Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bayocean Road Hard To Build AND Keep Open

The Oregon coast was hit hard over the last couple weeks by record rainfall and strong winds, causing temporary isolation of many communities in Tillamook County due to road closures. Cape Meares was one of them. Bayocean Road, the only way in and out of the community, was flooded in some locations, covered with debris from several landslides, and undermined by a culvert failure. Residents were locked in for short periods on a couple occassions. Charles Ansorge, President of the Cape Meares Community Association, wrote a report and posted photos at their website, and provided additional information in this post. 

Photo by Charles Ansorge
Cape Meares Loop Road had been an alternative route to the south, through Oceanside, Happy Camp, and Netarts, but it was closed by landslides north of the road to the lighthouse in 2013. When a failed culvert blocked the Loop Road between Oceanside and Happy Camp, Tillamook County provided 24-hour pilot service through the landslide-buckled sections for three days so that Oceanside residents had a way in and out. By then Bayocean Road had been cleared. 

In her December 16, 2015, Cape Meares Fencepost, long-time resident Barbara Bennett recalled how grateful she and her neighbors were when the Cape Meares Loop Road was completed, because they then had a way out when Bayocean Road was closed by landslides. This would occur regularly and last for days at a time. Oceanside residents were equally pleased to have another way out when the loop closed south of them. Efforts have been made to acquire state and/or federal funding to repair it, so far without success.

Photo from Tillamook County Pioneer Museum,
looking west, with Tillamook Bay on the right. 
The original construction of Bayocean Road required some sections to be cut out of the hillside. In other places, pilings had to be driven into Tillamook Bay and land backfilled behind them. This is why it took 20 years for a county road to reach Bayocean Park. Then the challenge became keeping it open. When storms hit, flooding from the bay, and slides from the rain-soaked hillside, slam Bayocean Road from both sides. Bayocean alumni like Perry Reeder tell stories of extended periods when heavy equipment, like tractors and bulldozers, were used to pull cars through the mess. On December 28, 1931, the Oregonian reported a slide dumping 30,000 cubic yards at Biggs (now Pincher) Point, bringing the point home with: "A steam shovel was buried by the avalanche." They hoped to open the road (evidently with a spare steam shovel) in four days. 
Photo by Charles Ansorge

Recent high winds also blew the top off the Bayocean interpretive sign. Fortunately, the remaining section tells the story. Though much of the text is incorrect, the sign is historic in its own right. It's a good idea to check Tillamook County Road Status before traveling during the winter to Bayocean Spit or any of the communities around Cape Meares. You can also sign up for road closure notices, weather advisories, and other emergency announcements about Tillamook County at Nixle

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tillamook Coastline Studied

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) recently published Coastal Flood Hazard Study, Tillamook County, Oregon to "develop a digital flood insurance rate map (DFIRM) and flood insurance study (FIS) report for Tillamook County, Oregon." Much of Oregon's coastline is discussed within its 274 pages, but specific focus is placed on the four littoral cells (coastline sections between capes) from Neahkahnie Mountain to Cascade Head. Bayocean is located within the Rockaway littoral cell.

The report reviews ancient geological processes that created Oregon's coast, then uses previous research to provide context for the most recent data gathered about earthquakes, tsunamis, tides, erosion, wave runup, overtopping, and floods. Wonderful color graphics - photographs (including aerials), charts, diagrams and maps - help explain the detailed analysis. Much of it is still beyond my understanding, but I didn't see anything that conflicts with Pre-historic Geomorphology of Bayocean Peninsula and Changes in Bayocean Beaches Studied by DOGAMI; most likely because the study's lead author, Jonathan Allan, was kind enough to give me feedback while writing them.

The jetty built on the north side of Tillamook Bay's inlet is blamed for Bayocean's eventual destruction. The report provides specific distances and rates of erosion post starting on page 36. After the south jetty was finished in 1979, the shoreline started to grow. These two maps depict shoreline changes across the last century. Other diagrams depicting these changes in different ways are at Bayocean Shoreline Changes Over Time and Oregon Coastal Atlas.

Shoreline changes at north end of Bayocean Spit (page 37)
Shoreline changes at south end of Bayocean Spit (page 39)
Those who attended Perry Reeder's presentation at the Tillamook County Library on October 24th heard and saw the evidence he has gathered over the last decade showing beach expansion (accretion) and dune growth (aggradation) parallel to the Bayocean town site. He noted that the area close to Cape Meares seemed to have stayed the same. Allan and his colleagues agree with him, using precise measurements taken from several gauging stations along the Bayocean shoreline. This figure and text are from page 66:

Figure 3-1 depicts the changes that have taken place over the past 15 years. In the far south, the beach is backed by an extensive gravel beach that provides considerable protection from erosion to the backshore properties. As a result, this section of the beach is essentially stable, oscillating between minor bouts of erosion and accretion. With progress north along the spit, it is apparent that the dunes have fully recovered from the late 1990s winter storms (Figure 3-12) and are now actively aggrading along the length of the spit. Accretion rates are highest along the north end of the spit (reaching around +1m/yr [3.3 ft/yr]) and lowest in the south.

