The Crow's Nest

Dick Hancock  was born in Bandon at the old Leep Hospital just east of the Crow's Nest in 1940.  His parents were also born in the Bandon area and his family were river people - commercial fishermen and towboaters.  His grandfather served in the lifesaving service at Bandon between  1905 and 1915 .

Dick has agreed to share some of the  stories both from his own recollections and from the stories he has heard from his relatives in this column, the Crow's Nest.. 

You can ask questions or post your opinion about what is written in this column by going to the
Bandon BBS .

By Dick Hancock

Nowadays, when we think of a tough grandma, we think
of someone who can baby-sit the kids and survive long enough
to turn them back over to their parents after an afternoon of
exasperation.  It wasn't that way back in the early days of
the Coquille River country.

My Great Grandmother, Lydia Susanna King Hancock, was
Born at Jefferson, Oregon, in 1855.  Her father, Dr. Henry
Harrison King, had followed his brothers to Oregon in 1851,    
after hearing of the rich Willamette Valley and the opportunities
there.  He quickly grew tired of the growing population in that
area and moved south, to the Middle Fork of the Coquille
River, near the village of Bridge and laid claim to a homestead
on what is now known as Kings Creek.  He cleared the land for
a farm while practicing medicine - the only doctor in an area
from Myrtle Point to Roseburg.  His son William and daughter
Lydia attended Wilbur Academy near Roseburg and became
teachers, both teaching at Bridge and Myrtle Point.  Lydia
later moving to Coquille where she met a Canadian, Samual
Hancock who had established a coal mining claim below
Riverton.  They married in 1878 and set up housekeeping 
just east of Lampa Creek   Samual died in 1884, leaving Lydia
with three small children and pregnant with twins…….and this
in the days before Welfare and ADC. 

She rose to the challenge, teaching school in the Lampa Creek
School and at Riverton, taking in and feeding travelers and, her
greatest source of hard cash, catching loose logs in the river when
they would break away from their storage "booms" during floods.
She would chase them down river in her rowboat and tie them up
to riverside trees, later selling them back to their owners for whatever
they were willing to pay.   She once said, "I never ventured anything
I thought I couldn't handle".  Her self-confidence supported her and
she raised her children well, on her own efforts and with no public
assistance.  Her greatest joy after her children were grown was in
their successes and in spending time with her grandchildren.  Many
old timers, from Myrtle Point to Bandon, knew and loved "Grandma
Liddy".  When she died, in 1930, she left a legacy to Coos County
that embodies the toughness of the pioneer spirit that makes us
what we are.

And that's the way it was…………………………..

By Dick Hancock

How about receiving a power bill that billed you twenty five cents
for every light bulb you had in your house?  That's how you would
have been billed back in November of 1907 when the Bandon steam
plant went into operation and began serving the city.  With the great
capability of 2,000 average bulbs, the city was electrified!

Alas, even those high rates were insufficient to sustain the operation
and in March of 1910 the company went into receivership.  The Engineer,
Mr. Elliott, took over management and began installing meters and
extending the service area and capacity.  The company operated with
fair success until 1916 when the Oregon Power Company in Marshfield
(now Coos Bay to you newcomers) began negotiations to build a power
line to Bandon, via Riverton.  Being loath to relinquish their independence,
the owners moved the steam plant to the Prosper Mill and increased the
capacity.  The plant operated there until 1918 when the mill closed as
a result of losing World War I spruce lumber orders.  The plant then
moved to a site near the present Moore Mill log yard and shared the steam
plant operated by the Acme Planing Mill.

In June of 1921 the City of Bandon bought out the private owners for
the huge sum of $35,000 and went into the electricity business.  Their
own generators were backed up by the Nestles Food Company generators,
located in what is now the old Moore Mill Truck Shop building, in the event
of emergency.

The demand for electricity continued to rise and the shared steam capacities
of the mills were not adequate to meet the demands of both the city and
the mills.  In 1922 the city, after exploring various streams in the area,
chose to erect a dam and power plant on Willow Creek, near Langlois.
The 160 foot long and 60 foot high dam erected contained pipe which
decreased in diameter during it's 110 foot fall to the generators.  The
increased weight and force of the water powered turbines capable of
supplying not only the needs of the residents, but was enough to cause
a local group to incorporate the Bandon Cedar Manufacturing Company
and power it with city electricity.  The city sold $110,000 in bonds to
finance the project, debt which plagued the city for the next several years.
Despite several attempts to convince the city to sell the utility, the city
stubbornly held on to the system, supplementing it's own generated
power with power supplied by Mountain States Power Company who
built a 24,000 Volt line over Beaver Hill in 1924. 

Through the next few years, the city continued to generate power at the
Willow Creek plant.  The advent of Bonneville Power and it's very
Low rates finally sounded the death knell of home-grown power. 
For over 50 years the city has been out of the generating business.  Has
Time proven they should have kept at it?  Willow Creek still flows, is
it time to restudy the situation?  Is it time to make use of the perpetual
wind from the ocean?  Is Bandon ready to disconnect from the grid and
make use of the many sources of potential power nature has provided.
Those are the questions…….

And that's the way it was……………………………………

By Dick Hancock

Down Flores Creek way, a storm in 1881 uprooted a large spruce
tree growing on one of the many mounds thereabout.  The big tree's
root spread, several feet thick and many feet across, opened up the
ground like the lid being lifted off a box.

To the astonishment of those who passed by, the rock exposed  was
unmistakably cut stone "bearing quite plainly the marks of the stone
cutters chisel".  Moreover, the stones seemed to lie "as if the wall had
tumbled down".  Others of the mounds were prospected by the people
of the region and similar finds were found in many of them.  In addition,
they came upon "what to all appearances had been a mining ditch coursing
along the hill slope, walled up on it's lower side". 

The editor of the Port Orford Post duly wrote up the discovery and promised
to personally inspect the find at no distant day.  Whether he did or not is
not known, the files of the Post having perished.  The single report survived by
having been reprinted in a Portland magazine but no follow up was ever found.

Could this have been one of the towns of the Kingdom of Quivera, for many
years in the 16th and 17th centuries shown on maps and charts as laying along
the coast of what is now Northern California and Southern Oregon.  It appeared
as a very real place on Mercators map in 1569 and continued to be shown on
maps even as late as 1750.

