Many of these entries have been adapted from Nathan Douthit, A Guide to Oregon South Coast History, Oregon State University Press (1999) and Douthit, The Coos Bay Region, Coos County Historical Society (2005). Other important sources of information are Emil Peterson and Alfred Powers, A Century of Coos and Curry, Coos-Curry Pioneer and Historical Association (1952) and Orville Dodge,Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, OR., Coos-Curry Pioneer and Historical Association (1898) and Images of America: Coos Bay by Andie Jensen (2012). Source notes within entries below reference these publications.
A Selective Chronology of South Coast History:
15,000-13,000 before present
An ice dam that blocked the Clark Fork River in western Montana, and which had created 2000 foot deep Lake Missoula, burst. Shooting out a a rate ten times the combined flow of all the rivers of the world, over 500 cubic miles of water thundered toward the Pacific Ocean with flood speeds of approximately 65 miles per hour. The ice dam eventually reformed and the flooding sequence may have occurred an additional 40 different times on an average of 50 year intervals. Huge amounts of soil were stripped from lands east of the Cascades and deposited in the Pacific. Currents and winds eventually deposited massive amounts of sand along the South Coast from the Coos River north to the Siuslaw River, creating today’s Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
10,000 (+/-?) years bp
The earliest radiocarbon dating of human habitation on the South Coast at Indian Sands, (near Boardman State Park) indicate that a human culture developed by this date. Over the millennia, the original people here learned to deal with the climate and geography of the Oregon South Coast.
5000-4000 years bp
Radiocarbon dating of Native American artifacts from Bullards State park excavations. The picture to the left is of tools used by early Native Americans.
The earliest recorded approach by Europeans to the South Coast occurred when Spanish sea captains Juan Rodriguez and Bartolome Ferrelo explored what is now the coastline of Curry County. Cape Ferrelo is the first point of Oregon land named by the Europeans. (see Guide, p 4)
British explorer Sir Francis Drake, with his ship the Golden Hinde, took shelter in the South Cove of Cape Arago. In 1977 a commemorative plaque honoring Drake was placed at South Cove. A replica of his ship (see photo right) entered Coos Bay in 1987. (see Guide, p 115)
Spanish explorer Martin Aguilar explored the South Coast by sea and named Cape Blanco. (see Guide, p 4)
Between 9-10 a.m. on January 26th, a 9.0 earthquake rocked the west coast of the Pacific Northwest. The quake, from the fault line of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, created a tsunami that inundated the bays and sloughs of the South Coast. (see www.pnsn.org)
British Captain James Cook sailed along the Oregon coast, sighting and naming present day Cape Arago. (see Century, p 2 and Guide, p 6.)
The first known contact with South Coast Indians by coastal fur traders occurred when American Captain James Baker’s Jenny entered the mouth of the Umpqua River and traded with the Natives for a period of about twelve days. (see Guide, p 6)
British Captain George Vancouver anchored his ships just south of Cape Blanco at present day Port Orford and traded with the natives. (see Century, pp 5-6 and Guide, p 7)
On February 8th, William Clark, wintering at Fort Clatsop near the Columbia with Meriwether Lewis and the Corp of Discovery, reported the existence of the “Cook-koo-oose nation”. The photo of his journal entry below says: “I saw Several prisoners from this nation with the Clatsops and Kilamox, they are much fairer than the common Indians of this quarter, and do not flatten their heads.” This is the first written mention of the Coos Indians by Euro-Americans. (see Guide, p 8 and Lewis and Clark journals)
Hanis Coos Indian villages at Tenmile Lake were entirely wiped out by smallpox. Some villages around Coos Bay were also depopulated. (see Tricky Like Coyote , p 8)
Hudson’s Bay Company’s Alexander McLeod explored from the Umpqua River region south through Coos Bay, up the South Fork of the Coquille River (Powers Valley area) to the Rogue River. He was assessing the potential for fur trade in the area. (see Century, pp 9-10 and Guide, p 8)
David Douglas, a British botanist for who the Douglas fir is named, discovered and described the myrtle tree as he found it along the Umpqua River. (see Guide, p 94)
One of America’s most important explorers, Jedediah Smith, led an expedition of nineteen men and about 300 horses north from California along the beaches of the South Coast of Oregon to the Umpqua River. They were the first white Americans to travel by land through the South Coast. Due to poor relations Smith’s party established with the Indians, all but Smith and two of his men were attacked and killed by the natives at current day Bolen Island at the Umpqua River. (see Century, pp 11-18 and Guide, pp 27-28)
A measles outbreak struck Indian villages on Coos Bay. Native population declined from over 2000 at its peak to about 800 by the time of white settlement in 1853. (see Tricky Like Coyote, p 9)
A party of San Franciscans called the “Klameth Exploring Expedition” established a townsite on the north spit of the Umpqua River entrance they called Umpqua City. That same year a businessman named Levi Scott established a White settlement 26 miles up the Umpqua River that was called Scottsburg.(see Guide, pp 16 and 158)
In October, a two-masted brig named “Kate Heath” became the first U.S. ship known to cross over the Coos River bar and enter Coos Bay. It had mistakenly entered Coos Bay on its way to deliver immigrants and supplies to a new white settlement on the Umpqua. Upper Hanis Coos villagers abandoned a plan to ambush the ship and destroy it when other native leaders talked them out of it. When word reached Patrick Flanagan about the location of the ship, he followed the beach route south from the Umpqua to Coos Bay to direct the ship north. Flanagan later decided to settle in south Coos Bay and became one of the most important pioneers of Marshfield. (see Tricky Like Coyote, p 14)
