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Monday, December 5, 2016

Hallie Daggett: A Woman of Uncommon Fortitude.... By Gail L. Jenner


Although women were occasionally hired by the U.S. Forest Service as early as 1905, Hallie Morse Daggett (December 19, 1878 – October 19, 1964) was the first woman to serve as a USDA Forest Service fire lookout. She was hired by the Klamath National Forest in 1913 to work at Eddy’s Gulch Lookout Station atop Klamath Peak then went on to serve at the Eddy Gulch Lookout Station for another 14 years. The small cabin she was assigned to had been built of rough-hewn logs during the summer of 1912. 

The daughter of John and Alice Daggett—a Siskiyou County pioneer family—Hallie’s father was not only a successful miner, he also served as California's lieutenant governor and superintendent of the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. He married Alice Pamelia Foree in December 1870. Alice had traveled across the plains as a young child with her mother and father, William Green Foree, and, with them, settled down on a Spanish land grant in Vaca Valley. Pioneer records indicate that Alice Foree arrived in Klamath County in 1863, and, seven years later married John Daggett at Black Bear; he was 37 and she was 21. The couple had six children: Ben F., Hallie M., and Leslie W.; three other children died young.

Not only did John Daggett hire American miners to work for him at Black Bear Mine, which featured a 16-stamp mill, he also hired 300 experienced Cornish miners to come work for him. The Black Bear Mine was one of the most successful mines in the northern mining district and the Sawyers Bar/Salmon River mining region.

John Daggett was not only enterprising, he was a man of integrity. He hired Chinese miners and when one of his Chinese workers was brutally murdered, he brought in a gunslinger to protect the Chinese working for him. No one bothered his crews again. In addition to mining, Daggett was elected to the Assembly in 1858, 1859, and 1880. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1882 and appointed Superintendent of the United States Mint in San Francisco in 1893, a position he held for four years.

Hallie and her sister, Leslie, were accomplished and refined young women, having completed courses at girls’ seminaries in Alameda and San Francisco. Looking at her here, it is hard to imagine that she was actually a much more  rugged woman! Obviously she could succeed in many arenas.

In spite of their fine education and sophisticated upbringing, both Hallie and sister Leslie had a deep love for their childhood home at Black Bear Mine. With their brother Ben, they had explored many of the trails in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains. All had learned to hunt, ride, fish and shoot early in life. Hallie was especially adept at trapping and was an expert shot. She had no fear of bears or mountain lions; nor did she fear anything else in her rugged world, including the frequent electrical storms she endured on her mountaintop station.           
           
When Hallie applied as a Forest Service lookout, very few people would have taken her seriously; however, the only other two "candidates" were pathetic and could in no way be considered, so McCarthy, the supervisor in charge, was at a loss. He wrote that the last individual to apply was “no gentleman.” But, he added, this individual “has all the requisites of a first-class Lookout…The novelty of the proposition which has been unloaded upon me, and which I am now endeavoring to pass up to you, may perhaps take your breath away, and I hope your heart is strong enough to stand the shock.  It is this: One of the most untiring and enthusiastic applicants which I have for the position is Miss Hallie Morse Daggett, a wide-awake woman of 30 years, who knows and has traversed every trail on the Salmon River watershed, and is thoroughly familiar with every foot of the District.  She is an ardent advocate of the Forest Service, and seeks the position in evident good faith, and gives her solemn assurance that she will stay with her post faithfully until she is recalled.  She is absolutely devoid of the timidity, which is ordinarily associated with her sex as she is not afraid of anything that walks, creeps, or flies.  She is a perfect lady in every respect, and her qualifications for the position are vouched for by all who know of her aspirations.”
 
Hallie was hired as a “Forest Guard” at $840 a year and went to work on June 1, 1913. She would return each June for a four-to-seven-month tour of duty for the next 14 years. A 1914 article in the American Forestry magazine described Hallie’s devotion and work:  “Few women would care for such a job, fewer still would seek it, and still fewer would be able to stand the strain of the infinite loneliness, or the roar of the violent storms which sweep the peak, or the menace of the wild beasts which roam the heavily wooded ridges. Miss Daggett, however, not only eagerly longed for the station but secured it [the lookout job] after considerable exertion and now she declares that she enjoyed the life and was intensely interested in the work she had to do....

About the move to her mountain lookout, Hallie wrote: “It was quite a swift change in three days, from San Francisco, civilization, and sea level, to a solitary cabin on a still more solitary mountain, 6,444 feet in elevation, and 3 hours’ hard climb from everywhere, but in spite of the fact that almost the very first question asked by everyone was ‘Isn't it awfully lonesome up there?’ I never felt a moment’s longing to retrace the step, that is, not after the first half-hour following my sister’s departure with the pack animals, when I had a chance to look around ... I did not need a horse myself, there being, contrary to the general impression, no patrol work in connection with lookout duties, and my sister bringing up my supplies and mail from home every week, a distance of 9 miles.”
 Some of the Service men predicted that after a few days of life on the peak she would telephone that she was frightened by the loneliness and the danger, but she was full of pluck and high spirit...[and] she grew more and more in love with the work. Even when the telephone wires were broken and when for a long time she was cut off from communication with the world below she did not lose heart. She not only filled the place with all the skill which a trained man could have shown but she desires to be reappointed when the fire season opens this year.” 

