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 County

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 world wide.

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 Horsfall Beach.

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 stimulus.

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Web Page June 15, 2003
Copyright, 2002-2006

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 Taylor.