The report listed 128' as the height of the highest dune measured on Bayocean. This concerned me because I'd reported hiking to 152' back in January. So I contacted Allan. He clarified that they measured the dune closest to each transect, not older ones farther from the beach.  His Lidar map showed the highest point on Bayocean to be approximately 153'. Close enough. 

This older comparison, based on Coast and Geodetic Survey records, shows changes in the shoreline of Tillamook Bay between 1867 and 1971. It's in a 1972 Oregon State University study. Though not as detailed or colorful, it shows how much has changed over the last 150 years. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Last House

Two of Bert and Margie Webber's books on Bayocean have slightly different photos on the front cover of the last house to fall into the sea. One was taken by Howard Sherwood on January 30, 1960; the other was taken by Burford Wilkerson on February 15, 1960 (the Bayocean sign where Dike Rd meets the mainland erroneously gives that as the date the house fell). On December 21, 1960, an article in the Tillamook Headlight Herald added earlier and later Wilkerson photos to show a progression. No one identified the owners of the house or the lot it sat on, which gave me an interesting subject to research.  

I first asked Bayocean alumni if they knew who owned three houses shown in a 1957 photo from the Maxwell Collection at the Salem Public Library. They identified the one in the middle as that of Lewis and Hilda Bennett, but no one knew who owned the cabin at the top of the hill. Given the nature of gravity, that one seemed like the best candidate. 
After following many leads down rabbit holes, I was looking at Webbers' What Happened At Bayocean and noticed a photograph on page 11 of Lewis Bennett holding another photograph of a house in shambles that the caption said fell into the sea. Bennett's property was in the foreground sans house, because he'd already deconstructed it. Looking at a Bayocean Park plat map I saw that the property just above Bennett's was lot 26 of block 57. 

At the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, I found the original of the photo that Bennett was holding. A note on the back said "Last House In Bayocean." It had been taken by Hershel Stuart on February 4, 1958, and given to the museum on September 6, 2006, by Mabel Johnson. 

Then the trick was figuring out who owned lot 26 in block 57. Since deed books in the Tillamook County Clerk's office are indexed by the last name, and not by the lot numbers, I had no way to get there directly. But while looking at a list in the county clerk's deed record index of people who gave perpetual easements to the Corps of Engineers in 1956 as a condition for the construction of the breakwater that closed the gap, I saw Otto and Maldeenna Notdurft listed as the owners of lots 24-26 of block 57. They had purchased them in 1943 and 1944.

Searching online, I was sorry to read that both Notdurfts were deceased. Norman Notdurft was suggested as a possible relative by People Smart, so I called and left a message. Ten days later he responded, saying he was the only son of Otto and Maldeenna. Norm confirmed the house on the cover of Webbers' books was theirs. He said they only visited the cabin a couple of times each year, so didn't get to know many of the Bayocean residents. But Norm did get to know Sally Bagley, who was about his age. They later got reacquainted while attending Oregon State University. Norm and Sally's husband ended up on the same military base, where they socialized. 

When the Notdurfts viewed the damage wreaked by the 1952 storm from Cape Meares, they assumed their cabin was lost and never went back. The 1999 edition of Bayocean: The Oregon Town That Fell Into The Sea the Notdurfts purchased doesn't have a caption saying that their cabin was the last to fall, so Otto and Maldeenna died not realizing they had that distinction. And even though they know their cabin had been lost, they kept paying taxes until Tillamook County stopped charging them. It's still in their name. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perry Reeder Presentation October 24, 2015

Perry Reeder and his daughter Sarah MacDonald gave an expanded PowerPoint presentation on Bayocean at the Tillamook County Library from 1-3 PM on Saturday October 24. This was another packed house, but because the entire conference area was opened up, there was plenty of room and no one was turned away. See my post about Perry's last presentation for his bio and other information. The library had Jane Scott videotape the presentation, so at some point there will be a DVD available for checkout.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bayocean Spit Breached in 1700

When a winter storm ripped a 3/4 mile wide gap between Cape Meares and Bayocean Spit on November 13, 1952, the sand covered oyster beds in Tillamook Bay. Over the decades that followed, research confirmed the residents' belief that construction of the north jetty at the entrance of Tillamook Bay, without a south jetty to match, caused the destruction of the spit and its resort town. What no one realized then was that this larger breaches had happened long before jetties were ever considered. 
Figure 10, page 467, Journal of Geology, July 2004

In "Sediment Accumulation in Tillamook Bay, Oregon: Natural Processes versus Human Impacts" (Journal of Geology; July 2004), Oregon State University oceanographers Paul D. Komar, James McManus, and Michael Styllas (whose 2001 master's thesis provided the data) conclude that the Bayocean Spit was breached many times - and to a much greater extent than in 1952 - following the last major Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in January 26, 1700. Figure 10 on the right makes the point graphically.