The king was a long-bearded, hoary-headed fellow by the name of Tatarrax.
One imaginative report had Chinese ships located in the harbor of the City of
Quivera.  This was located on a bay at the mouth of a big river.  Far up the
river was another city by the name of Tuchano.

Phillip III of Spain discovered among his fathers papers "a sworn declaration
that some foreigners had given him" relating how "they came in sight of a
populous and rich city named Quivera"......all this moved his Majesty to make every effort to find out about such a famous city and discover it's location".

The river that Martin d'Aguilar was reported to have found and that could
never be located by later navigators, was supposed by some to be "the one leading to a great city...and that city called Quivera is in these parts".

How about it folks, anyone for getting out the shovels and prospecting around
Flores Creek? 

And that's the way it was................................................

By Dick Hancock

Bandon has always had it's cultural side, not the least of which has been
it's libraries.  In 1893 Mrs. George Williams started a lending library in a
store owned by she and her husband and a man named Frank Rupert.
This only operated for about a year but in 1899 Mike Breuer and John
Chase, owner of the Wollen Mill decided there should be a place for sailors
to go other than the many saloons.  They rented a room in the lower part
of the building housing the Bandon Recorder.  Adam Pershbaker of
Parkersburg donated lumber for shelves and many citizens donated books.
Young Vic Breuer tended the fire in the woodstove.  There was no librarian
and borrowers were on their honor.  They wrote their names and titles of the
books on sheets of paper hung on the wall.  When all the books had
disappeared, the project was abandoned.

Several years later a reading room was established in the Lorenz Building by
Professor Harry Hopkins, J. Ira Sidwell and Rev. Harry Hartranft.  Members
of  The Hurry Up Bible Class took turns tending the reading room.  When it
became too large a job for them, the public was invited to take over and thus
began what is now the Bandon Public Library.  In 1914 Miss Amelia Henry
became the librarian, a post she held for 28 years, including the trying
times during and after the Bandon Fire of 1936 which completely destroyed the
collection of over 5,000 books.

Within a few days of the fire, a 14 foot square tent which had been used by
the State Police was established for use as a library for the people left with
no place to socialize or meet.  Once again Mike Breuer, whose home and
store had been spared by the fire, donated books and cash to purchase more
reading material, as did many other townspeople.  The tent had a board floor
and a sheet iron stove in the center for heat.  A few boards served as shelves
and from somewhere several benches were secured.  A desk and chair for the
librarian completed the library!  The National Guard secured a cot, mattress
and bedding for Miss Henry, who was to live there, and the library was open for

Within the year a building was made ready for the new Library, one of the
first public services restored after the devastation of the fire.  Looking today at
the fine facilities Bandonians have available, I can only say "we've came a long
way Baby".

And that's the way it was...............................

By Dick Hancock

Early Bandon was more than just a fishing and sawmill town.  Although
the timber available made lumber a prominent article of commerce, other
wood products made up a great deal of the cargo shipped out on the
steam schooner fleet.

The rich bottom lands in both the upper and lower valleys supported many
hundreds of head of dairy cattle.  Cheese factories and creameries lined
the river.  At one time, about the turn of the century, more than a dozen were
producing large quantities of cheese and butter for shipment downriver on
the steamers and gas boats of the "river highway".  Pickup boats carried
raw milk downstream to the Nestles Condensery (now the old Moore Mill
Truck Shop) where it was made into condensed milk and canned for shipment
to the far corners of the world.  Cheese and butter from the upriver factories
also came down to be loaded into the holds of ships headed for the San
Francisco and Los Angeles markets. 

Wool from the hills and valleys of Coos and Curry Counties was hauled to
Bandon to be woven into blankets, suiting, flannel and other fabrics. 
Hundreds of thousands of yards of fabric were produced from what was then considered some of the finest wool available anywhere.  As were most buildings in old Bandon, the mill was built on a wharf over the tide flats, near the end of
Alabama Street.  It operated until the 1920's and was a large factor in steady
employment for the town. 

Matches, broom handles and battery separators also figured into the payrolls
of early Bandonians.  Mrs. Dyer ran a match factory producing over 300 cans of
matches daily just after the turn of the century and employed 18 persons,
mostly women.  Ralph Rosa and Elbert Dyer both operated broom handle manufacturing facilities and shipped their products to eastern markets.  In 1922 Jack Dalen took over the old woolen mill building and began manufacturing battery
separators from the abundant Port Orford Cedar in the area, later moving into the
condensery building where he operated until the late 1920's when Evans Products company bought the machinery and moved it to Coos Bay where they continued the operation until plastics replaced wood in batteries.

During the early years Bandon also supported several breweries.  The first
was  actually located upriver at Randolph and was operated by Joseph Walster from Germany.  A. G. Walling in his History of Southern Oregon, 1884, said
"Randolph has a brewery of very fair beer".  Bandon Brewery operated for many years and was run by George Gehrig.  His "steam" beer is remembered by old timers as having a high potency and good flavor.  More than one ship went to sea with it's sailors well fueled with the brew!

And that's the way it was................................................

By Dick Hancock

It was a summer day in the late 1940's and my dad and I were clearing
some brush near the old Seven Devils road when a car with California
plates stopped to ask us "what are those pretty yellow flowers you're
cutting down?"  Dad, ever the gentleman, explained politely to them
that they were Irish Furz, and that they were a dangerously flammable
weed.  The lady indignantly complained that she failed to see how
something so beautiful could be a weed and that he should preserve
them so people could enjoy them, rather than destroy them.  About
that time, their fuzzy little dog, who had been hanging out the window,
spotted a chipmunk and leaped out to chase it.  Of course the chipmunk dodged
into the brush and the dog followed.  The dog  jumped into the Gorse
thicket and came to a sudden tangled halt, yelping and struggling in the
thorns.  The man and woman rushed to his aid and, after a some painful
scratches and torn garments, extricated their pet.  When the dog was safely
in the car, the man started to light a cigarette.  It being a hot, dry day,
Dad stopped him, further provoking the man who was already none too happy
over the whole incident.  Dad calmly took a branch of Gorse, laid it out in
the clear gravel of the road and lit it.  It practically exploded as the stuff
is wont to do on a warm day, causing the couple to quickly jump back.
"Now do you still think it's so pretty" Dad asked?  Without another word
they jumped into their car and roared off toward the ferry landing.