Captain William Tichenor landed a party of men at Port Orford to establish the first White coastal settlement. Later that year a skirmish with Indians occurred at nearby Battle Rock. The sketch below is from Harper’s Magazine, 1856. (see Guide, pp 63-65 and also Pioneer History, pp 21-31 and also Century, pp 37-40)
In January, the Captain Lincoln wrecked on the North Spit of Coos Bay. 52 U.S. soldiers from the ship established “Camp Cast-A-Way” on the spit while awaiting rescue. They met and traded with local Indians, and explored what they called “Kowes Bay”. Upon their rescue, they brought attention to the area. Miners, settlers, and merchants arrived a year later. (see Century, pp 44-45)
In May, nineteen men led by Capt. William H. Harris and P.B. Marple started the “Coose Bay Commercial Company” and established the first White settlement in Coos County on the bay, calling it Empire City (see photo below). (see Century, pp 45-48) Captain Harris was the first citizen to file a land claim at Empire City: the first land filed upon in the county under any land laws of the United States. (see Pioneer History, pp 131-132 and Tricky Like Coyote, pp 17-19). Awhile after Empire City was established, Mrs. Ester Lockhart was among the first three White women to settle in the county where she started the first school. (see Century, pp 213 and 272-273)
In July, gold was discovered at Whiskey Run beach north of the mouth of the Coquille River. A camp called Randolph was soon established there. The boom town existed only a year or two as stormy weather and heavy seas eroded the black sand beach by 1855. (see Guide, pp 112-113)
The first sawmill in Coos County, most likely to supply the Randolph miners, was built by George Wasson and partners near Bullards on the lower Coquille River. It was powered by an undershot water wheel. A small schooner was also built near Randolph to haul supplies between the mining camp and Empire City. This may have been the first boat building by Whites along the South Coast. (see Guide, pp 112-113)
J.C. Tolman from the Coose Bay Commercial Company built a cabin on upper Coos Bay at a place he called Marshfield after his old home in Massachusetts. (see Century, p 100)
Coos County was officially established by the Oregon Territorial legislature on December 22nd. Empire City is designated at the first seat of county government.
In January about 40 miners from Randolph killed at least 16 Miluk Coos Indians near the mouth of the Coquille River. (see Tricky Like Coyote, pp 21-22)
On July 3rd, the new Coos County Board designated the first official county road. “The Beach Route”, as it came to be known, started at the Empire City wharf, also called “The Hollering Place”. After yelling for transportation across to the North Spit, passengers would take a horse drawn wagon up the beach, crossing the mouth of Tenmile Creek, to the Umpqua River. There passengers could get river and stage transportation inland. (see Century, pp 480-481 and Guide, pp 163-165) For several decades, beach travel was one of the few available routes across Oregon because the landscape made road and rail construction difficult. In 1913, Governor Oswald West convinced the state legislature to designate all of Oregon’s beach property as public land primarily to preserve a vital north-south transportation link. He could have pointed to the precedence set by the Coos County “Beach Route”.
During the summer, Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs of the Oregon Territory, conducted treaty talks with tribes on the south coast. Although virtually all tribes signed the treaty, it was never ratified by Congress. (see Tricky Like Coyote, pp 24-25)
The Rogue River Indian War broke out in the fall of 1855.
Henry Luse and Asa M. Simpson began operation of the first sawmills on Coos Bay by this time: Luse at Empire City and Simpson at North Bend. (see Century, p 426 and also Pioneer History, p 463)
Following the Rogue River Indian War, Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians were held temporarily at a reservation near Ft. Umpqua on the north shore of the Umpqua River. Lower Coquille Indians were removed by ship to Portland and then, in 1859, marched to the Great Coastal Reservation near Yachats. (see Guide, pp 17-18 and Tricky Like Coyote, p 42)
The brig Blanco was the first ship built on Coos Bay at North Bend. (see Century, p 106)
The first lighthouse built on the Oregon coast was constructed on the sandy south beach of the Umpqua River. However it was washed away by a storm in 1861. The current Umpqua Lighthouse, on the cliffs above the river’s mouth, first flashed its light in 1894. (see Guide, p 155)
Oregon became the 33rd state on Valentines Day, February 14th.
“The Baltimore Colony”, led by pioneer Dr. Henry Hermann, settled in the upper Coquille Valley near Broadbent. (see Century, pp 48-53 and Guide, p 100)
The Port Orford Meteorite was discovered by government geologist Dr. John Evans, but its location was soon “lost” when Evans died. (see Century, pp 504-505)
Coos and Lower Umpqua Indians were removed from Ft. Umpqua to Yachats Prairie on the central Oregon Coast. (see Tricky Like Coyote, pp 33-41 and Guide, p 18)
Henry Meyers platted the first town site in the Coquille River Valley and called it Meyersville. It was later called Ott and finally Myrtle Point when it was incorporated in 1887.(see CB Region, p 31)
Acknowledging the ever-growing ship traffic along the South Coast, the Cape Arago Light on Gregory Point, near Sunset Bay, began operation (see right photo). This was the first permanent lighthouse established on the Oregon Coast. (see Century, pp 119-121)
John Pershbaker established a sawmill and store at Marshfield creating a boom in that area (see Century, pp 100-101).
A huge Coos County fire burned 90,000 acres of old growth Douglas Fir in what is known thereafter as “the big burn”. (see Tricky Like Coyote, p 53) The fire caused massive environmental damage. As the land was now deemed unusable for settlers, it reverted back to the state of Oregon. As the timber regenerated, the land was established as Oregon’s first State Forest in 1929.
