100 + YEARS OF BANDON
The first known inhabitants of Bandon were the Coquille Indians.The Indian tribe and village located at the mouth of the Coquille River were known as the NoSoMah Indians.They lived on the river banks, and their main sources of food were mussels, clams, and fish.Coquille, a French word meaning “shell”, was chosen for the river when the first white settlers arrived and found mounds of shells along the river banks.
The Indians homes were made of planks leaned together and then tied.When they built a fire inside their home, they would remove a plank to allow the smoke to ventilate.They stored their food in the same kind of building.
The Indians believed the God of the Ocean would send fish to them.They would throw the bones of an eaten fish back into the water to thank their God for sending fish.They believed if they did not do this, their God would become angry, and not send them any more fish.
It was also a great honor to catch the first salmon of the season.The Indians would perform a ceremony by saying prayers over the fish.They would divide it so that all their people ate from the salmon.They would also mix salmon eggs or roe with elder berries, and pass it around for everyone to eat.They would dip their fingers in the mixture and then lick them.
The NaSoMah Indians lived in Bandon for over 2000 years.Their villages included 700-800 people.Then came in the settlers…
The first white settler, Henry Baldwin, walked into the area after being shipwrecked on the Coos Bay Bar in 1852.Later, he sent to the area George Sealy, George Bennett and his two sons, all from Bandon, Ireland.The town was originally named Averill then changed to Bandon, after Bandon, Ireland in 1874.
Shortly after the first settlers came to the area, there were several massacres of the Indians’.The settlers burned their buildings filled with food, causing the Indians to starve.Finally, in 1855, the government forced the remaining Indians to sign a treaty selling their land to the government.They were then moved to the Siletz Reservation.
More and more white settlers came to the area, and the town began to grow.The post office was built in 1877.In 1880 Bandon began processing cheese, and Congress set aside monies to build a jetty.Construction on the jetty began in 1884, and was completed in 1898.The first newspaper was named the Bandon Recorder, and a census taken in 1890 revealed a population of 219.
On February 18, 1891, Bandon was incorporated.
The Bandon Lighthouse was built in 1896, and is still standing today.Between 1900 and 1910, the population more than doubled from 645 to 1,803.This was due to the attraction of tourists to the beautiful coastline.
In 1914, and again, in 1936, fire destroyed the businesses on the waterfront.The town rose again and again from its ashes and Bandon had its first Cranberry Festival in 1947.
A new shopping center and boat basin were built, and the Old Town area was redeveloped in the 1980’s.Bandon reached a population of 2,535 at the end of that decade.
Today, Bandon’s major industries are tourism, fishing, cranberries, and timber.
On February 18, 1992, Bandon began celebrating its 100th birthday.A Centennial Display is featured at the Bandon Historical Museum.Because the major fires destroyed so much, it was very hard to find articles and information from this past era.To aid in recovering the next 100 years, a time capsule was filled with memorabilia from today and buried in the City Park to be reopened in 100 years.
Here’s to the next 100+ years, Bandon!
Bandon Struck by Fires!
“The 1914 fire began at midnight on June 10 in what was believed to be a defective chimney of the L.N.E. Restaurant.The restaurant, which was located in the Dyer Building, had been condemned by the City Council as a firetrap two weeks earlier.It was believed that the fire had extinguished and no alarm was sounded.
At 3:00 a.m., on June 11, the fire broke out again.The steam schooner “Speedwell”, which carried equipment which could have put out the fire, proceeded to sea.
No one anticipated the serious conflagration which destroyed the major part of the waterfront district in a matter of hours.Although the tug ‘Klihyam’ and the Life-Saving Service from the nearby station finally put out the fire, residents and businesses in Bandon, poorly insured, suffered extensive damage.”(Reprinted from Western World newspaper, Bandon, Oregon, February 13, 1991.)
A clip called “Bandon Abandoned” from the Coos Bay Times, September 27, 1936.
“As pink dawn came over the eastern hills, little groups of shivering refugees huddled on all sides - gazed at the ruin left by a roaring inferno that swept this city of 1800 last night and left practically the entire town homeless and businesses and houses nothing but ashes.”
“Fire raged into Bandon last night from the north border, swept through dry brush and trees, devoured cabins, dance halls on the ocean bluff, spread to residences, wiped out the coast guard station, tore through Bandon businesses’ in a hell of a fire!”