Studying Tillamook Bay core samples, the researchers found several layers of ocean sand (differentiated from layers of river sediment) in the century and a half after the 1700 earthquake, most of which were larger than the layer attributed to the years 1952 to 1956 (when the gap was closed). They knew from the research of others that fault movement accompanying the 1700 earthquake had lowered the elevation of Bayocean by a meter. This then made it possible for severe winter storms to breach the lower-elevation southern end of the Bayocean Spit. The breaches ceased, and the spit reconstituted by natural processes, prior to the arrival of white settlers. 

This surely was an event the Tillamooks would have experienced and passed down as legend. Though I've not found one in books on the subject, Mack Rhoades tells it on Garibaldi Oregon Memories:

I used to love sitting around the campfire and hearing the tale of 'Thunderfish' being told by a Native American local. Seems that tribes from the South came up to drive away the People's of the Tillamook... when they called upon Thunderbird to save them. Thunderbird flew far to sea and spoke to Thunderfish, who raised his mighty tail high above the water as Thunderbird flew back to tell the People's of the Tillamook to flee to the highest mountains. Then the mighty Thunderfish slapped his tail upon the waters, shaking the very land itself and sending a wall of water over the lands, drowning the invaders from the South and cleansing the land of their existence. Then the People's of the Tillamook returned, making sacrificial offerings of the survivors from the South to both Thunderfish and Thunderbird for their great help... the People's of Tillamook lived for many moons in peace until the great fish with white wings brought the White men to their lands....and the rest we all know, is history!

Legends from other tribes are told at Native American Legends of Tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest. In "The Really Big One" (The New Yorker; July 20, 2015) Kathryn Schulz includes similar legends, and then notes: "It does not speak well of European-Americans that such stories counted as evidence for a proposition only after that proposition had been proved." It is indeed hard to imagine T.B. Potter asking Tillamooks what they thought of his plans for Bayocean Park. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Watching "Grant's Getaways: Bayocean" On TV

Sunday Night Football ran past KGW's scheduled time to run Grant's Getaways: Bayocean on TV last night. It's been rescheduled for 11:30 PM, next Sunday, October 25th. It will also air Saturday, December 12, at 9:00 PM. 

Northwest Cable News (NWCN) will air the show at 10:30 AM and 5:00 PM, next Saturday, October 24th; and 5:00 PM, next Sunday October 25th. I don't know if scheduling is different for those outside Portland, so be sure to check you own listings if you live in Seattle, Boise, or Spokane. 

**Thanks to Grant McComie and Josy Ansley, KGW's Broadcast Operations Manager, for providing this updated programming information** 

You can read about the day Grant and his videographer/producer Jeff Kastner filmed Bayocean last summer at Grant McOmie Captures The Bayocean Story. They did another show off the shores of Bayocean you can read about at Grant McOmie Cockle Clamming at Bayocean. If you cannot watch these programs on TV, my posts provide  online viewing options.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bayocean Park's First Sale

Francis Mitchell always claimed to have been the first to buy a lot on Bayocean. I accepted that until I read an unpublished letter to the editor of the Oregon Journal at the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum (TCPM) from Kaaren Ann Kottages dated May 12, 1949, that was critical of Mitchell in many respects, including: "He did not buy the first lot here [It]was given to him and he was supposed to sell lots for the company." 

To check on this, I visited Tillamook County Clerk Tassi O'Neil's office. Chief Deputy Clerk Christy Biggs introduced me to their record systems. The direct index lists land ownership transfers alphabetically by the last name of the seller, indirect indexes list transactions by the last name of the buyer, and both refer to the page in a deed book where the entire transaction is detailed. 