The Coquille post office was established on July 1st. (see Century, p 119)
The Cape Blanco Lighthouse began operation. It was illuminated in 1875 (making it the longest running illuminated light) and is the most westerly lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. (see Guide, p 68)
The Marshfield post office was established. (see Century, pp 100)
T.M Vowell built a store on a farm owned by Titus B. Willard and began platting the town of Coquille. The town would be incorporated by 1885. (see CB Region, p 31)
The Coos Bay Wagon Road opened, connecting Coos County with the Roseburg and Umpqua River valley areas.(see Guide, pp 88-94)
David Wagner, his family, and other North Carolinians settled the upper south fork of the Coquille River. The Wagners built the “Pioneer House” at Powers. The same year, the Tower House in Empire City was built. These are currently the two oldest structures in Coos County. (see Century, pp 126-127 and Guide, pp 100-102 and 137)
Marshfield became the first incorporated town in Coos and Curry counties. (see Century, pp 101)
The first oyster bed on Coos Bay was planted at the mouth of South Slough by James O’Shin. (see Guide, p 130)
Master ship builder John Kruse of North Bend finished the Western Shore, a three-masted wooden clipper ship that is one of the largest tall ships ever built on the Pacific Coast. (see image above). In 1876 the Western Shore made a record run from Portland, Oregon to Liverpool, England in only 101 days. (see Century, pp 416- 417)
The federal government closed the Great Coastal Reservation. Many Coos, Umpqua, Siuslaw, and Coquille Indians drifted back to their South Coast homelands only to find White settlement everywhere.
The Southport Mine on Isthmus Slough opened. It proved to be one of the most successful mines of the region, producing coal through World War II. (see Guide, p 148) The miners lantern (right photo) is an artifact at the Coos History Museum & Maritime Collection
The first cheese production in the county was going strong on the Anson Rogers farm on the South Fork of the Coos River (see Century, p 341)
Captain Judah Parker started Parkersburg on the lower Coquille River. He built a sawmill and shipyard at the site. (see Guide, p 84)
The Bandon post office was established by George Bennett, a pioneer who had settled the area a few years earlier. The first settlement had been called Averrill but was changed to the name of Bennett’s hometown in Ireland. (see Century, p 111)
Curry County’s first newspaper, the Port Orford Post, was published.
Congress appropriated money for a jetty at the mouth of the Coquille River.
The settlement known as Dairyville took on the official name of Langlois after the name of an early settler and current postmaster. (see Century, p 443 and Guide, p 74.)
The first salmon cannery on the Coquille River was established near Parkersburg. It was operated by the Gatchell family. The CCHS photo to the right is labelled “A salmon catch on Coos Bay”. (see Century, p 443)
The first splash dam in the Pacific Northwest was built by Charles Granholm on the North Fork of the Coos River. (see Dow Beckham, Swift Flows the River, pp 31-32) The photo to the right is of the Aasen Bros splash dam on Middle Creek, Coquille River in 1912.
Charles McFarlin introduced cranberries to Coos County. His new variety soon became a national standard. The CCHS image below shows his first bog on the South Coast located at the North Slough near current day Hauser.
Coquille was incorporated as a city. (see Century, p 119 and CB Region, p 31)
Binger Hermann, son of Baltimore Colony leader Dr. Henry Hermann who had pioneered Broadbent, began service as a U.S. Representative to Congress. He served 16 years as a Congressman and is the only Coos County citizen to ever serve in that capacity. (see www.infoplease.com)
Myrtle Point was incorporated as a city. (see Century, p 116 and CB Region, p 31)
The Louis was constructed in North Bend under the guidance of John Kruse. It was the first five-masted schooner built in the U.S. (see Century, p 411)
E. Westen laid out the town site of Riverton on the Coquille River in the fall. The post office was established the following year. (see Century, p 123)
Ellensburg became known as Gold Beach and a wagon road was completed from there to Coos County.
The “Coos County Pioneer Association” was established on November 5 at Coquille. Judge David Lowe served as first president. This was the founding of the current Coos County Historical Society, the second oldest local historical society in Oregon. Orville Dodge, the association’s first secretary, printed the first written history of the region seven years later: Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties (see Century, pp 318-319 and Pioneer History pp iii-iv)
The town of Bandon was incorporated. (see Century, p 111)
The first electrical plant was established in the county at Marshfield.
The Sun newspaper and job printing shop opened for business on Front Street in Marshfield. It moved to its present location in 1911. When editor Jesse Luse died in 1944, it was the longest running weekly newspaper in the state. In the 1970s the Sun Printing Museum was established. (see Guide, pp 144-145)
The Coos Bay Creamery Association, later called the Coos Bay Mutual Creamery, was formed on Coos River near the Dan McIntosh Ranch. The photo below of sample milk bottle caps in Coos County is courtesy of the CCHS. (see Century, pp 342 and Coos Bay Region, p 7)
The “Coos Bay, Roseburg, and Eastern Railroad” line connected Marshfield, Coquille, and Myrtle Point….but it never made it to “Roseburg and Eastern” (see Guide, p 148). It did became an important link between north and south Coos County and the first telephone line between Myrtle Point and Marshfield was completed alongside the railroad tracks as well.
Adam Pershbaker started the town of Prosper on the lower Coquille River. The important Emil Heuckendorff shipyard was established soon thereafter. (see Guide, p 83)
The second Umpqua River Lighthouse (the present one) began operation near Winchester.
