Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Tillamook Indians and Bayocean

The Tillamook tribe enjoyed the use of Bayocean Peninsula long before any white men. In her testimony against construction of an eco-park on Bayocean, Merilee Sommers, board member of the Cape Meares Community Association , included a 1994 letter from anthropologist/attorney J.C. Steen, which said, "Bayocean Spit is the location of at least four and perhaps five significant early Native American occupation sites." She also said historian Garry Gitzen had told her on October 10, 2014 that there were "quite a few middens in the area...evidence to their dependence on fish and shellfish for food." With the ocean on one side and the bay on the other, Bayocean would have been an ideal spot for the Tillamook

Though Tillamooks likely had contact with sailors from Spanish ships that cruised Oregon's shores as early as the 16th Century, the first recorded contact was with sailors of the Lady Washington, captained by Robert Gray during his first trip to the Pacific Coast. After a couple days of peaceful trade, the encounter ended badly, with one sailor and three tribesmen killed in a skirmish over a cutlass. Third mate Robert Haswell dubbed the location "Murderers Harbour" in his August 16, 1788 log entry, as an expression of his angst over the event. The Oregon section of Haswell's log was published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly June 1928 article "Captain Robert Grays' First Visit to Oregon." Haswell mentions passing a spit while sailing into the bay, but provided no description of Bayocean Spit. 
The Octopus Tree at Cape Meares was used for ceremonies  by Tillamook Indians 
In January 1806 William Clark, and several other members of the Corps of Discovery including Sacajawea, traveled to the Tillamook village of Necost to trade for blubber and oil the tribe had harvested from a whale that washed up on shore. They set up camp for a couple days on the tidal flats of Ecola Creek, across from the village. The Tillamooks weren't willing to sell Clark much of what they'd harvested from the whale, but they did give him a description of Tillamook Bay that he used to draw a sketch that  can be seen at Neahkahnie Visions. It's an interesting historical artifact, but since Clark didn't visit the area personally the map can't be taken as an accurate representation of the shape of Bayocean Spit at the time.

For more information about Tillamook history, read what living tribal members have to say at Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes , and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Oregon Coastal Atlas

1953 USACE  aerial photo of Bayocean from Oregon Coastal Atlas
Anyone interested in Oregon's coast should know about the Oregon Coastal Atlas. Whether your focus is history, environmental issues, shoreline changes, storm and/or tsunami planning, or photographic timelines, this site offers a plethora of data, and digital tools that bring it all to life. Some if the information is not available elsewhere. For example, their Estuary Data Viewer is the only place I've found that provides a township and range map layer for Bayocean.
 
When I had questions about using the Estuary Data Viewer, I was directed to Tanya Haddad. She developed and maintains the Oregon Coastal Atlas in one of her roles as Oregon Department of Land, Conservation, and Development (DLCD) staff assigned to the Oregon Coastal Management Program.
 
Back in 2002 Tanya created a web tool for Coastal Atlas called Tillamook Bay: The Erosions of Bayocean Spit . She took it down some time ago, but has just reposted it. I could only dream of being able to put something like this together, so I am very pleased she's done this. By moving your cursor across years ranging from 1939 to 1964 you'll see a series of aerial photos taken by the Corps of Engineers, visually depicting the slow destruction and eventual rebuilding of the spit.  Enjoy it.

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stand Under Bayocean Hotel Annex's Chimney

Would you like to stand on the beach precisely 100' below the spot where the chimney of the Bayocean Hotel Annex was located 100 years ago? Well, you can, thanks to NOAA's National Geodetic Service (NGS) and its database of survey control station datasheets kept on file even after the actual station (monuments similar to those by surveyors) no longer exist. 

Excerpts from the datasheet for KINCHELOE (RD2010):
       
DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1926 (JMS). STATION IS LOCATED ON TOP OF CENTER BAFFLE WALL OF LARGE BRICK CHIMNEY, SITUATED ON TOP OF LARGE HALF CONCRETE, HALF FRAME, WHITE HOTEL AT BAY OCEAN, OREGON...

RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1932(LAM) ...THE STATION IS IN THE TOP OF THE CHIMNEY OF THE LARGE, WHITE BAY OCEAN HOTEL, UNOCCUPIED IN 1932...

RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1954 (FN). THE HOTEL ON WHICH THE STATION WAS LOCATED HAS BEEN  COMPLETELY DESTROYED AND WASHED OUT TO SEA BY THE OCEAN CURRENTS...

Photos show the chimney to be about 33' tall. So, the station would have been at an elevation of about 133', the highest man-made point on Bayocean.

Coordinates translated into decimal degrees are 45.52982, -123.954258. The Bayocean Hotel chimney appears well out to sea on the NGS map, but you can reach it at medium to low tide. Everything west of the vegetation line (including the beach) is evidently colored blue.

Web sites like ORMAP and Coastal Atlas project the Bayocean town site onto current areal views, so are more realistic; but they don't label the streets. Just keep in mind that the hotel was in the large block just southwest of 14th Street and Laurel Avenue (see the map at Bayocean Then And Now).  