“Nothing could have been done to save the city.Fathers, mothers, children, gathered frantically - rushed out of their homes with what few belongings they could gather and sought safety as the flames spread like wildfire through this once famous resort city.”
“The fire, which finally reached Bandon, had been burning through Saturday.It was burning in the Bear Creek district, China Creek, Crooked Creek, Johnson Creek areas.All were swept with fire as brush and green timber provided fuel for the disaster.Queer hot winds had blown all day Saturday to send the mercury up to a new heat record for the coast this year blew in all directions and drafts caused by the flames stirred the winds into swirling twisters.A southeast wind pushed the fire down onto the town.Firefighters combated in vain.”
“At 9 o’clock last night the fires which had traveled at 10 miles an hour over hills north and east of the city blazed on the horizon and residents knew their homes were doomed.Tying household belongings to cars, burying smaller precious possessions and remaining beside their houses in many cases until they had actually become blazing hearths, Bandon folk finally left the city at 10 o’clock, continuing their exodus through early hours of the morning. “
“Unable to escape the south and finding a way out over the highway to the north difficult, many sought refuge on the jetty until it too went up in flames.This morning, they were stranded in huddling groups on the rocks.Hundreds camped by the roadside, while others went on to Coquille for the remainder of the night.”
“After the smoke cleared, only 15 homes and businesses were standing out of almost 500, and a final toll of 11 deaths.The entire destruction of Bandon took less than 7 hours.However, this fire was only one of several fires that broke out of control along the coast that day, and continued to burn over 100,000 acres before cooling November rains extinguished the flames.
The Legend of Face Rock
Bandon has many beautiful large rock formations located off the shores of the Pacific Ocean.Many legends have been passed on about Face Rock.The one from the NaSoMah Indians goes something like this:
Many, many moons ago the four coastal Indian tribes gathered in a feast to honor the great Chief Siskiyou who was coming down from the mountains, and bringing his beautiful daughter, Euwauna.Euwauna brought along her cat with kittens, and her dog companion, Komax.
Euwauna was entranced by the beautiful ocean, and how the moon glistened on the water, for she longed to see where the beautiful clouds were made.The coastal tribes warned Euwauna of the terrible spirit, Seatka, who lives along the coast and was feared by all.
However, the sight of the ocean was too powerful, and she waded deeper and deeper into the ocean.Suddenly, she was gripped by the evil Seatka, who tried to make her look into his eyes where his power lies.
Her faithful dog, Komax, seeing his mistress in distress, raced to her rescue carrying the basket of cat and kittens with him.Komax sank his sharp teeth into Seatka, who became angry and kicked the dog to loosen his grip.He then threw the cat and kittens far away from shore.Euwana still refused to look Seatka into the eyes, so he turned her to stone along with the cat, kittens, and her loyal Komax.
Today, Euwana still looks toward her beautiful moon, as Seatka waits to catch her glimpse and claim her for his own.
Euwana, better known as Face Rock, can be viewed on Beach Loop Drive.
According to the 90 plus prosperous cranberry growers we have here, Bandon is the Cranberry capitol of Oregon.During harvest time, you may go on tours and see the harvesting process first hand.Call the Information Center at 347-9616 to find out which cranberry bogs are set up for tours.
The bogs are dormant through the winter until spring.The cranberries go through a budding state.In early spring, they turn to a pink hook, then to white blossoms, which produce the berry.
Around mid-October, the berries are harvested.There are two types of harvesting, dry and wet.To dry pick, they use machine called a Furford picking machine.This machine has little knives in the bottom, and is pushed over the crop to cut the berries from the vine.
The berries are placed on small paddles that elevate up and drop them into a canvas bag which is changed when full.The berries are then separated from cut leaves and vines.
To wet pick, the bog is filled with 1 to 1 ½ feet of water, and a machine called a water harvester separates the berries from the vines.The berries float, and are corralled with boom sticks.They can be removed by an elevator, or a fruit pump.
Next the berries are boxed up and taken to the Ocean Spray plant, south of town.Ocean Spray has exclusive contracts with most cranberry growers here.The cranberries are in high demand because of the climate at harvest time; the berries produce a dark red color, perfect for making juice.Even with an abundance of cranberries here; it is very hard to purchase fresh cranberries, unless you know an independent grower.Ocean Spray ships the berries back east to the big Ocean Spray factories for processing.
Who knows, the next time you drink Ocean Spray cranberry juice, it might have come from Bandon!