The Beaver Hill mine opened on the hillside above Beaver Slough and the northwestern end of the Coquille River valley. Dr. Everett Mingus arrived there three years later to serve as the company doctor. (see Coos Bay Region, p 5)
J.H. Timon opened a successful coal mine at Riverton. Some of the first African-Americans to move to the South Coast came to work as Riverton coal miners. (see Guide, pp 84-85)
The citizens of Coos County voted to move the seat of county government from Empire City to Coquille where it remains today. The photo seen below to the right is of the Coos County Courthouse in the 1900’s. (see Century, p 119)
The Bandon Lighthouse at the mouth of the Coquille River was completed. It was the last of eight Oregon Coast lighthouses to be built. (see Guide, p 109)
Beaver Hill, an important coal mining community, was incorporated as a city on January 11th. By 1926 it was practically a ghost town and 15 of the 16 remaining voters chose to dis-incorporate the city. (see Century, pp 135-136)
The Moore Lumber Company began activities in the Bandon area. It would remain a major employer in the town through the 1960s. (see Century, p 112)
In September, an African-American bootblack and boxer named Alonzo Tucker was arrested for the rape of a white wife of a Libby miner. A mob of angry miners stormed the Marshfield jail, chased and shot the escaping Tucker, then lynched his already dead body from a bridge on 7th Street that spanned present day Golden Field in Coos Bay. (see CB Region, pp 84-85)
The Marshfield Public Library was established in June and first opened in the Henry Sengstacken Building. In 1914 a newly dedicated library building, with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, was established in Marshfield (Jensen, p 46)
The North Jetty at the mouth of the Coos River was completed. (Images: Shipwrecks, p 39)
The Coos Bay area Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 538 was formed on November 22nd. (Images: Coos Bay, p 46)
In December, North Bend was incorporated one year after founder Louis J. Simpson purchased and replatted the townsite of Yarrow and merged it with “Old Town”, the mill site of his father, Asa. Louis is considered the founder of the town of North Bend. (see Century, p 107 and CB Region, pp 35-36)
The cornerstone to Mercy Hospital in North Bend was laid. Staffed by the Sisters of Mercy, the land had been donated by town founder Louis Simpson. The hospital was opened in 1906 at rates advertised as “$10 or more per week”. (Images: North Bend, p 42)
Dr. Walter Culin of Coquille became the owner of the first “horseless carriage” in the county. (see Century, p 490)
K.V. Kruse and Robert Banks opened the largest ship building facility on the bay at North Bend: Kruse and Banks Shipyards. (see Coos Bay Region, p 10)
Louis Simpson, the first mayor of North Bend, completed a summer house at Shore Acres near Cape Arago. The residence burned down in 1921. (Images: Coos County, p 28)
The first daily newspaper in the region, The Coos Bay Times began publication after buying out the weekly Coast Mail. Today it is known as The World. (CB Region, p 34).
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America formed a local Marshfield union on February 19th. (Images: Coos Bay, p 98)
The Siuslaw National Forest was created by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt. (Guide, p 163)
Charles Axel Smith started the C.A. Smith Lumber Company and built a mill at the mouth of Isthmus Slough on Coos Bay. It was reported to be the largest lumber mill in the world at that time. (see Guide, p 20 and p 145 and CB Region, pp 71-73 and Images: Coos County, pp 46-47)
The first automobile to come over the Coos Bay Wagon Road took a week to travel from Roseburg to Marshfield. By 1913 a regular auto-stage was operating by the Laird family along this route. (Guide, pp 92-93)
In March, L.J. Simpson ordered six boilers to be installed at the Porter electric lighting plant near North Bend. Three miles of heavy copper wire were also ordered to connect North Bend and Marshfield with electricity.
L.J. Simpson and Horace Byler placed the Lakeside town site on the market in April advertising it as “the most desirable tracts in the wonderful Ten Mile Country”.
In May, Winnifred Rood and Johanna Volz of North Bend became the first four-year high school graduates in Coos County at Central School in North Bend. State school superintendent J.H. Ackerman was on hand to present the diplomas.
In October construction started on Kinney High School near Pony Slough in North Bend. It was named for L.D. Kinney for the first year of operation. But the name was changed to North Bend High School in 1910 when it was discovered that Kinney did not have clear title to the land he had donated to the school district.
The Weyerhaeuser Timber Company purchased over 27,000 acres of timberland in southwestern Oregon.
A rivers and harbors bill passed in Congress in February and included an appropriation of $20,000 for dredging the inner harbor of the port of Coos Bay. The Port of Coos Bay was established. (Images: Coos County, p 63)
The Chandler Hotel opened in downtown Marshfield. It was named for William S. Chandler, a manager of coal mining and railroad interests in the area and a major investor in the building. This marked an important shift of Marshfield’s downtown core away from the waterfront. (see Guide, pp 138-139 and Images: Coos Images, p 41)
In May, the first annual “Coos County Track & Field Meet” was held in Marshfield. Each high school in the county annually participates in the meet which has now become the oldest continuously held track meet in the state.
The Czarina wrecked on the Coos Bay bar. Twenty-four people were killed in one of the worst shipwrecks on the South Coast. (see CB Region, pp 20-23)
Members of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints completed the building of a round church in Myrtle Point that would later serve as the home of the Logging Museum. (Images: Coos County, p 117).
Albert S. Kohler established The Hub department store in downtown Marshfield. It will be considered to be one of the finest shopping facilities on the South Coast until its demise in the 1970s.