The other historical datasheet of significance is for CORN RD2011, coordinates  45.52683, -123.951464. Excerpts from it:
DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1954 (FN) LOCATED ABOUT 7 MILES NORTHWEST OF TILLAMOOK NEAR THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF WHAT IS LEFT OF BAY OCEAN ON THE SOUTHEAST SIDE OF A PROMINENT PAVED STREET INTERSECTION ABOUT 260 FEET WEST OF THE WEST SHORE OF TILLAMOOK BAY AND ABOUT 8 FEET ABOVE MEAN HIGH WATER.  STATION IS THE CORNER OF A DILAPIDATED LARGE TWO STORY FLAT-ROOFED BUILDING UNPAINTED ON SOUTH AND EAST SIDES AND PAINTED WHITE ON WEST AND NORTH SIDES.  POINT     INTERSECTED IS APPROXIMATELY 35 FEET ABOVE MEAN HIGH WATER AND IS THE     NORTHEAST CORNER OF THE BUILDING AT THE TOP OF THE SECOND STORY.

This was Mitchell's Bay Hotel (see Bayocean Then and Now ). If you visit the coordinates today you'll find that the Reeder family and Tillamook County surveyors have installed signs nearby to locate what had once been the center of Bayocean commerce. After the 1952 storms made an island of Bayocean, the Mitchells hung on for a while but had left by the time "FN" visited the site in 1954. When the dike was built to reconnect Bayocean with Cape Meares in 1956 the store and other ruins were bulldozed and burned. The area was then leveled with sand dredged from Tillamook Bay.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cape Meares and Bayocean

Much  of Cape Meares was platted with the Bayocean resort as part of the same Bayocean Park subdivision. Their fates have been intertwined ever since.

           Cape Meares shown on page 19 of Bayocean Park brochure from Oregon State Library

The Mears Street [sic] and 2nd Street shown on the original plat map above were both lost to the sea the same way, and over the same time period, as the town site of Bayocean.  This is why modern-day Bayocean Road (Meares Avenue and 13th Street inside Cape Meares community) ends at 3rd Street instead of 1st or 2nd. You can see more clearly what fell into the sea at Bayocean Lots In Pacific Ocean.  

Though concrete roads were constructed on Bayocean early on, there was no way to drive cars to them from the outside. The first version of today's Bayocean Road wasn't built until 1926, when Francis and Ida Mitchell - who owned a grocery store and hotel on the bay side of Bayocean - got tired of waiting for Tillamook County's help and built their own dirt and plank affair (Oregonian, July 11, 1926). In 1928 the road was improved to the standards of the day by a cooperative effort of the county and other Bayocean property owners who were awarded T.B. Potter Realty assets after thirteen years legal action (Oregon Journal, Sept. 2,1928). Where the road turned north from Cape Meares, its name was changed from Mears to 1st Street. Once it crossed over to the bay side it was called Bay Street. 

Addresses 5800 and higher (northward) along all north/south streets in Cape Meares, and those along Meares Avenue/13th Street from the beach to Cape Meares Loop, are part of the original Bayocean Park subdivision. Most of the buildings were constructed long after Bayocean was gone. The first homes in the adjacent Oceanview subdivision were built in the early 1920s.  Some buildings were moved there from Bayocean before the sea destroyed it in 1852.


The most prominent of the Bayocean immigrants was its schoolhouse, which now resides at 5690 4th Street NW, and serves as a community center. The schoolhouse and Pagoda houses were the earliest to be moved off Bayocean - in 1949. A history of the school, written by Barbara Bennett, is depicted on a plaque next to the front entry. You can read by zooming in on the photo here (the Milton Schlegel mentioned was Barbara's father). The Cape Meares Community Association added to the building and maintains it. 

Barbara Bennett lived in Cape Meares then, and still does. She recalls attending Bayocean School in 7th grade and graduating from 8th grade there in 1945. Among her fourteen classmates were her brothers Jerry and Jim Schlegel, Perry Reeder, Ernest Knutson, and the Bennett siblings: Harold, Rosemarie, and James. Barbara married James Bennett. He was interviewed by Rick Dancer for a video called "Oregon Ghost Towns: Bay Ocean, the saddest story of all" before passing away in 2014. Barbara writes the "Cape Meares Fencepost" column for the Tillamook Headlight Herald.



The Webbers said that six homes were also moved to Cape Meares before the sea could take them (see "Buildings Moved" in right column). They included the house of Lewis Bennett (James' father) even though his approach was a bit different: "He took it apart board at a time and moved it to his lot in the Cape Meares Community. All he lost was his garage and his wife's daffodils." According to Lewis' son Harold, the boards were barged over to Bay City by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and stored there until they were used to build an addition to the house the family moved into on Cape Meares. Harold still lives there with his wife MerryAnn. He remembers the house on Bayocean having colorful walls, a carryover from its previous owner, the Rainbow Girls. The Webbers said they found a small board from the Bennett's garage in March 1972 (the rest had fallen into the sea; What Happened at Bayocean: Is Salishan Next?24) that was "Rainbow Girls blue."  