Deed Book 7, Page 473 
Tillamook County Clerk's office
 Bayocean Park's first sale
by Potter-Chapin Realty 
Direct Index Book P, Section 10
Tillamook County Clerk's office
    The first Potter-Chapin Realty Company sale of Bayocean Park lots was recorded on April 8, 1908. The buyer was Darrell Davis from Portland, Oregon. He bought lots 19 and 20 in block 122 for $120 ($3000 in 2015 dollars). The Mitchells eventually bought many lots, but the first deed recorded for them was on July 18, 1910 (Deed Book 18, p.1). However, when Potter-Chapin first started selling lots on July 29, 1907, they were all by contracts that were not recorded in the deed books until paid off. T.B. Potter Realty Company (Potter-Chapin successor) vs. Mitchell (1914-1916, Tillamook Circuit Court Case # 1503) involved a contract on lot A of block 59 that was said to have been signed on July 30, 1908. In the Amended Complaint, the date was corrected to July 30, 1907. Unfortunately, the original contract itself was not in the file. But it could not have been the first purchase because many people must have bought lots on the first day due to publicity. The first contract TCPM has a ledger for is numbered 370. Until number 1 shows up we just won't know for sure who bought the first lot, but it wasn't Francis Mitchell. 

So, who was Darrell Davis? The 1910 Census on indicates he was from Iowa and twenty-seven years old, so twenty-five when he bought the lots two years earlier. He worked as a furniture maker and boarded at house number 128 on 14th Street. Portland city directories at show Davis moving a lot over the next eight years, but he continued working in the same field. The last listing (1918) shows him married to Emma and living at 192 Porter. I could find no additional information about him. 

Oregon Journal, August 25, 1907, p19

Davis' $120 bought him a 100' x 100' spot on the southeast corner of Mound Street and 24th Avenue; the streets were never built, nor anything else near this location at the north end of the spit. It's about 700' N30W of Bayocean Park's "Initial Point". Today, the land has trees and thick underbrush, but in 1907 it was bare, low-elevation, sand dunes. Davis would not have known that when he bought the lot in the Potter-Chapin Realty Company office at 402 Couch Building, 109 Fourth Street, Portland, Oregon.

In their initial push, during the last half of 1907, Potter-Chapin was running two or three ads per week in both the Oregonian and the Oregon Journal. Some guaranteed buyers they'd double their money. Others said twenty times their investment was more likely. They suggested buying two lots and selling one later for the price they paid for both and keeping the second to enjoy for themselves. Many writers have used these ads as evidence that Potter and Chapin were aggressive to the point of dishonesty, but they were correct in Darrell's case.

In 1910 Davis sold lot 20 for $650 ($15,925 in 2015 dollars according to Deed Book 16, pp. 303-304. In 1913 he sold lot 19 for $300 ($7115 in 2015 dollars per Deed Book 26, pp. 86-87. So, in just five years Davis made about seven times his investment. Unfortunately, whoever last owned these lots lost everything, because they were eventually foreclosed on by Tillamook County for non-payment of taxes. This is the sad story shared by most folks who owned property on Bayocean. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Artisans' Co-Operative Community

The Great Depression hit Bayocean as hard as anywhere else. The town had just emerged from a bankruptcy war with the Potters, and a road finally built to it, when tourism was killed by the stock market and banking collapse. It must have lifted the spirits of locals, especially the Mitchells, when sixteen men and women of the Artisans' Co-operative Community drove up in a couple rickety vehicles on February 16, 1934. They only had $20 and some lofty ideals in their pockets, but they were offered free use of the Bayside Inn in exchange for much-needed repairs (October 6, 1935, Oregonian). 

Within several months, the Artisans had grown to a community of forty-nine men, women, and children. Members fished, dug clams, and caught crabs; then canned the meat and sold it up and down the Willamette Valley, mostly at farmers' markets. They were purchasing the Bayside Inn and had a net worth of $5000. 
Scan of Artisan script in the possession of Joyce Loftis, daughter of Alvin and Blanche Sweger

Artisans were mostly Salem residents who had first tried communal living at Black Rock, which had been located just above Falls City. Bert and Louise Smith led disgruntled members away and found their way to Bayocean by luck. Louise worked out a deal with Marion County to trade the Artisans' canned seafood for fresh fruit and other commodities. She emphasized the Artisans weren't communists; they were people who had lost their jobs and wanted to pool their skills to support themselves (Oregon Statesman, May 26, 1934). 

In April 1935, with the help of Senator Steiwer, the Artisans received a Federal Emergency Relief Administration grant of $3900. That may seem small, but in today's dollars, it's $68,000. They used the money to buy more fishing boats and gear, and a printing press, which they used to print their own currency and stationary at 1231 Edgewater Street in Salem. Glenn Hammaker ran it (Oregon Statesman, May 16, 1935). 

When the Artisans were inspected by Albert Wieland of the Self-Help Cooperative Division of FERA, he told the Tillamook Headlight Herald (Aug 8, 1935) that "everything was very satisfactory and stated that it is now the only cooperative of the kind in the United States which is not on relief." In a report filed by the administrator of the program in 1936, there were 214 cooperatives listed. 