Vern Gorst and Charles King established an auto stage line between North Bend and Marshfield. Cost per passenger: 25 cents a ride. (see Guide, p 165 and CB Region, pp 29 & 50)
In October stunt pilot Silas Christofferson brought the first plane into Coos County. He gave five days of exhibition and passenger flights from the grounds of the Marshfield racetrack. (Jensen, p 54)
The Coos and Curry County Fair Association was established and a horse-racing track, grandstands, and other buildings were constructed in Myrtle Point in a pasture below the home of R.C. Dement, who played a leading role in the fair’s development. (see CB Region, p 61)
The Reedsport post office was established on the south side of the Umpqua River the railroad began to be built through the area at this time. (see Guide, p 166)
The jetties were completed at the mouth of the Coquille River at Bandon.
On January 2nd, a gang of 35 railroad workers near Gardiner went on strike and asked a local Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) office to represent them. By June a large anti-I.W.W. mob assembled in Marshfield and “deported” the union organizers by forcing them on a ship and sending them off at the North Spit. The “Wobblies” may have arrived on the South Coast in 1911. (see CB Region, pp 87-89)
Louis Simpson started a small resort at Sunset Bay complete with three-room cottages, large tents, and a restaurant. (see Guide, p 119)
The post office at Brookings was established and took its name from the Brookings Lumber Company which began operations there about that time. (see Century, pp 129-130)
Roadroad tracks were laid along the South Fork of the Coquille River from Myrtle Point to Rural. By 1915 the village of Rural officially changed its name to Powers after Al Powers who ran the logging operations there for the C.A. Smith Lumber Company. (see Guide, p 102)
Vern Gorst brought the first sea-plane to Coos County. Unofficially, the first U.S. passenger air service in the U.S. began when Gorst transported paying customers on a regular basis from North Bend to Marshfield.
The first severe fire struck Bandon. (see Century, p 113)
In November Coos County citizens voted to go “dry” bringing Prohibition to the county. Saloon owners had until December 31st, 1915 to close. The county vote was 4,731 “dry”, 2,408 “wet”. National Prohibition would not come until 1920. (see CB Region, p 49)
Vern Gorst mounted a Curtiss airplane engine and propeller on a Hupmobile chassis, added pontoons, and created the first amphibious auto which he called the “Land and Water Machine” (see CCHS photo below) He also devised a vehicle with dual tires front and back of the rear axle…creating the first “dune buggy”. (see Guide, p 165)
A U.S. Coast Guard life-saving station boathouse was erected at Charleston. This building will later become part of the University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. (see Guide, p 123)
In November the Santa Clara wrecked on the Coos Bay bar drowning fourteen passengers and crewmen. An ugly looting incident involving hundreds of people occurred during the following week. (see CB Region, pp 91-96 and Guide, p 127)
The Southern Pacific Railroad completed a line from Eugene and the Willamette Valley to Bay Area. A “Coos Bay Railroad Jubilee” was held August 24th, 25th, & 26th with the slogan “Boost for Coos”. (see Century, p 488)
The first store was built at Charleston.
The Kruse and Banks shipyard of North Bend now had five shipways and employed 481 men. Business was booming because of the Great War. In December they launched The North Bend, the first ship built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet in the United States. (see CB Region, p 100)
Nearly 29,000 army enlisted men and officers work with local citizens in Coos County during the Great War with the “Spruce Division”. Sawmills, like one that formerly stood near Sturdivant Park in Coquille, produced wing-beams, struts, and ribs for WWI planes. (see Guide, p 86)
By mid-October, the Spanish Influenza epidemic had struck the Coos Bay region. Closures of schools, churches, and theaters, the wearing of gauze masks in public, and municipal bans on public gatherings were effects of the epidemic felt in the area until around Christmas. (see CB Region, pp 101-102)
In April, a paved highway opened between Marshfield and Coquille. This was part of the “Roosevelt Highway” funded by the Oregon legislature as an emergency military transportation route in 1917. “One of the great historical days of Coos County”, the Coos Bay Times said of the highway’s completion. By the summer of 1921, another link of the highway opened between Coos Bay and Lakeside. (see CB Region, p 109) Also in 1921 the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was built at Remote.
Cassie Simpson, wife of Louis, died on April 30th. On July 4th, the Simpson’s home at Shore Acres burned to the ground. (see Guide, p 117)
In October, an explosion 1250 feet below the ground in a Beaver Hill coal mine injured over twenty miners, four or five of them severely. (see CB Region, p 80)
A new Nestles Food Company milk condensary opened in Bandon, employing about 25 women and 75 men. (see CB Region, p 83)
A fire on July 23rd at Front Street in Marshfield destroyed a major portion of the old business district. (see CB Region, p 107-108) and Guide, p 137)
Highway 38 along the lower Umpqua River opened for auto traffic. (see Guide, p 172) Also the Liberty Theater in North Bend opened at the north end of Sherman Avenue (Encore by Dow Beckham, p 28)
Construction of Coos Bay’s south jetty began at the harbor entrance. Within a year nearby Charleston had more stores, a dance hall, and a tavern. (see Guide, p 124)
The Egyptian Theater in Marshfield opened. It took its decorating theme from the publicity surrounding the recently opened King Tutankhamen’s tomb. (see Guide, pp 141-142)
Louis Simpson and his second wife Lela started construction of a second mansion at Shore Acres. But the stock market crash of 1929 depleted Simpson’s fortune and made it impossible for him to fully complete the home. (see Guide, pp 117-118)
The south jetty on the Coos Bay bar was completed. The north jetty had been built in the 1890’s. (see CB Region, pp 104-105 and Guide, p 125)
The Evans Products Company opened a plant at Marshfield to manufacture battery separators and Venetian blinds. The term “Lumber Jinny” (as opposed to the male “Lumber Jack”) was coined for the hundreds of female workers employed at the plant through WWII. (see CB Region, pp 106 and 112)
The first regular broadcasts began from KOOS radio in Marshfield. (see Century, pp 497-498)
The Sujameco wrecked on Horsfall Beach off Coos Bay.
