Coos County History
In 1542-43, the earliest known visit to the South Coast was by the Spanish.
36 years later, in 1579, British explorers started visiting the area after trips
around South America. The famous explorer, Sir Francis Drake, sheltered his
ship during a storm in the south cove of Cape Arago. About 1778, The South Coast
was again visited by Captain James Cook. In 1791, The "JENNY", captained
by James Baker, sailed into the mouth of the Umpqua River and made the first
contact with the coastal Indians, and the next year Captain George Vancouver
anchored just south of Cape Blanco.
By 1826, Hudson's Bay Company, always exploring for fur trapping areas, explored
from the Umpqua south to the Rogue River and up the South Fork of the Coquille
River to Power's Valley. A couple years later, Jedediah Smith led some men north
from California along the beaches to the Umpqua, where they were in a fight
with the local Indians. Only Smith and and 3 others survived.
In January, 1852, the "CAPTAIN LINCOLN" wrecked on the
north spit of Coos Bay. 52 soldiers from the ship established Camp Cast-A-Way,
met local Indians, and explored the bay. Upon their rescue, their stories reached
the attention of miners, settlers, and merchants. Later that year, miners begin
to mine gold on South Coast beaches.
Coos County was established by the territorial legislature on December 22,
1853 from parts of Umpqua and Jackson Counties. It was named after a local Indian
tribe, the Coos, which has been variously translated to mean "lake"
or "place of pines." Although exploration and trapping in the area
occurred as early as 1828, the first settlement was established at Empire City
in 1853. In January 1854, the Territorial Legislature established Empire City
as the county seat. The first county courthouse was built in Empire City.
Randolph, a gold mining camp, was established north of the Coquille River
at Whiskey Run. The Coos Bay Commercial Company established the towns of Empire
City and Marshfield at Coos Bay an the first sawmill in Coos County was built
by Geo. Wasson and partners near Bullards. It was powered by an undershot water
wheel. Mrs. F.G. Lockhart of Empire taught in the first Coos County school in
1854. There were five students. The Territorial Legislature granted permission
for the development of wagon roads from Coos Bay to Jacksonville in 1854 and
to Roseburg in 1857.
The Rogue River Indian War broke out about 1855-56. Surviving Rogue River
Indians were removed to the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations. Coos, Lower
Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians were held temporarily at a reservation near Ft.
Umpqua on the north shore of the Umpqua River. They were moved onto the Siletz
Reservation at Yachats in 1859.
Henry Luse and Asa M. Simpson begin operation of the first sawmills on Coos
Bay: Luse at Empire City and Simpson at North Bend. This happened in 1856.
Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859 The Baltimore Colony settled
in the upper Coquille Valley near Myrtle Point. The first census
in 1860 showed a population of 445.
Cape Arago Light on Gregory Point (near Sunset Bay) began operation in 1866
after the War Between the States. Soon veterans from that war began arriving
in Oregon, some making their way across the coastal range to settle in Coos
The 1870's brought more development to Coos County, with the Coquille
post office established in 1870, joined in 1871 by the post office in Marshfield.
In 1872, the Coos Bay Wagon Road opened, connecting Coos County with the Roseburg
and Umpqua River valley areas.
In 1874, Marshfield became the first incorporated town in Coos county,
the first oyster bed planted on South Slough, and Bandon was founded by George
Bennett from Bandon Ireland, (post office established in 1877). Bennett is buried
in Bandon's Pioneer Cemetery.
1875 brought the opening of the Southport Mine on Isthmus Slough.
It proved to be one of the most successful of the region, producing coal through
World War II. Judah Parker founded Parkersburg on the Coquille River in 1876.
The post office at Ott was renamed Myrtle Point, and ship builder John Kruse
of North Bend had built the Western Shore, a three-masted wooden clipper ship
in 1874. In 1876 the Western Shore made a record run from Portland, Oregon to
Liverpool, England in only 101 days. In 1879, Charles McFarlin brought cranberries
to Coos County. This has become the major agricultural crop, with many bogs
around Bandon. Ocean Spray has a local plant and Ocean Spray products are sold
In 1885, Coquille was incorporated followed by Myrtle Point in 1887.
The Riverton post office on the Coquille River was established.
In 1891, the town of Bandon is incorporated. The Sun newspaper and
job printing shop opened for business on Front Street in Marshfield. (It moved
to its present location in 1911), and the first electrical plant is established
in the county at Marshfield. The Coos Bay, Roseburg, and Eastern Railroad line
was completed between Marshfield and Myrtle Point in 1893. Adam Pershbaker founded
the town of Prosper on the Coquille and the first telephone line between Myrtle
Point and Marshfield was completed.
The citizens of Coos County vote to move the seat of county government
from Empire City to Coquille in 1896. The first courthouse in Coquille was erected
in 1898. An addition, referred to as the "hall of records," was built
in 1916. The Bandon Lighthouse at the mouth of the Coquille River was completed
and Beaver Hill, an important coal mining community, was incorporated.
In 1910, the "CZARINA" wrecked in the Coos bar
killing 24 persons and in 1929, the "SUJAMECO" wrecked at
During WWII, in 1942, the Japanaese launched a small plane from a
submarine that dropped incendiary bombs on Mount Emily in Curry County, and
in 1945 they launched "Balloon Bombs" into the jet stream to drop
incendiary devices on Coos County and the Western United States. They hoped
to start massive forest fires to help divert attention from the war.
Coos County is situated in the southwestern part of Oregon. It is
bounded by Douglas County on the north and east, by Curry County on the south,
and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Various boundary adjustments with Curry County
in 1855 and 1872 and with Douglas County in 1882, 1951, and 1983 resulted in
the present county which now has an area of 1,629 square miles.
In 1951 the old courthouse was torn down. The "hall of records"
was left standing, and in 1951 and 1953 east and west wings were added at the
cost of $180,00 and $260,00 for each wing.
Although a mountainous county, it has considerable areas suitable
for agriculture and dairy farming. Timber and fishing are the foundation of
the county's economy. The area also produces large quantities of shell fish.
There are several port districts in the county: Port of Coos Bay
founded in 1909, Port of Coquille River founded in 1912, and Port of Bandon
founded in 1913. Coos Bay is considered the best natural harbor between San
Francisco Bay and the Puget Sound and the Port of Coos Bay is the largest forest
products shipper in world.
Gold mining was the magnet that drew people to explore and exploit
the mineral resources of the county during the nineteenth century. Today there
are rich deposits of iron ore, lead, and coal that await development. Vacation
and recreational possibilities, such as the National Dunes Recreation Area and
many state parks, attract tourists to the area and provide an additional economic
Back To Main Page
Web Page June 15, 2003
This information compiled, prepared and submitted to this site by
Ethel Taylor and remains the property
of the submitter. NOTICE: Ethel Taylor grants that this information and data
may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all
copied material, for personal and genealogical research. These electronic pages
cannot be reproduced in any format for profit, can not be copied over to other
sites, linked to, or other presentation without written permission of Ethel