After interviewing Francis Mitchell for his May 18, 1949,  article "Coney Island For Clams," Charles Oluf Olsen reported that "In the depression, an artisan colony breathed a spark of life into Bayocean surroundings. That project was 'killed' by more prosperous times." In a letter to the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum dated October 21, 1970, Charles Carson fondly recalls operating a crab market on Bayocean's dock from 1912 through 1915. He was sorry to see that the place was already "dead" when he returned for a visit in 1924, adding that it was "only to be rejuvenated for a short time by the WPA fiasco during the depression." 
Photo and names provided by Joyce Loftis
I found out what Mitchell and Carson meant from Joyce Loftis, whose parents met at the community in October of 1934. Alvin (Al) Sweger was already there, having grown weary of riding the rails with his friend Glenn Hammaker to find work. Blanche Parrish came from dust-ravaged South Dakota in a truck with her brother Derewood, his wife Angy, and their parents Harry and Ethel. 

Blanche wrote in her diary that she loved Bayocean, having her own room in the Bayside Hotel, and dancing and playing games at night in the living room with the many people who had been drawn by word of the Artisans' success. But some of them didn't want to work as hard as others, which caused resentment and bickering. The men had to work based on tide tables, and that meant getting up at odd hours. They would be woken by children playing, and in turn, would wake up others as they prepared to go out. Not enough sleep exacerbated the conflicts. Harry and Ethel only put up with it for a few months. Al and Blanche held out until October 1935. By then they were in love and Al found a good job in Portland. Blanche stayed with her parents in Forest Grove until they were married on December 1, 1935. Derewood, Angy, and six-month-old Elvin left with a few remaining members in July 1936. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Perry Reeder Presentation August 19, 2015

Perry Reeder gave his Bayocean presentation to a packed house at the Tillamook County Library on August 19th, 2015. Sarah Beeler did a great job of promoting the event by placing a sign at the entrance to the library and advertising in the Tillamook Headlight Herald weeks in advance. I posted in on several Facebook groups and saw a few history friends in the audience, some even came over from Portland. Unfortunately, our efforts were so successful, and the interest so high, that some folks had to be turned away, but not before Perry promised them to schedule another presentation. It was held on October 24th at 1 PM. 

Sarah MacDonald getting things ready for the Bayocean presentation
by her father, Perry Reeder, August 19, 2015 

Perry used a PowerPoint, created by his daughter Sarah MacDonald, to accompany his telling of the geological processes that caused Bayocean's demise - and its human impact. Perry added some entertaining personal stories along the way. After an hour or so, he answered questions from the audience.  

Earlier in the day, Bayocean alumni gathered at the community center/schoolhouse to reminisce. They were gracious in letting me hound them with questions. 

Perry Reeder at Bayocean sign
July 3, 2013
Photo by Sarah MacDonald
Sarah MacDonald photo of folks gathered at the Cape Meares
Community Center August 19, 2015, who lived on Bayocean
and Cape Meares before a storm made it an island in 1952

Perry's family moved to Bayocean Park when he was six years old - in 1944. With his buddies, he explored the ruins, yelled at the blimp pilots as they passed close overhead each day, kept cool snorkeling along the sandy shores of the bay, and listened to Mr. Mitchell's sermons while waiting for the bus or buying candy at his store. In 1950, watching the sea moving relentlessly closer, his family moved to Cape Meares. There he eventually raised his own family while watching Bayocean's destruction - and rebuilding.

Prior to the construction of Tillamook Bay's South Jetty, the Army Corps of  Engineers hired Perry to captain a charter boat, from which their engineers and scientists took measurements that helped finalize its design. From 2002 to 2003 he served on the Bayocean Task Force. Perry owns a piece of property on the spit. A few years ago he coordinated county and family efforts to post signs to show where the business center of Bayocean had once stood - on the bay side of the spit. The fact that the signs are closer to the ocean now graphically illustrates the extensive geological changes that have occurred.  Perry now lives in Oceanside and spends most days managing his family farm in Beaver. In July 2017 Perry and his daughter Sarah wrote Bayocean: Memories Beneath the Sand

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Mitchells Watch Bayocean Go

Buck Sherwood photo
courtesy of Lorraine Eckhardt

On November 13, 1952, a severe winter storm ripped a 3/4 mile wide gap into Bayocean Spit, isolating the town center on an islandSoon after that, the Oregonian sent William Lambert to cover the story with photographer W. Kirk Braun. The article filled page 32 and part of part 33 in the November 23, 1953 edition. In one of the photos, Lambert changed the sign in Mitchell's General Store window from "Watch Bayocean Grow" to "Watch Bayocean Go" by covering up a couple letters. He may have thought it ironic, but it must have greatly distressed Francis Mitchell. He was known to be such a strident supporter of Bayocean that I'm surprised he let it happen, even at the age of 83. He must have been there because he and his wife Ida were two of the eight residents who stayed on the island after the breach.  