Sometime in the 1880's, Lord George Bennett, homesick for his native
Ireland, imported Irish Furz from his home in Bandon, Ireland, and planted
two rows along his driveway at his estate near the bluff.  My great-uncle
Mike Breuer stated that in 1894 the rows were each approximately twelve
feet long and two feet high.  From that small start just over a hundred years
ago, it's spread along more than a hundred miles of shoreline and inland
for many miles.  The seeds can live for many years in the soil and are not
harmed by fire.  In fact, after a fire, Gorse is one of the first plants to
reclaim the land.  A Gorse fire is awesome to behold; the dry interior of the plant
ignites and creates a chimney effect, heating the oils in the green portions
to the point where they explode, sending flames high in the air and into the
surrounding plants.  Although other factors were also present such as low
humidity and an east wind, the Bandon Fire of 1936 was largely fed by
the dense stands of Gorse surrounding Bandon and growing on vacant and
untended land within the city.  Yes, the flowers are pretty and their almond
like fragrance is delightful, but if that's what it takes to attract tourists,
better they go to Ireland!

George Bennett was a founder and the namer of Bandon.  His tombstone
in the Old Bandon Cemetery is impressive and recites some of his history
and accomplishments.  Perhaps an appropriate way to remember him would
be to have a symbolic "Burning of the Gorse" at his tombstone each October
15th, the anniversary of his death in 1900.

And that's the way it was...................................................

By Dick Hancock

Everyone knows of the great fire in 1936 which destroyed most of
Bandon but on June 11, 1914 a fire destroyed a good share of the
downtown district.  Three blocks along Main Street were leveled and
but for the use of dynamite to stop the flames, the entire downtown
area might have been destroyed.

A restaurant operating in a condemned building caught fire at about
midnight and the flames were quickly extinguished by the Volunteer
Fire Department.  However, about 3 AM, the flames rekindled and
quickly jumped the street.  By morning three blocks of the oldest
businesses in the city lay in ruins.  Only the use of dynamite on the
Neilsen Hardware store stopped the flames and saved the rest of
the city. 

As usual, the Lifesaving Service were called to help in the emergency.
The daybook of Axel Sandstrom tells the story:
"Thursday, June 11th, 1914.  All hands turned out at 3:45 this morning.
Number 2 coming home from the lookout calling us on account of a big
fire down in the L&E Restaurant.  We had no gear to fight the fire with
and short of water, so consequently could not do very much.  The tug
Klihyam got his pump started and two connections of hose attached,
and the steamer Dispatch also helping in the same manner.  With the
combined efforts of water and dynamite the fire got under control at
seven o'clock in the morning.  All of us station boys were wet, and all I
had to put on was my duck suit.  Three blocks burned down and the
damages will probably reach above $300,000.  We moved furniture,
clothing, books and sick persons even.  From the hospital to private
houses and some of them to the other hospital.  A little baby a few
days old and the weight of this being was two pounds. I carried it in
a basket."

Fortunately there were no deaths in the fire and insurance adjusters
estimated the total loss at over $206,000.  Only $42,000 was covered
by insurance.  After the fire, the city passed building codes and demanded
fireproof  roofs but the fire of 1936 was too much for even those measures
in most cases.

And that's the way it was...........................................

By Dick Hancock

The Na-so-mah band of Native Americans lived near the site of the present
Bullards Bridge and were generally a peaceable people but the arrival of the
white man aroused problems.  The encroachment on their lands and the
subsequent decimation of game put pressures on their way of life.  Where from time immemorial they had lived at peace with their environment; suddenly an entire new civilization was imposed on them.  The results were tragic for them.

In 1851 a party led by Colonel T'Vault set out from Port Orford to establish a
trail to the interior.  After much inept wandering through the wilderness,
they gave up the task and attempted to return to the coast via the Coquille River.
They engaged an Indian to carry them in his canoe downriver and when about
two miles above the mouth, they encountered a band of the Na-so-mah near
their village just above present day Bandon.  While attempting to go ashore,
they were attacked and several of the soldiers were killed.  Of the remaining
men, two made their way to Port Orford and two others went north to the Umpqua.
Mr. Parrish, the Indian Agent at Port Orford, with a group of soldiers went to
the Coquille villages and met with the chiefs, who assured him of their
willingness to be peaceful and a truce was negotiated that held for several years.

With the discovery of gold at Whiskey Run in 1853, miners flocked to the area
and once more friction started.  An Indian was found in possession of a horse
that was identified as having been stolen.  The mooring line on the ferry scow
at Bullards was cut and accusations were made that the Indians did it. 

On January 27th, 1854, the chiefs were asked to come to a meeting to explain
about the various incidents.  They refused and the twenty militia men at the
ferry crossing called upon the miners at Whiskey Run for assistance.  Twenty miners responded and were formed into three detachments.  The next morning, at
dawn, they attacked the three villages.  The villagers, aroused from their
sleep, put up little resistance and were gunned down as they attempted to flee. 
Fifteen men and one woman were killed outright.  Two other women were gravely
injured.  Of the attackers, none received even the slightest wound.  The
houses in the villages were burned and the possessions either destroyed or captured.

In 1856, the remaining Indians were gathered on a temporary reservation at
Port Orford, preparatory to being taken to the permanent reservation being
established at Siletz.  In Mid May, the Na-so-mah ran away, returning to their
old home at the mouth of the Coquille.  John Creighton took a band of men and,
finding them at their old home village, attacked and claimed to have killed
nineteen. The remainder were returned to Port Orford and soon taken to the new

Thus was closed that phase of history for a people who had inhabited the lower
Coquille River area for untold generations.  Five short years of tragedy for
a proud and peaceful people.

And that's the way it was.......................................... 


By Dick Hancock

The small, 60 foot long, gas powered Randolph was not a lucky
boat by all accounts.  Built at Randolph by the Herman Brothers
in 1910, she had her share of problems while navigating the rough
and rocky coast between Rogue River and Coos Bay.  She
carried freight of all kinds and an occasional passenger as she plied
her way up and down the Coos and Curry coast, giving the Life
Saving Service more than her share of business.

On May 1, 1914 she grounded at the mouth of the Rogue River.
The Bandon Life Saving Station was called upon to refloat her.

