 lb. barrels of flour at a time, and would often utilize all of it before the next boatload arrived. There were no jetties at the time, making it difficult for boats to safely maneuver the bar, causing the arrival of goods to be unpredictable.
In a letter, Clara describes the flooding – “what used to alarm me was the high water in winter. Sometimes it was so high it would come into our house – 16 or 18 inches on our lower floor. Sometimes we would stay upstairs and if we thought it was dangerous to stay in the house, we would take a little bedding and food and go to the hillside in our boat.”
Clara Haring was a true pioneer and an inspiration to all. Life couldn’t have been easy, especially in the early years with her husband gone for much of the time. Yet, Clara kept up with the endless chores to maintain the farm and growing family. She served as the area’s first doctor and midwife, and is said to have delivered more than 100 babies, never having lost a baby or mother. She was the First President of the Siuslaw Pioneer’s Association organized in 1920, whose members resided in the Siuslaw Valley for 25 years. They held an annual celebration to honor people who contributed to the culture and history of the Siuslaw region. Clara was recognized as ” one of the outstanding pioneer women of the Siuslaw – intelligent, broadminded, and warm-hearted. She took her place among the pioneers, radiating kindness, charity and understanding.”