Mitchell was one of the first to buy into the Bayocean dream and never let go of it. He would bend anyone's ear about Bayocean - even the children who lived there. One of them, Perry Reeder, recalls "Mr. Mitchell" stopping them each morning on the way to school, or at the bus stop, to preach about his political views and plans to make Bayocean great once again. 

Photo of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell
from Tillamook County Pioneer Museum

The only thing that could tear Mr. Mitchell from Bayocean was Mrs. Mitchell. On October 22, 1953, the Tillamook Headlight Herald reported that she'd suffered a stroke on the 18th and that after frantic efforts by islanders to send a signal, she was transferred to the Tillamook Hospital the next day with the help of folks on Cape Meares and the Coast Guard. According to the Tillamook Headlight Herald of November 5, 1953, Mr. Mitchell spent his nights with friends on Cape Meares to remain as close as possible to Bayocean but spent each day in Tillamook to be near his wife, who was not doing well. He'd only leave her side to wander about town and preach to folks at the courthouse, newspaper office, on the sidewalks, and in stores, as he had the children of Bayocean. But on the 4th he got so agitated that he threatened the sheriff, was taken into custody, and later judged insane. He was taken to the Oregon State Hospital on November 7th. Mrs. Mitchell died on December 28th. 
Six years later, on October 22, 1959, Mr. Mitchell notified the editor of the Tillamook Headlight Herald of his move to Ward 2 so that he could continue receiving the paper. He complimented Mrs. De Cook for her work with Judge Effenberger to increase Tillamook tourism, adding that if folks had taken his advice about that in the past, "Bayocean would have been a success." Mr. Mitchell's fellow residents at the Oregon State Hospital heard about Bayocean every day until July 25, 1965. Only death could kill his dream and stop his expounding on it. 

The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell were reunited when Nellie Reeher purchased a combined headstone on 
November 11, 1965, and had it placed at Spaces 1 and 2 of Lot 79 in 
Block 4 of the Tillamook IOOF Cemetery. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Locating Bayocean School

One of the buildings Bert and Margie Webber did not locate on their drawings in Bayocean: The Oregon Town that Fell Into the Sea was the Bayocean School. Written reports said it was close to Cape Meares, and Perry Reeder pointed to the area on the original Bayocean Park plat map where the narrow southern section of the spit started to widen out, but I wanted to find the exact location so I can stand there like I had the Bayocean Hotel

When I met Mike Watkins, he remembered that the school had been just a little northwest of the west end of Arthur Beals' dike. The dike had a one-way gate that let Coleman Creek flow out at low tide but kept Tillamook Bay water from coming back in at high tide. This changed the wetland into a meadow that dairy cows could graze. When he came to believe the ocean would eventually take the spit, Beals sold much of his Bayocean/Cape Meares holdings to Mike's grandfather, Robert W. (Pop) Watkins. The land at the east end of the dike passed down to Mike and his siblings, which is why he's so familiar with it. When the breakwater that is now Dike Road sealed the breach in 1957, the ocean beach reformed (east of its previous location) and created Cape Meares Lake. Though the meadow and dike are now submerged, Mike said that remnants of the dike were still visible and could be used to point to where the school had been. 

Corps of Engineers aerial photograph # 39-1546, cropped. 
Then I looked at 1939 aerial photographs from the Army Corps of Engineers. Because it was earthen, the dike is lighter in color and stands out against the grey background. By zooming in, I saw the schoolhouse just northwest (up and left in the photograph) of where the dike ends at the spit, confirming Mike's recollection. I also noticed that the school was in line with 4th Street, which is the road at the bottom of the photograph running south (down) from Bayocean (or Mears) Rd which runs east to west (left to right). Since 4th Street still exists, this gave me two sightlines, which were the same today as in the past, that I could use to find where the school had been on today's landscape. 

That would have been good enough, but while looking at the Tillamook County Tax Map for other reasons I noticed an active tax lot in the area. The Summary Report for lot #1200 shows it's owned by Tillamook County School District #9. Like many other landowners, they'd kept ownership over the years. ORMAP and other GIS mapping systems project county tax lot layers onto modern aerial landscape views and provide GPS coordinates where a cursor is placed. Coordinates at the center of the school lot are 45.505148 N, 123.958730 W. The school may not have been at the center of the lot, but since the tax lot is only 100' x100' (.23 acres) it couldn't have been far from it. Now I had two ways to locate the school. 