The Elliott State Forest was created and named for Oregon’s first state forester. Located on lands acquired after the “big burn” of 1868 by the state in the area south of the Umpqua River to the Coos River drainage, profits from sales of timber on the property were designated for the Oregon Common School Fund.
The construction of the tallest building on the South Coast, the Tioga Hotel, begins. With the onset of the Great Depression, the owners ran out of money to complete it. It remained unfinished until 1946. (Jensen, p 53.)
The city of North Bend, its municipal money tied up in a closed local bank, issued some the most unique Depression Era money to pay its employees. Myrtlewood coins were created and circulated throughout city businesses.
1934 Anthropologist Melville Jacobs finished interviews, and recordings, with Annie Miner Peterson of the Empire area. She was one of the last native Coos language speakers (Hanis and Miluk) on the South Coast. This was an important event in the preservation of local Native-American culture. (see Guide, pp 14-15)
The first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in Oregon were set up near Gold Beach in Curry County (and Benson Park in Multnomah County). Eight CCC camps were established in Coos County locations to do park work, provide fire protection, and complete other projects. Camps were at Sitkum (Brewster Valley; Coquille (Fairview); Mc Kinley; Bradfore (Upper Rock Creek); 4 miles south of Bandon; Glenn Creek (east of Golden Falls); China Flats (12 miles south of Powers); and at Coos Head near Charleston where workers completed trails at Cape Arago. A CCC camp at Reedsport near the current high school worked on projects from the Umpqua River south to Coos Bay, including, in 1937, the airport landing field at Lakeside. (see Guide, pp 173-175)
Several processing plants for the pilchard or sardine fishery were built at North Bend and Marshfield. For two years the industry brought a large fleet of about 39 purse seiners to the waters off Coos Bay. This industry ended by 1937. (see CB Region, pp 115-116)
The McCullough Bridge, a Public Works Administration (PWA) project on Coos Bay, was dedicated on June 6th, completing Highway 101 (the Oregon Coast Highway). A large celebration marked the event. The Roosevelt Ferry that had transported passengers across the bay from North Bend to Glasgow was retired. (see Guide, pp 152-153)
The town of Bandon was nearly destroyed by its second large fire. The fire destroyed almost every building in the city. One of the buildings that survived is the Masonic Temple building at 2nd Street – originally built in 1913. (see Century, pp 113-114 and CB Region, pp 116-118)
The Hallmark Fisheries Plant opened in Charleston. It mainly processed crabs. (see CB Region, p 116)
Al Qualman began his oyster business on Joe Ney Slough, near Charleston. (see Guide, p 130)
The Bandon Lighthouse ceased operation. (see Guide, p 109)
The Simpson family, who had donated a portion of their Cape Arago estate to the State of Oregon in 1932, sold the remainder of Shore Acres to the state at the outbreak of WWII. During the war, Cape Arago was cut off to the public and the used as part of the coast watch system. After the war, the 2nd Simpson home, now in disrepair, was torn down. The entire property became a state park. The pond, gardens, and gardeners cottage are part of that beautiful state park today. (see Guide, pp 117-118
In September of 1942, incendiary bombs were dropped on Mt. Emily, east of Brookings, in Curry County by a small plane launched from a Japanese submarine off the southern Oregon coast. A second attack near Port Orford occurred two weeks later. In October, the Japanese sub attacked the oil tanker S.S. Camden just west of Winchester Bay and the next day torpedoed the Larry Doheny off of Port Orford. These attacks mark the only time the Japanese directly attacked the continental United States during WWII. (see Guide, pp 70-71)
Marshfield changed its name to Coos Bay after consolidating with some neighboring towns. (see Century, pp 102)
Unmanned “balloon bombs”, launched into the jet stream by Japan, dropped incendiary devises on Coos County and the western United States. The CCHS has a bomb ring artifact in its collection from one of the devises that fell in Coos County (see photo right):
“The Coos-Curry Pioneer and Historical Association” opened a small museum in Coquille. The 60 foot long, one-story museum cost $1,695 to build. This was the first museum in the county.
The “Bandon Cranberry Festival” was established.
The Motor Vu Drive In Theater, located on Ocean Blvd., opened on June 7th with a 52 ft. square viewing screen. (Jensen, p 121)
Brookings citizens voted to incorporate the city on July 10th. (see Century, pp 130-131)
A Century of Coos and Curry by Emil Peterson and Alfred Powers was published by the CCHS.
Weyerhaeuser opened a large lumber mill in North Bend. (see CB Region, p 120)
A lumber ship, the Oliver Olson struck the end of the south jetty at Bandon in November. After the crewmen were rescued and the ship’s gear salvaged, what remained of its hull was incorporated into a jetty extension. (see Guide, p 111)
Highway 101 was relocated between Coos Bay and Bandon. Prior to that it went from Coos Bay to Coquille and then west along the south bank of the Coquille River. (see Guide, p 109)
The largest, and last operating, splash dam in the PNW was the Tioga Dam on the South Fork of the Coos River. After Oregon legislation was passed outlawing splash dam operations, the Coos River Boom Company had its final drive in 1957. Photos of the event were published in Life magazine
The Coos-Curry Museum was established in North Bend’s Simpson Park following a fire that severely damaged the Coquille museum in 1952. The building was constructed by volunteers.