On August 5, 1914, while heading out over the Bandon Bar, she
lost her propellor and drifted up on the rocks next to the south
jetty.  The lifesaving crew had to take her anchor and a heavy
line up stream and winch her up on the anchor line.  After six
repetitions of this exercise, they were able to moor her at a dock,
from where she was towed by the towboat Star to a place where
she could be repaired.

But on April 24th, 1915, just three months after the Lifesaving
Service was disbanded and absorbed into the Coast Guard, her
luck ran out.  While crossing the bar in heavy seas, her bow dropped
into the trough between two large waves and she "pitch poled" over.
Three men who were standing on deck were swept away and
drowned.  A fourth, deckhand Chauncey Carpenter, was standing
in the bow of the boat and managed to swim ashore to the south
jetty and survived.  There was no sign of Captain Charles Anderson
and Engineer Henry Colvin.

The upside down hull drifted ashore on the south beach, where the
Coastguardsmen were able to get a line on it and rig a breeches
buoy.  When they were finally able to board the hull, voices and
knocking sounds were heard inside the hull.  My grandfather,
G.R. (Dick) Hancock and another coastguardsman Dolf Johnson
chopped a hole through the thick wooden planks and found both
the Captain and the Engineer cold and wet but otherwise unharmed.
When Engineer Colvin was hauled through the hole, he still had his
pipe clenched between his teeth and only removed it to ask "does
anybody have some dry tobacco and matches".  After receiving them
he thanked his rescuers profusely before being tied into the breeches
buoy and hauled ashore to safety.

The little Randolph was damaged so extensively she was salvaged
where she lay and never sailed again.  A few months later, in a very
similar accident, the steam schooner Fifield joined her in her watery
grave on the south beach.

And that's the way it was..........................................

By Dick Hancock

     If the railroads were the backbone of the nation, the steam schooner
fleet was the backbone of Bandon.   These sturdy little ships carried the
daily necessities in and the products of the coast out to the rest of the
world.  The coastal dwellers fondly referred to it as "The Scandinavian
Navy" due to the large number of Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Finns
who made up the crews.  The Larsons, Jensens, Jorgensens and Olsons
were Captains, Mates and Seamen on the low powered vessels that
often had to raise sails to augment their little steam engines.  Before
year around roads penetrated into the Bandon area there were only two
choices for travelers - fight the muddy, rutted trails that passed for
roads or take either a steamboat to Coquille or a ship up or down the

     For those who could afford it, the steamer Elizabeth was prime
transportation.   Regular staterooms and dining facilities were available
for the princely sum of $10 for passage to San Francisco.  In one or
two days, depending on sea conditions, you could be in the city.  Of
course if you couldn't afford such a steep tariff, alternate transportation
was available on one of the many steam schooners that called into
Bandon.  Two or three dollars would get you into a three bunk high
stateroom (really little more than a large closet) and you took your
chances with who your room mates would be;  the captain didn't
care if the other two passengers were honeymooners or drunks - fill
the bunks with paying passengers!  If you were doubly unfortunate
and were the last to arrive at the room, you got the "Aunt Mary"
bunk - the top one!  Of course the higher up the bunk was located, the
more the sway and roll of the ship would affect you - certainly the
occupants of the two lower bunks poked their heads very cautiously out of the
shelter of their spaces if there was any indication of seasickness
above their heads.

     All of those old "squarehead" skippers were long on experience
and seamanship but some were less than expert on formal navigation
techniques.  They sailed close to shore and relied on their knowledge
of the coast and their instincts to know where they were and how to
best get to their destinations.  One old-timer when asked how he
found his way in the fog replied "vell, I heads to da beach und gets
close as I can get und listens.  Ven I hears dogs barking, I listens
real goot.  If I hear da pekinese bark I knows I yam off Port Orford
and dats Mrs. Murphys house.  So den I steers Vest so I vill miss
da Cape Blanco.  Und if I hears da sheepdogs barking I yam off
Crescent City and I gots to miss da Saint George Reef.  Dog barking
Navigation may not have been satellite GPS steering, but it worked!

Many ships served Bandon but the longest service for a wooden
ship was undoubtedly the "Bandon".  Built in 1907 on Coos Bay, she carried 
goods, passengers and lumber to and from Bandon until late in the 1940's. 
At 172 feet long, she was a large steam schooner, carrying nearly a million
board feet of lumber when fully loaded including a large deck load.
She was a lucky ship, hence her long life.  In 1909 she was crossing
the Bandon bar under tow of the tug Klihyam when strong current
and wind pushed her onto the submerged part of the South jetty.
The tug cast off her lines to save herself.  When the Life Saving
crew arrived, they ran hawsers to the ship but they both parted.
They then took off the nine passengers and part of the crew and
landed them safely in Bandon.  They then returned to the wreck
and ran a fourth and last hawser which held.  They towed the
steamer off the rocks and inside the bar where she sank, decks
awash.  Finally, after several days of off loading cargo, the ship
was able to be towed into the harbor, patched and pumped out,
and was soon back in service.  Other mishaps, including going
aground and nearly foundering off the South coast, occurred but
the doughty Bandon kept sailing until economics drove her out
of business.  Even then, about 1950, she was sold to Mexican
interests and continued her life as the "Atrevado".

     The bar and harbor are quiet now, the boisterous bars full
of rollicking sailors and the not quite respectable houses that
took care of their other needs are long closed.  The days when
three or four ships were loading at Bandon and another couple
at Prosper won't return.  The Life Saving Service no longer
exists and the Coast Guard only comes for a few months a year
but the spirits of those long gone sailors are still with us; they
were the spirit of Old Bandon and they live on in all of us who
are descended from them  Old sailors never die, they just drift
away on an ebb tide into the setting sun.

And that's the way it was…………….. 



It was the summer of 1853, gold fever was in the air. Rich strikes had been made at the mouth of Rogue River and just south of Cape Blanco as well as at other points on the beaches from Washington to California. Two half-breed Indian brothers, Peter and Charles Grouleaux were making their way from the Willamette Valley to the California strikes when they camped for the night at the small stream later to be named Whiskey Run. The next morning when they prepared their breakfast, one of them went to the stream to dip water.  Looking at the sparkling sandy bottom, he realized he was staring at a rich gold deposit.