The next step was a field trip. Mike was gracious enough to lead me down a trail (viewing deer and an eagle along the way) to what had been the east end of Beals' dike. From there we were able to sight the west end using dike remnants. We then hiked out on the spit. Sighting south to 4th street, and east along the dike, we arrived at a spot on the beach where the coordinates matched. We were there! The spot is just 1/10 mile north of the parking space at the end of Bayocean Road, so easy to reach, and a stump just east of the spot makes it hard to miss. If the ocean reclaims or moves the stump, the coordinates will still work. Based on the aerial photograph and county tax map, the road out to Bayocean from Cape Meares would have been about 500' west of the spot. The average high tide in 1939 would have been about 1000' out. 

Left to right: James Bennett, Rosemarie Bennett, Barbara Parker,
Russell Parker; photo from Tillamook County Pioneer Museum
When I asked, Mike recalled the school grounds being about 10-15' above sea/bay level. After leaving Mike, I saw Harold Bennett in his yard. He had attended Bayocean School, so I stopped to let him know about the stump, and asked him what he thought the school elevation had been. His answer was the same as Mike's. I later found a 1939 USACE topo map confirming Mike's and Harold's recollection. When you stand there, listen for the yells of children at play in the wind above you. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bayocean Rezoning Approved By Tillamook County Planning Commission

On November 12, 2015, the Tillamook County Planning Commission voted 5/2 in favor of changing all land north of Cape Meares Lake on Bayocean Spit that is currently zoned Recreation Management (RM) to Recreation Natural (RN). This came after listening to about 3 hours of staff input from Community Development Director Bryan Pohl and Senior Planner Sarah Absher and testimony from the public testimony. Written testimony, including detailed maps and zone change details, as well as audio of the entire meeting, can be downloaded at their website

My earlier post Zoning Change For Bayocean Moves Forward reports on the April 9, 2015, Tillamook County Board of Commissioners meeting that started this process. Bayocean Park Eco-park Rejected reports on the proposal that prompted a request for this rezoning from the Cape Meares Community Association

Whether you take a position on rezoning or not (I do not) the testimony given provides useful historical as well as current information about Bayocean. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dolan House

With the help of Facebook groups and friends, one of the two houses next to the Hicks house is now known to have been last owned by A.T. and Hazel Dolan. All three houses were built by wealthy Portland lumberman Johan Poulsen and continually owned by family members until 1944. They were known to the be the most extravagant homes on Bayocean, which seems fitting given their placement catty-corner to the Bayocean Hotel Annex, on the highest point on the spit (What Happened At Bayocean: Is Salishan Next? Expanded Edition12-13). Though photographs exist for many Bayocean houses, few are identified, and even fewer are located. That's why it's such a pleasure when one can be nailed down. 

Photo of the front (eastern side) of the Dolan house  taken by Dorothy Dolan Williams (daughter)
in 1945.  From left to right, standing to sitting: Hazel Wolfe Dolan, a visitor whose name has been forgotten, Joann Dolan Steffey (daughter), and A.T. Dolan
Tom Williams is a Tillamook, Oregon native who enthusiastically introduced me to several Facebook historical interest groups a few months ago. The Dolans were his grandparents. They lived in Tillamook and used this as a beach house. Tom was born too late to visit them there, but ever since his grandmother told him she'd watched a blimp drop depth charges on a submarine right out in front of the house he'd wanted to find its location.

Peter Bellant has an excellent Bayocean album in Oregon History and Memory's collection. I recently noticed that one of the photos was captioned "The Dolan house at Bayocean." When I alerted Tom he posted the photo at Old Tillamook Times, where most Bayocean alumni congregate, including his cousin, Barbara (Steffy) Sisson. She then acted as an intermediary with her mother, Joann (Dolan) Steffey, Tom's aunt, his mother Dorothy's sister, and the Dolans' daughter. 

Joann confirmed it was her parent's house and provided the information in the caption (she also confirmed watching the blimp drop grenades on a submarine, watching it happen alongside her mother). Next, by looking over the drawing at Bayocean Then And Now, Joann recalled the house being just west (and north) of the Hicks house. Luckily there are many photos of the three Poulsen houses. Joann confirmed that it's the house on the left in the photo below.