Hallie Daggett was clearly a woman of uncommon fortitude and she has been a celebrated "heroine" for many in Siskiyou County. Just this year, her life was commemorated, and the cabin where she actually lived out the remainder of her life (but NOT the cabin pictured here as her lookout cabin), was recently renovated and a special ceremony was held in July at Etna City Park where the cabin has been moved, sponsored by the Native Daughters of the Golden West Eschscholtzia Parlor No. 112, Etna, California.
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Gail L. Jenner is grateful for being able to work with Prairie Rose Publishing, and her collection of stories published by PRP has grown since "joining the gang" in Dec. 2013 with the re-release of her WILLA Award-winning Across the Sweet Grass Hills.
For more about Gail, check out: www.gailjenner.com or http://www.amazon.com/Gail-Fiorini-Jenner/e/B005GHR47O
AND...be sure and check out  A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe! Available  NOW!


18 comments:

  1. Gail,
    What an interesting post. I'd never heard of Hallie. Love it when women bucked the establishment and were good at it too.

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    1. Yes, she is quite a local celebrity and her story is pretty intriguing. Have been doing more research on her lately! Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  2. Thank you. What a wonderful woman, and I love that she followed her passion. The more we know of these women, the more we realize what a great contribution all women have made to this life. Doris

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    1. Hi Doris! Yes, so true. No doubt she paved the way for many women in the forest service and as being capable of so much. I attribute much of her attitudes about life to her father and her upbringing. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Gail, thank you so much for sharing Hallie's story. I lived in California for ten years, but I have to say that this is the first I've heard of Hallie Daggett. What a fascinating and inspiring women, especially of that time period. Her sister Leslie seems also to deserve a lot of credit for making that long and arduous trip each week to keep Hallie supplied. Sometimes, I do dream of having a life like Hallie's.

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    2. Ah -- where in CA did you live? I've been up here in NORTHERN CA (40 miles from Oregon) for 45 years now, married a fourth generation cattle rancher. But I was raised in SF Bay Area, high school in Orange County, then went north to CSUChico and met my hubby. Yes, there is far more written about Hallie of course, but we are accumulating more info. about Leslie all the time. She did go on to marry, but the family was obviously very close and remained so. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Gail,

    I'd read a little about Hallie not long ago, and you added much more to her story. I admire her for many reasons not the least of which is she was a trailblazer for women working in non-traditional jobs.

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    1. Absolutely! She was unique for women of her time, yet handled herself with finesse and grace, at the same time. My husband's great aunt was a close friend of hers and everyone knew her as she settled in town (in the cabin that the NDGW restored, etc) in a cabin the townsfolk actually built for her. Pretty fascinating :-)

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  5. Gail, this post was so interesting. I'm an easterner, born in RI, lived most of my life in New York state, a few other places including overseas for short intervals when hubby was in the Navy, then returned to NYS. But I've always loved everything about the all the western states from terrain, to people and happenings. I'd never heard of Hallie and found my admiration for her as well as Leslie mounting as I continued to read. I live a short ways from Seneca Falls, NY where so many women made a difference in women's rights, etc. and I can never get enough wehn reading and exploring the various museums. I'd like to think I could do what Hallie and Leslie did back then, but man would it be a lonely type of life, even with a good companion of a dog. Not sure I could have endured for as long as they did. Thanks so much for this fascinating info. Wishing you much success with A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE and all others,(it's on my tbr list), plus a happy holidays to you and your family.

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    1. Thanks, Beverly! Yes, their story, esp. Hallie's, is encouraging and inspiring. Her father's history is equally fascinating. RI? My niece's hubby is from RI and he is a descendant of Roger Williams (we also descend from William Williams), and his family used to entertain Normal Rockwell's mother. They are 6 or 7 generations in the same location ;-) Haven't been to RI but always wanted to go. I do have lots of family in NJ and NY -- my father was first generation Italian-American (Fiorini) born in Newark (and my twin sister and I were born in West Orange). Lots of cousins, still!! Love to visit...Anyway, re: museums....we have some wonderful ones even in our small region. People here love their history. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Now here is a woman I can truly admire. Not only is she a well educated and refined lady of the times, but a smart, fearless, and wilderness savvy woman who doesn't mind being in her own company.
    Thank you for this wonderful and very interesting article, Gail. I truly enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Hi Sarah - yes, she was a real combination of traits. Locally she is quite celebrated, as well. I am continuing my research into her life and character. Thanks for taking time to read and comment :-) And have a great Christmas!

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  7. An utterly fascinating woman. I'd love to be inside her mind as she looked out at her solitary world. Physical activity must have filled a lot of her time, but where did her mind go at night? Did she read? Maybe she kept a journal. Her story and that of her sister is begging to be told. Is that where your thinking is going?

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    1. Ahhh, Vella! Maybe.......??? :-) I'm sure Hallie must have read a lot. She was certainly well educated and I know there are a number of old photos. Maybe letter writing, too???? No doubt, early to bed, early to rise....?

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  8. Gail, thanks for such a great blog about Hallie. She sounds like a truly Western woman. I have written and read about the lookouts in the Northwest. My husband served on one in Washington. It sounds like a great job. She was certainly qualified to be a lookout. I am glad she got the job!

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    1. Hi Julie - Well, you have a probably greater appreciation for Hallie than most of us :-) Yes, she was an unusual woman and I think she was quite qualified, in spite of even her supervisor's hesitation! Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. Yes, what fortitude! I grew up in Western Montana and knew several young men who were lookouts in the Rockies. But I didn't know any women. What an inspiration Hallie is!
    Bev Scott

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