It didn't take long for the brothers to realize they had found a bonanza. Exploring the beach, they staked out claims to the richest spots and commenced mining. Often a single shovel full would pan out an ounce of the precious metal. The rich black sand quickly made them fortunes and by the time word got out about their strike and other miners swarmed in, they were ready to sell their claims and leave with their gold. Big Mac and Little Mac MacNamera were fresh up from the strikes further south and had enough gold to meet the demands of the Grouleaux brothers for their claims. 

Loading their gold, which was said to be worth up to $100,000, and their gear on their mule, the brothers headed up the old Randolph Trail toward Coos Bay. Gold at that time was worth $20 per ounce so the mule was heavily loaded and the going was slow over the rough, winding trail. They traveled into the night but for some reason, fear of Indians, robbers or simply because the load was too great, they buried part of the gold under the roots of a large cedar tree, intending to reclaim it at a later time.

The years passed, Peter and Charles traveled to France to visit relatives and spent some years touring Europe during which time Charles died. In 1870 Peter returned to reclaim his hidden gold but a forest fire had ravaged the region a few years before and he was unable to find the elusive cedar tree. In 1922, Peter's grand-daughter came to the area and retained several local men to help her find the treasure. Word got out about the gold and virtually every rotten cedar stump in the Seven Devils was probed under but if anything was found it was kept quiet. Since that time many have searched but the elusive gold dust remains hidden, guarded by the ghosts of the Grouleaux brothers.

Ghosts you say, in the Seven Devils? You nonbelievers just go out there in the brushy canyons with the wind moaning in off the sea on a misty moonless night. Listen closely, if you dare, and perhaps the ghosts of Peter and Charles will tell you their secret.

And that's the way it was.....

By Dick Hancock

     The sun hadn't yet peered over the horizon that early May morning.  The
tide was at low slack and the ramp descended steeply down to the dock  where the Zetta G, a 36 foot long, wooden towboat, rode at her mooring lines.  The gentle northwest wind was blowing away the last of the fog as Wayne and
Jim climbed aboard and started their preparations for the long trip up river
to the Moore Mill log dump at Norway.  Wayne descended the short stairs to the engine room to start up the old Atlas engine while
Jim fired up the little "Swede" kerosene stove in the pilot house to get a
pot of coffee going.   Frank and Harold were already aboard the Billy Moore, tied just below them and had already rigged their towline
to the pile driver barge which they would tow as far as Cedar Point, where
the Zetta G would take over and complete the tow beyond where the 48 foot "Billy" with her deeper draft could  go.

     This trip was necessary each spring.  The Norway log dump was on a low
bank where the high water each winter would overflow the deck  and the debris and logs floating down river would tear out the
pilings and timbers.  The millions of feet of logs splash dammed out from the
upper river during the   winter further compounded the damage, smashing up
what the freshets had spared.  Several weeks of  work would be needed to
drive new piling,  replace the deck and timbers, install a new brow log and
perhaps hang a new "A" frame.  The donkey engine, which was removed each
fall, had to be reset and new cable rigging installed before the first truckloads of logs could be dumped for rafting to the mill at
Bandon.   The dump was a vital link in the Moore Mill system, accepting logs
from their operations in the upper Coquille River drainage, logs which would then be rafted to booms on the lower river for the
year around log supply needed to keep the mill running when winter rain
stopped logging operations.

     With a blast from his whistle, Wayne cast off his mooring lines and
turned into the river, several dozen boom sticks, fifty foot long slender logs drilled for boom chains at each end, in tow.  Frank answered with
a blast of his own and pulled into the stream - the  barge with it's 30 foot
high pile driver tower trailing behind on the manila towline. Their departure
time had been carefully timed to coincide with the start of
the flood tide.  The barge was heavy and towing it with the current would
speed up their trip considerably. A work day for towboaters was dictated by the tides, not the clock!  Above Coquille at this time of year
the tide would not matter, the river flow was heavy enough that the tide
could not counteract the down river flow. 

     Steering by their years of knowledge of the river, the two skippers
headed out.  The long straight stretch of river at Prosper gave them time for coffee and a few minutes of relaxation.  Keeping their 
eyes open however at all times for the deadhead that might have drifted into
the channel during the night.  "Sinkers", logs which were too heavy on one end to float but light enough on the other end,
were an ever present hazard on which a towboat could impale itself in the
blink of an eye.  Passing Rocky Point, they held to the south side of the river to avoid the rock ledge which extended well out into
the river at this low stage of the tide.  Past the old Herman Brothers
shipyard, the old slipways which had launched dozens of boats, large and small still visable, and then the huge old red and white building
which had been the Coquille River Canning Company salmon cannery before it's
closure in 1925.

     A brief stop without mooring at Parkersburg allowed Claude and "Boomer"
Tiller to leap aboard. Boom men for Moores, they would ride along and assist with whatever needed to be done to transfer
the tow at Cedar Point and would return home on the "Billy" that night. 
Claude was carrying a chocolate
cake from Aunt Emma to go with their coffee on the long trip.  Back on the
river, they cruised past Bear Creek, the Little Island and Lampa Creek.  There was little to do except watch for obstructions and
do minor maintenance work on the boats.  The clear, green water and the new
spring foliage made it a scenic trip, especially at Flower Hill where the hillside above the highway was vivid yellow with the
daffodils growing profusely through the grass and low brush.  At Lampa Creek
they paused to shorten up the towlines on the barge and boom sticks to make maneuvering through the tight bends of the river
which were upcoming, easier.  The winter freshets always caused the sandbars
in the turns to shift and neither skipper had been upriver for a few months. 

     Their towlines shortened up, it was back to the main stream.  Easy going
through the bend at the Perkins place, dodge around a couple of sinkers just below the mouth of Hatchet Slough making a mental
note that next time around they needed to be towed out of the channel.  Into
the deep hole just below the bend to the left which would put them into the long straight away past the Alpine Coal Mine and the
town of Riverton.  Two long blasts on the whistle to warn the ferryman at the
Riverton Ferry to lower his ferry cable and keep the ferry in it's slip so they could pass.  An answering toot from the ferry acknowledged their signal.  The ferry crossing was a short one so it took only moments for him to lower
the cable; not enough time to cause the boats to have to even slow down as
they passed. 

