On the prairie, the wind blew. But in the mountains, there was rain. When we stopped at little timber claims along the way, the homesteaders said it had rained all summer. Crops among the blackened stumps were rotted and spoiled. There was no cheer anywhere, and little hospitality. The people we talked to were past worrying.They were scared and desperate.

Dose "timber claims" means: an area that is owned by someone?

This passage is from a short story named: Too Soon A Woman by Dorothy M.Johnson

  • 1
    It means areas within which homesteaders have claimed the right to fell and sell timber. They might also be laying claims to own the land, but it's not inherently necessary that a person should own the land from which he claims the right to extract minerals or vegetation products. Given references to "blackened stumps", perhaps these homesteaders are later arrivals after all the timber was extracted by others before (and they've just come along afterwards to raise crops on land which is now exhausted in terms of timber production). Nov 19, 2018 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Merriam Webster:

Noun, claim

": something that is claimed especially : a tract of land staked out The prospector's claim was set at 90 yards to reduce the potential for conflict."

though claims were often for mining, there could be a claim for any type of land, such as farmland or timber land.

In American history, this is known as laying or staking a claim to land. It is a favorite "thing" in many Hollywood movies about the West.

  • The idiom "to stake a claim" is still in common use, for example, "The automaker [Ford] is drawing from its strengths in pickup trucks and commercial vans to try to stake a claim to robot delivery, which Marakby said could be a $130 billion business by 2026."
    – Andrew
    Nov 19, 2018 at 17:32
  • @Andrew Of course, I don't always put in every single metaphorical usage.
    – Lambie
    Nov 19, 2018 at 18:10

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