Dolan house on the left. The view is of its southwest corner, from the northeast corner
of the Bayocean Hotel Annex across the street.  Tillamook County Pioneer Museum #93

Unlike the Hicks house, the Dolan house was not moved to the mainland. Nor was it destroyed by the sea. It burned to the ground late in January 1950. Joann said that her father let the family of his friend A.G. Beals' son Roland stay at the house when they moved there just after the start of the school year. Roland's son Bruce was a new classmate who she had dated. The fire started when Roland used gasoline to help get a fire going in the woodstove. He was badly burned and the house burned to the ground. Most all of the Dolan's Bayocean memorabilia were destroyed in the process. This was a hard blow to Joann's parents, who never spoke of it again.

Sad as the story is, at least Tom (or anyone else) can now stand under the Bayocean Hotel Annex chimney (45.52982, - 123.954258) at low tide, hike about 380' bearing N 60 E, look 110' into the sky, and imagine what it might have been like for his grandmother to see and hear the depth charges dropped by the blimp over 70 years ago. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Mine That Exploded On Cape Meares Beach in 1953

"Mine on Cape Meares Beach" is a story told by Buck Sherwood in Oregon Coast Magazine's January/February 2008 edition. This was after Buck died, so he must have submitted it before that, and he never got the pleasure of seeing it published. I took a photo of the article at the Cape Meares Community Center. It didn't turn out well, so I found a digital copy online. That version does not credit Buck and changed the date, which is why I included both. In any case, it's a great story. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tillamook Bay Run

The 14th annual Tillamook Bay Run starts 10 AM, Saturday, August 15. Both the 10k and 5k routes begin on the ocean side of Bayocean Spit and cross over to return on the bay side. With both gravel and sand to contend with, rugged shoes are a must. For more information and/or to register go to If you were looking for a nice, quiet day on the spit, you might want to choose a different one.

Update: unfortunately I've not been able to find results or an event report anywhere online. What's posted at the organization's web site is for the previous year, so take a look in 11 months. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Oregon Beach Bill and Bayocean

In addition to videos specific to Bayocean history, Tom Olsen of Anchor Pictures also produced Politics of Sand, a documentary about the Oregon Beach Bill. The film is based on Oregon Beaches, A Birthright Preserved by Kathy Straton. It can be seen in segments on Vimeo or purchased (with some extras included) as a DVD from the Cannon Beach History Center.  

The right to access all coastal beaches is taken for granted by Oregonians today, but that was not assured until the Oregon Beach Bill passed in 1967. Forces were in play then that would have restricted beach access to adjacent property owners, as was the case - and still is - in most other coastal states. The video shows how close the Oregon Beach Bill came to failing, and lays out all the pieces that had to fall in place for it to pass and survive legal challenges. 

Wagon using the beach at Barview for travel route in the 1890s; photo attributed to
the Oregon State Library in Oregon's Beaches: A Birthright Preserved
Until Highway 101 was finished in 1932, beaches provided key transportation routes for travelers along the Oregon Coast. No one seemed to realize that the Oregon Legislature had put this in jeopardy when they started selling tidelands to settlers, until Governor Oswald West came along in 1911. He pushed through legislation in 1913 that declared the wet sand area between low and high tide as a public highway.

Governor West's bill did not address the dry sands between high tide and the vegetation line because vehicles wouldn't travel there. This meant that only private landowners had the legal right to hike on the beach at high tide. No landowners enforced their right to exclude the public from dry sands until 1967. The actions by just a couple resort owners led to passage of the Oregon Beach Bill.

The landowners that sold to the Potters had tideland rights, so Governor West's 1913 bill did not matter as far as Bayocean was concerned: wagons and cars could drive the entire length of the beach if they wanted to. So, the Potters could have saved money by building concrete roads only on the inland sections of the spit, and let people drive to the Natatorium from Cape Meares on the beach. Evidently, they were willing to spent a lot of money to make sure resort customers weren't impeded by high tide or winter storms. Their dreams were more powerful than their accounting, because they lost their development to foreclosure before a road from Tillamook to Bayocean was built.  

If you look closely at the drawing in Bayocean Then and Nowyou can see a "zone line" shown separate from the "vegetation line" in some places. Paul Levesque explained that this was a result of the Oregon Beach Bill. Politics of Sand  explains why. Following passage of the bill, and as mandated by it, Oregon State University engineers established the zone line to be a permanent boundary between public/private use, that would endure regardless of changes in the vegetation line. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Grant McOmie Cockle Clamming at Bayocean

Jeff Kastner shows how it's done
A couple of weeks ago Grant McComie featured Bayocean's history. In this episode, he covers cockle clamming in Tillamook Bay, along the spit's eastern shore. Grant also learns how to cook and feast on the cockles, and it appears he's a good student.  See the video, read the story, and enjoy some great photos by Jeff Kastner at Grants Getaways: Cockle Clamming

Photo by Jeff Kastner of cockle raking in Tillamook Bay, just off the east shore of Bayocean, with Garibaldi in the background