     Only three miles to go!  A few more snags noted that would have to be
removed before log rafting started and a couple of shoals that had formed since last season but otherwise an uneventful trip to
their destination at Cedar Point.  The shoals were not a problem, they would
be washed out by backing a towboat into them and blasting them out with the wash from the propeller.  The snags and sinkers
would be removed by attaching a line and towing them into a place where they
would not be a hazard, breaking them loose with a stick or two of dynamite if needed. 

     Arriving at the log boom at Cedar Point, they first tied up the
boomsticks inside the boom.  The Zetta G
would take them on to Norway after the log dump repairs were made.  The
transfer of tow lines from the Billy Moore to the Zetta G was made for the pile driver and they were securely moored to the boom.  The
tide was beginning it's ebb and it was time for the "Billy" to head
downstream.  Their trip home would
three hours, traveling with the river's flow and with nothing behind to
impede their speed.  The Zetta G
would remain in the upper river until the summer towing season ended, plying
between Norway and Cedar Point with log rafts which would be picked up and
towed to the lower river by the Billy Moore or the Active, the larger

     Tomorrow Wayne and Jim would take the barge the final 8 miles to Norway,
first through the narrow drawbridge span at Coquille, then navigating the
twisting, shallow six miles to the log dump.  Just another
day in the life of towboaters on the Coquille.

     And that's the way it was…………… 

By Dick Hancock

Here's a bit of Coos County poetry from "A Century of Coos and
Curry", 1952, by Emil R. Peterson and Alfred Powers.

By Albert Sidney Roos

In Tupper's Hotel, on Nineteen Two's
June 1, Coquille, in County Coos
In Or., the state of wealth and views

To Mister Samuel Hendershott,
In Mich., the town of Wyandotte,
At corner of 10th and West Pequot.

Dear Sir; Yours of the 6th I've got;
It differs from the average lot
By simply asking whether or not
Much berries grow out here in Coos.

Yes, it's a natural berry spot
For blacks, and rasps, ad straws, and dews,
For crans in bogs along the sloughs;
Salal and huckle, prickly goose.

Out here in Coos
Them we produce
From tart to sweet, in all the hues.
We have besides the reds and blues
A saffron Rubus, if you choose
To speak of it in botany-glot -
The salmon - deceptive as the deuce,
All ochre fluff, small meat or juice,
Just good for salmon fish's use.

(Some laugh at it as tommyrot
That its plump fruit gets ripe, turns loose,
And drops with sure, obliging shot
To chinooks that wait below in crews
With open jaws - straight stuff, I wot.)

And myrtle berries for your Sus,
Your hogs, that is - Why Hendershott,
They'll get so fat they'll only snooze.

You finally ask, "Now don't refuse
To answer me with absolute truths -
Of poison oak how much you got,
That evil berry for man and tot?
Do patches all the hillsides dot,
Existing there since the first papoose?
I'm not among the don't's but do's,
A very vulnerable fellow whose
Afflicted eyes can't tell what's what
As around them swollen flesh accrues."

Be calm, dear sir, for here's good news -
That cussed plant, white-berried Rhus,
Ain't hardly found out here in Coos.

Yours truly,

(No realtor as you might deduce)


By Dick Hancock

     A writer shudders to write about his own family for fear that others
won't be as interested in them as he is.  Despite this, I'm going to write
this anyway, for the history of Prosper and the life of my Grandfather are
inextricably entwined.

     Severin Bernard Anderson, known to his friends as Billy, was typical of
the many Scandinavian immigrants who populated the Prosper area in the late
19th century.  Finns, Swedes, Danes and Norwegians came to the Coquille River
for the huge schools of salmon that migrated up the river.  The family names
were distinct in their heritage.   Anderson, Pederson, Hongell, Jorgenson,
Newmann, Carlson, Mattson and Sandstrom were only a few of the names on the
boxes of the Prosper Post Office which was established in August of 1893 when
Adam Pershbaker moved his store from Randolph, three miles up river lock,
stock and barrel to the new sawmill and cannery town being established at
Prosper.   He not only moved his stock and equipment, he loaded the entire
store building on a barge and moved it all! 

      Born on February 17, 1856, in Falkenborg, Sweden, Billy Anderson first
worked as a farm hand in the Falkenborg area.  In 1877 he went to sea as an
Able Seaman, sailing before the mast on square-riggers all over the world. 
During a passage around Cape Horn in winter, his hands were badly frozen from
working the lines of the rigging - the curved fingers would remain with him
his entire lifetime.  On a passage to the Oregon coast in 1890, he fell in
love with the countryside and "jumped ship" to become a resident.  He found
work on the salmon seines being operated on the river and began gillnetting
on his own when he could afford to buy the gear.  It was a natural occupation
for him; his father, Anders Johan Bengtsson, was a commercial fisherman who
had taught him the trade.  Anders died in a fishing accident when his oars
were washed away by a breaking sea and he froze to death before he could get

     Needing more income than fishing provided so he could support his new
bride, he began smoking salmon to sell to the sailing vessels and steam
schooners which called at the Prosper Mill.  In those days before
refrigeration, his smoked and cured salmon could provide the crews with food
which would not spoil during their time at sea.  He married Elizabeth Breuer,
sister to Mike Breuer of Bandon on April 10, 1898 and in the next fifteen
years had 6 daughters, one of whom, Elizabeth, died in infancy.  Of the
others, Emma, Lena, Alma, Josephine and Mildred, two are still living.  Lena
in Coos Bay and Mildred in Keizer.

      Three houses built for his daughters in Prosper still survive, his
original house built for his bride burned many years ago.  The house now
called the Captains House was built for his daughter Josephine.  The house in
front of it and to the right was built for Mildred and the house directly
behind it was his home and later occupied by his daughters Lena and Emma. 
The last of the family to live in Prosper, Frank and Joy Morris lived in it
until a few years ago, when it was sold. 

     Prosper had good times and bad, as the timber and fishing industries
rose and fell with the economy but there was always plenty to eat and
neighbors to help when a family had troubles.  Everyone had a large garden
and the river provided fish and shellfish for the taking.  Even during the
Great Depression things were not too bad.  In a letter to his family in 1933
he says:  "I want to write a few lines and let you know that I am still alive
and have fairly good health.  I am 78 years old next February…..It's been a
hard time in this country, it's been 13 million men without work the last two
years but now it is better since we got a new President.  But here on the
west coast we have had enough to live on……we had a bad fishing this autumn
but I pray the Lord will help us all."   Faith, hard work and help from
family and friends got them all through hard times.   For entertainment there
were dances at the old Prosper School and their Finnish neighbor's sauna. 
And they could always take the rowboat to Bandon to shop and see the sights.