Senator John F. Kennedy, campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, makes a stop in Coos County. Among his stops was visit to a Sadie Hawkins day student assembly at North Bend High School.
Southwestern Oregon Community College was established. This was the first community college district in the state of Oregon. The original college campus was at the old Navy facilities of the North Bend Airport. The driving force behind the founding of the Southwestern Oregon Community College District was Henry Hansen, a local retired longshoreman.
The Bandon Airport was established and dedicated. Also Bullards State Park near Bandon, on the north side of the Coquille River, was established.
On October 12th, Oregon’s worst windstorm, Hurricane Frieda (nicknamed “The Columbus Day Storm”), hit Coos County and western Oregon with winds clocked at over 180 mph.
In the spring, construction began on the Empire Lakes campus of Southwestern Oregon Community College. By 1964 two buildings had been completed: Umpqua and Randolph Hall. A “Name the Buildings” committee decided that campus structures would all bear the names of old post offices that were no longer operational in Coos County.
Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for president, visited the Bay Area in June and made a speech in the SWOCC gymnasium.
The Coos Art Museum was established. In 1984 the museum related to the former federal post office building in downtown Coos Bay (a building constructed in 1936). THe Coos Art Museum is the third oldest art museum in Oregon. (Jensen, p 122)
The Sawdusters Theater group produce their first performance on Memorial Day weekend in Coquille. The melodrama Drusilla of the Gold Country begin a long run of successful summer theater fun. The founders of the Sawdusters were Dorothy Boskill Sanford Lee and John & Karen Moore. (Encore by Dow Beckam, p 113) The current Sawduster Theater in Coquille first became operational in 1997.
A “Single A” professional baseball farm team of Oakland began play at Clyde Allen Field in North Bend. The “Athletics” played through the 1972 season before disbanding. Previously, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a semi-pro team, the “Lumberjacks”, had played at that stadium.
A large and successful parade was held in Coos Bay for Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa. Roosa chose Coos Bay for his “home town” parade because he had met two local business men, Phil Waters and Bob Perkins, who invited him to the area. (Jensen, p 117)
Congress established The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The Oregon Dunes spread over 38 miles in length along the coast from the mouth of the Coos River to the mouth of the Siuslaw River. Some dunes reach heights of over 300 feet. Thousands of visitors explore this unique landscape every year. (see Guide, pp 162-163
The South Slough National Estuarine Sanctuary was established. This was the first ever federally reserved slough. (see Guide, p 128)
The city of Lakeside was incorporated.
The Bay Area Hospital opened its doors on May 19th.
In the year following a grand celebration of Coos Bay’s centennial, the Bay Area Fun Festival was organized. The annual event has occurred on the 3rd Saturday of September ever since.
The Coos-Curry Historical Society changed its name when Curry County formed its own historical society and museum in Gold Beach.
A 10K run in Coos Bay was started in memory of one of America’s greatest distance runners: Steve Prefontaine. “Pre” attended Marshfield High School from 1965-1969 before running for the University of Oregon. At one point in his running career, Pre held every American record in distance running. Prefontaine died in a car accident in 1975 at the age of 24.
Members of the Coos, Siuslaw, and Lower Umpqua Indians regained federally restored status as the Confederated Tribes.
The City of Coos Bay began plans to build a boardwalk on the waterfront. (Jensen, p 124)
Weyerhaeuser Company closed its large North Bend mill.
Members of the Coquille Indian tribe regained federally restored status.
The Georgia-Pacific mill (formerly the C.A. Smith / Coos Bay Lumber Company) at Isthmus Slough on Coos Bay closed.
The Coquille Indian Tribe started the first legalized gaming establishment in the county, The Mill Casino, along the waterfront in North Bend.
Curry County was annexed into the Southwestern Oregon Community College District.
The Coquille Forest was established. This 5,400 acre forest, managed by the Coquille Indian Tribe, is located near Bridge in the south part of the county.
On February 4th, the freighter New Carissa grounded off the north spit of Coos Bay. (see Guide, p 127)
The Bandon Dunes golf course opened just north of Bullards and was soon recognized as one of America’s premier public courses. A second course, Pacific Dunes, opened there in 2001 and a third course was added in 2005.
The Oregon Coast Historical Railway began operation of a display area and small museum in south Coos Bay. (Jensen, p 124)
The Coos County Airport District was formed by vote of citizens in the fall. The name of the airport in North Bend was changed to “Southwest Oregon Regional Airport” in the spring of 2006. The airport had been a military facility during WWII.
The Coquille Tribe purchased the vacant Weyerhaeuser Company property in North Bend and began development of a large RV campground.
The Sawmill & Tribal Trail was established. The 5.6 mile urban trail approximates an old route first used by Native-Americans and later used by white travelling from Simpson’s lumber mill in North Bend to the old Luse Mill in Empire. (Jensen, p 126)
In January the Curry Campus of the Southwestern Oregon Community College District opened for classes. The campus was established just north of Brookings.
Prepared for the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce by Nathan Douthit (June, 2001)
Coos Bay, Oregon’s largest coastal estuary and shipping port, together with its surrounding coastal range forest lands and tributary streams, has provided human beings with a place to live and work for thousands of years. The ancestors of today’s local Indian tribes–the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, and the Coquille Indians–lived here long before Europeans landed on the eastern shore of North America. The Coquille Tribe, as owner of the Mill Casino on Coos Bay, is today one of the region’s largest employers.