Friday, March 6, 2015

When Trees Arrived on Bayocean

The dunes of the southern Oregon Coast are free of any vegetation, while Bayocean has some very large old spruce and pine on its northern, hilly, forested section. The salal, huckleberry, and other undergrowth would have followed the establishment of those trees, because they require shade to survive. When might the trees have arrived?

Obviously, sand dunes must stabilize (stop growing and moving) to some degree before vegetation can take hold. So it would have to have been after Bayocean started shrinking, as discussed in Pre-historic Geomorphology of Bayocean Peninsula

Photos taken when the town was being built show trees; and sales brochures featured them. In Coastal Sand Dunes of Oregon and Washington, William Cooper noted that when he visited Bayocean Park in 1928 it was "fairly well covered with brush and grass, and there were a few young pines and spruces upon it." 



190 rings on a 38" diameter log along Dike Road
On April 1, 1857 General Land Office surveyor Samuel Snowden noted a 16" pine in his field notes, while working on Bayocean. Various web sites use 5 years per inch of diameter for pine and spruce, which matches the rings per inch I found on an old log next to the Dike Road February 24, 2015. Based on this ratio, the pine that Snowden saw was about 80 years old. We can estimate that it sprouted in 1777 and that Bayocean has been vegetated for at least 238 years. But Paul Levesque thinks it more likely the tree photographed got there due to heavy flooding after 1934, due to the Tillamook Burns. Heavy rain landing on bare soil washed logs down into the rivers, that took them into the bay. Some likely ended up in the low spot across the Dike Road during a flood, and could not return when the water receded. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the natural ecological cycle has brought trees back to the southern dunes of Bayocean more recently. Photos taken by Bert and Margie Webber, and published in their  Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea , show dunes covered with grasses and Scotch broom, but no trees. If the photos were taken before the original 1989 edition, the shore pine and shrubs present today are less than 36 years old in 2015.  If the photos were taken just prior to the book's 1992 revisions, the trees are less than 23 years old. It's nice to see young'uns when admiring the old timers.

Hayes Oyster Company Helped Fix Bayocean's 1952 Breach

In a July 14, 2009 story, the Tillamook Headlight Herald interviewed Jesse Hayes, grandson of the man with the same name who began the first oyster farming operation in Tillamook Bay in 1928. It turns out that Hayes Oyster Company has played an important part in the history of Bayocean.

Erosion had been noticeable on the shores of Bayocean Spit since the later half of the 1920s; and the ocean had breached the spit on multiple occasions since 1939; but nothing compared to the breach of November 13, 1952. This one spanned 3/4 of a mile and made the spit an island. It was the final blow to a town that had been in decline for years. And the sand scoured from the spit buried the oyster beds of Howard Harris and G.H. Folland (Tillamook Bay Oyster Company) and Earl Olsen, according to a story in the December 4, 1942 Headlight Herald.     

Eventually the breach developed into two lobes of sand jutting into Tillamook Bay with a gap of 3000' between them. The southern lobe reached out from Cape Meares like the pincer of a huge crab, stopping just a few hundred feet short of connecting to Pitcher Point. The gap between the two lobes became the primary ocean inlet to Tillamook Bay, and the impact on oyster and dairy farmers was devastating. As people talked, the lobes reached further into the bay, getting closer to the oyster beds of Jesse Hayes. 

From  F40-243 at Tillamook County Surveyor Office
Photo of dike construction from Mike Watkins 
The Army Corps of Engineers finally agreed to close the gap and did so in 1956, by building a dike that started at Pitcher Point, crossed the lobes, and connected to the base of the northern hill section of Bayocean. A gate stands now at the north end, which had been the corner of 15th Avenue and Bay Drive.


The Corps destroyed the remnants of Bayocean and filled the area north of the north lobe, between the dike and what little beach remained, with sand. Over the years, a southern section of the spit was reestablished by ocean sand deposits, reconnecting it to the mainland, but the new shoreline had moved east (see Bayocean Then and Now). The land that juts out into Tillamook Bay from the modern parking lot is the tip of what had been the northern lobe. A much smaller portion of the tip of the south lobe still remains as well. The water inside the unclosed circle formed by the southern lobe eventually became Cape Meares Lake.


Jesse Hayes of Hayes Oyster Company
In the 2009 Headlight-Herald Interview, Jesse Hayes said that his grandfather contributed his buried oyster beds for construction of the dike; and that he traveled to Washington, D.C. to help Senator Wayne Morse lobby secure $11 million from Congress to pay for it. In 2011, OPB's Oregon Experience interviewed grandson Jesse in "The Oystermen". The program credits grandfather Jesse with securing an Oregon law that enabled oystermen to lease tidelands for their operations. Jesse must have been quite a lobbyist (the photo is from the Tillamook Headlight-Herald article). 

Stakes in Tillamook Bay, show the boundaries of modern oyster beds. You can visit them in person, and learn about the entire oyster industry, on guided tours facilitated by Tillamook Eco Adventures. Keep an eye out for occasional announcements in the Tillamook Headlight Herald and Tillamook County Pioneer. The tour I joined last Sunday was very interesting.