     Anxious to be a full-fledged American, he walked to Empire City to file
his application for citizenship, which was granted on January 5, 1898 by
Judge J. Henry Schroder and witnessed by D. Randleman and J. H. James.  Until
his death he felt it of the utmost importance to cast his vote; a feeling
shared by most of the immigrant community.

And that's the way it was…………….

By Dick Hancock

     It's hard to imagine today a railroad in Bandon but in the late 19th
Century and early 20th Century there were a number of small, shortline
logging railroads in the area.  There are several places in the valley, near
Lampa Creek, Fat Elk Creek and in the fields between Coquille and Coaledo,
where you can still see pilings from the early rail lines, as they crossed
from the timbered hills to the river, where the logs were dumped for towing
to the mills.  

     But just east of Bandon, there occurred  one of the deadliest railroad
logging accidents in the annals of logging history.

     In 1912, Seeley and Anderson were logging in the Bills Creek area.  They
had constructed a logging railroad from there, about 4 miles to the Coquille
River, using the latest model Shay locomotive as the motive power on the
line.  As anyone who has hiked in that area knows, there are several deep
canyons that had to be crossed; one of them over 100 feet deep and 500 feet
wide which had to be crossed with a timber trestle.

     It was the inaugural run of the three car heavily loaded train that
morning of November 25, 1912.  Aboard the train were three crewmen and four
passengers from the logging camp, including two who had been injured in woods
accidents earlier who were going to town to the doctor. 

     As the train headed out onto the high trestle, the engineer felt it
"giving".  Hastily applying the brakes, he transferred the weight of the
heavy log cars forward, causing the framework of the trestle to collapse into
the canyon, carrying train and men into the abyss.  The engineer had time
only to cry "Boys, we're gone", before the whole thing fell into a tangled
heap of timbers and wreckage.

     Three men were killed outright in the wreck.  Three more died shortly
after being pulled from the debris.
One man managed, though badly injured, to crawl from the pile and go for
help.  Assistance was summoned from nearby logging camps and from the US
Lifesaving Station at Bandon.  No other locomotive being available on the
line, the injured, dying and dead were carried down the railroad line to the
river and taken to Bandon by boat. 

     The Lifesaving Service is usually thought of as only being used for
maritime disasters but in reality they often were called out for other
disasters.  Many fires were fought by them in Bandon buildings and they were
called for emergencies of all kinds.  They were instrumental in extinguishing
the fire which destroyed three blocks of downtown Bandon on June 11, 1914.

     There were many other fatal accidents on the logging railroads of Coos
County but none that approached the casualties of Bandon's own great train

     And that's the way it was………


3-The Last Shipyard
By Dick Hancock

     From 1857, when Fitzgerald, Giles and Hall built a small, unnamed
schooner on the Coquille River, until the end of World War II, shipbuilding
was an important industry on the lower river.  Sailing vessels, steam
schooners, tugs, barges and fishing vessels of all sizes and types plied the
seas of the world from the Coquille River yards of the Heuckendorffs,
Hermans, Reeds and others.  It all ended with the end of World War II when
the Prosper Shipyard, which had built wooden barges for the US Navy, closed

     But one stalwart builder of wooden ships for iron men came back!  Art
Mattson had spent the war years building wooden minesweepers for the Navy in
California and on Coos Bay but returned to his boat yard above Prosper and
once more started building and repairing wooden boats.  Art was the son of
Finnish immigrant John Mattson and was a Master craftsman who was as picky
about the materials he used as he was about his own craftsmanship.   For a
young boy, spending time in his boat shed was a heady experience, watching
the long curls flow from the wooden plane as Art painstakingly shaved down a
Port Orford Cedar boat rib to make it fit exactly in place or smelling the
metallic odor of the red copper paint as he brushed it into the new planks he
was fitting in the bottom of the old Active, a Moore Mill towboat that he
pulled out of the water for maintenance every year   or two.    It was a
privilege, not a chore, to be allowed to run errands or carry tools - or on a
very good day, to be allowed to drive the glue coated wooden plugs inserted
over the heads of the screws holding the planks to the ribs.

     The "ways" were a complicated arrangement of cables and a carriage
riding on beams running down into the water.  The cables, attached to an
arrangement of gears and rollers driven by a vehicle's rear wheels riding on
rollers, pulled the carriage and the vessel placed on it, out of the water.
The deeper the draught of the vessel, the higher the tide had to be to get it
into the carriage.  The Billy Moore, another towboat, needed at least a seven
foot tide to get on the carriage.  Flat bottom barges, such as the Bullards
or Riverton ferries could be pulled on lower tides.  Once out of the water,
the hulls could be scraped and inspected and any soft planks or damage
repaired.  Then, caulked and painted, they would be returned to their natural
element and back to work.

     Art was usually the first one on the river to catch a Chinook.  Sometime
in June, when things felt right to him, he would start trolling his Bear
Valley #5 spinner in front of Prosper.  Rowing his hand built cedar and
canvas covered punt with his ever present White Owl cigar pointing the way,
he would methodically cover his favorite spots.  Never later than the fourth
of July, he would connect.  After the first one each year, it was easy he
would say. "Only secret was to be at the same place the fish you intended to
catch would be!"
The size of the fish he caught varied with who was listening to the story at
the time.  Seemed like none of them were ever less than thirty pounds though.

     After the war, he never drove a car.  He had lost an eye in an accident
and felt unsafe driving but he never lacked for transportation.  The
Greyhound bus or the milk truck would get him where he wanted to go - or
there was always his punt to row.  When he visited our house, we kids always
were sure he had come to see us, not our parents!  He would come to the door,
call whatever kids were home, and reach into his pocked and pull out a
handful of coins; wait until we were all there, and throw them all over the
After the mad scramble to retrieve them, we would all gather around and hear
whatever tall tale he had to tell us that day.