Although Spanish and English ships sailed along the Oregon coast as far back as the 16th century, Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders were the first Europeans to reach Oregon’s south coast and Coos Bay in the 1820s. After early settlement of the Willamette Valley by white Americans in the 1840s, and the California gold rush in 1849, a small group of Americans reached Coos Bay in 1853, and established the first town of Empire City, which is now part of the city of Coos Bay. The lumberman and shipbuilder Asa Meade Simpson established the mill and shipbuilding town of North Bend in 1856.
The pioneer period on Coos Bay lasted for about another half century. The first sawmills and shipyards were built in the 1850s. Coal mining began with the first settlers who came in 1853. By the late 1850s and 1860s farmers settled along the Coos and Coquille Rivers. A war between whites and Indians that engulfed all of southern Oregon from the Umpqua River south to the California border in 1855-56 led to the defeat of Indian people and their forced relocation onto Indian reservations on the north coast of Oregon. From the beginning of white settlement the Coos Bay region was tied into a coastal market for lumber, coal, salmon, and agricultural products centered on San Francisco and Portland. From the 1890s to 1920 the Coos Bay region’s economy shifted from a mixed economy to one centered more on forest industrial production and large-scale coal mining. Agriculture became more specialized with dairy farming becoming the chief producer. During World War I there was a temporary expansion of wooden shipbuilding, but it proved to be the last days for this industry. The single most important event was the opening of the C. A. Smith Lumber Company mill on Coos Bay in 1908. This was the largest and most advanced mill on the Pacific Coast at the time. From the 1890s, federal funding of bar and harbor improvements helped make Coos Bay an ideal lumber shipping port.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the coal mining industry collapsed because of the introduction of fuel oil. Shipbuilding on Coos Bay also declined. But new technology in forest industry led to the construction of veneer, pulp and paper, and plywood mills throughout the region. In the 1920s road building created a new transportation network. People were no longer dependent on riverboat transportation. As of 1916 the railroad competed with coastal steamers to transport people in and out of the region. But in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, federal and state government funded coastal highway and bridge building. After 1936, Coos Bay was linked to the Willamette Valley and the rest of the Oregon coast by automobile transportation.After 1945 Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and Menasha Woodenware Company built manufacturing plants on Coos Bay. The region launched into a new era of stepped up forest industrial production. The peak year of employment in forest industry came in 1960-61. But a steep decline in forest industry employment, and closure of manufacturing plants, did not come until the 1980s. In the years 1981-83, some 2,000 timber industry jobs disappeared in Coos County. The decline in forest industry continued through the 1990s.
In view of recent developments in the forest industry, it is surprising to find that the population of Coos County has declined only slightly since 1980, when its population was 64,047. In a market analysis for the Coos Country Historical Society completed in the year 2000, Dean Runyan Associates reported:
“In 1999, according to the Center for Population Research and Census of Portland State University, Coos County had just over 61,000 residents. About a quarter, or just over 15,000 of these residents, live in Coos Bay, the largest city on the Oregon Coast. Despite significant job losses in the forest products industry, the population of Coos County has remained fairly stable over the last decade. Since 1990, the County’s population has grown slowly by about 1,100 persons or about 1.8%, and steady growth is expected to continue through 2010. All of the population growth since 1990 has occurred because people have been moving to the area. Statewide, about 70 percent of population growth since 1990 has come from people moving into the state.”
The city of Coos Bay used to be called Marshfield, and there is still Marshfield High School. But the city changed its name in 1944. Marshfield expanded after the turn of the century. A major fire on Front Street in 1922 led to the relocation of the city hall on Central Avenue. The area between the waterfront and 4th Street and two blocks on either side of Central Avenue became the center of the new Marshfield, and what is now considered to be the city of Coos Bay’s “Old Town.”
In A Guide to Oregon South Coast History (1999), I have described recent developments in the twin cities of Coos Bay-North Bend as follows. In the mid-1990s, three blocks of pedestrian mall in downtown Coos Bay, created in the late 1960s, was reopened to traffic. Covered walkways to protect pedestrians from rain were torn down to open sidewalks and streets to sunlight. The covered mall experiment turned out to be a failure. It did not recapture business from newly built shopping malls, and the covered sidewalks kept out sunshine as well as rain. But while this aspect of urban renewal was reversed, a waterfront boardwalk became a reality, offering tourists access to a walking view of the bay.
In other parts of the four block square old downtown area, many buildings were removed to make way for parking lots and a scattering of new professional office buildings. A new city hall was built to replace one built in the 1920s; in 1998 the “new” city hall of the 1920s housed a restaurant, dancing ballroom, and office spaces. An historic Elks Club Building was restored and remodeled into a bank headquarters. An old bank building was turned into a brewery. A 1930s post office building became an art museum.
Away from the old downtown center of the city of Coos Bay, four new shopping centers appeared in the 1970s to 1990s, anchored by Albertsons, Bi-Mart, K-Mart, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Wal-Mart outlets. A publicly financed Bay Area Hospital, built in the 1970s, expanded. The Southwestern Oregon Community College campus built in the early 1960s added new classrooms, office spaces, playing fields, cafeteria, and dormitories in the 1980s and 1990s. The town of North Bend built a new public library, and Coos Bay in the last two years has expanded its library facility.
In these and many other ways, the Coos Bay-North Bend landscape has been transformed. The two small cities, still administered separately, have grown together in the last thirty years. The old downtown areas of the twin-cities have been integrated into a larger pattern of multiple business centers linked by commercial streets and interspersed with old and new residential areas.
The urban landscape on the Coos Bay estuary retains some of the features of an older, coastal-frontier West, but it is has been continuously re-engineered to meet the changing needs of business, industry, government, and individuals. This makes the human landscape on Coos Bay historically interesting, as well as a good place to live.