     Up until his death, at about 90, he seldom failed to walk from Prosper
to Bandon every day for a drink at Lloyds Cafι.  He wouldn't turn down a ride
but not getting one didn't deter him from the trip.  Rain or wind were no
impediment, he and his White Owl made the hike.  Next time you're in Lloyds,
have one for Art!

     And that's the way it was………

2- THE TOWHEAD by Dick Hancock

     It's a cold, windy October night with tendrils of fog snaking along the
surface of the river as the men gather around the bonfire sipping coffee (and
some nipping on something stronger) at the Parkersburg towhead.  "Hotpants",
who received his nickname from standing too close to such a fire on a past
evening, is spinning one of his yarns extolling his greatness as a fisherman.
 The rest of them sit,  listening to the story they've heard too many times
and watching the river for the exact time slack water will start and they can
lay out their long drift nets. 

     The towhead is the gathering place for the commercial fishermen who have
carefully kept that stretch of river free of snags and other obstacles
throughout the year which might snag their nets.  There they build a fire and
keep the coffee hot while they alternate in laying out the almost river-wide
nets which will drift with the incoming tide for the length of the cleared
area.  At Parkersburg the drift was long, nearly a mile, and one of the best
drifts on the river.  Over the years the men who fished there varied but the
long timers were the Tiller brother, my uncle Claude and his brothers Fred
(Boomer) and Tull.  They all lived right there on the river and worked hard
keeping the deadheads and other snags clear.  Some of the other drifts on the
river were Skomakawa at Randolph, Prosper - the long straight stretch of
river at Prosper and The Seining Ground from Bullards Ferry to the big bend
at what is now Bullards State Park.  There were other smaller drifts up and
down the river but those were the main ones.  Each with it's loose knit group
who felt they had the right to fish there.

     It was time to go!  Claude fired up the engine and we backed off the
beach with the 20 foot gillnet boat.
Down river, at the start of the drift,  he threw over the lighted buoy
attached to the end of the two fathom deep net and began slowly backing the
boat across the river as he paid out the 600 feet of net - cork line on the
top to float the net and lead line on the bottom to keep the wall of 7 inch
mesh vertical.  When it was all laid out, the engine on idle, we began the
slow drift upriver with the tide.  The drift upriver took about 45 minutes,
quiet minutes, the silence only broken by another boat going down river to
start his drift.  We watched the cork line for as far out in the darkness as
it could be seen.  Occasionally  the corks would dance as a fat Silverside
(Coho) salmon drove himself into the mesh of the net.  After several such
hits, Claude pulled the net over the side of the boat and gaffed the
entangled fish, throwing them into the fishbox and laying the net back out. 
When the end of the drift was reached (at what is now Parkersburg County
Park) the entire length of the net was pulled back into the boat.  A good
drift!  More than 20 prime Silvers and several Chinooks lay in the fish
boxes.  Damp, cold but exhilarated we headed back to the towhead to get warm
and wait for our next turn.

     Commercial fishing is gone, probably forever, on the Coquille but when
it was allowed it was how many men, and some women, provided for their
families.  The river people lived off the land, salmon in the river, clams on
the flats, deer in the hills and big vegetable gardens.  Perhaps not a lot of
money but we lived well indeed! 

     And that's the way it was…………………. 



I remember the long kitchen table on the second floor of the Breuer 
Building where all the relatives would gather on Sunday afternoons. The 
adults would gather at the table and the kids would "help" cousin "Feeney" by 
grinding coffee in the huge iron coffee mill or hoist wood for the kitchen 
stove up from the basement with the rope and pulley hanging from the back 
porch. Exploring the basement was an adventure too….searching out the eggs 
in the chickens nests or speculating on what treasures were hidden in the 
big iron safe Uncle Mike kept there. Upstairs the adults would be 
discussing the latest gossip or venturing their opinions on politics and 
hoping they agreed with Uncle Mike's feelings on the subject. The visits 
were always lubricated by Uncle Mike's strong home brewed beer so the longer 
they lasted the louder they got! His opening of the porcelain stoppered 
bottles was ritual - he would hold the big, white enamel pitcher between his 
knees, point the bottle downward and flip the wire retainers. When the fumes 
and foam stopped flying, the pitcher would be full of strong, amber beer 
which he would portion out to his guests and himself. If we had been 
unusually good, we would also get a small taste, accompanied by an "it's goot 
for dem" as he would glare at any parent who might dare to object. 

Born in what is now Slovakia, Mike Breuer deserted from the Kaisers army 
at the age of 21 and migrated to the US, settling first in Bridgeport, 
Connecticut. From there he headed west and homesteaded on Indian Creek, on 
the Middle fork of the Coquille River. He saved his money and brought all 
his brothers and sisters to the US, one by one. In 1894 he started a 
cobbler shop in Bandon, walking overland every week from the ranch. The 
present Breuer Building was started during that time and finally finished 
about the turn of the century. It housed what had become a general 
mercantile store as well as family living quarters on the second story, and a 
small attached part on the west side which was his cobbler shop where he made 
shoes and boots as well as repairing them. For over a half-century he worked 
at his bench there, amidst the smell of leather, boot polish and sometimes 
the tempting aroma of salmon smoking in the big wood stove. When one of the 
many relatives who commercial fished on the Coquille would bring him a 
salmon, he would build a small, smoky fire in the ash box and smoke the fish. 

The building gained it's place as one of the oldest buildings in Bandon 
on the night of September 26th, 1936 when the Bandon fire destroyed most of 
the rest of the bustling seaport. Sweeping down from Bear Creek to the east, 
it quickly reduced to rubble and ashes most of the town. Despite buildings 
on the east side and on Coast Guard hill to the south going up in flames, 
family and friends hoisted water to the roof and saved the building after an 
all night battle. The spring in the basement and the river to the north 
provided the water and the family provided the manpower, saving the lifework 
of Uncle Mike. When my father, Wayne Hancock, came down the river from 
Prosper the next day in his gill-net boat, he said he wasn't surprised to see 
the building still standing, "No mere fire would dare defy Uncle Mike". 

You can see the building now, restored to much of it's original 
condition, immediately west of the old Coast Guard building. I wonder how 
many ghosts of the family visit the guests of the Bed and Breakfast on windy 
nights when the howl of the wind would be hard to tell from the rustle and 
whispers of the original occupants.


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