Friday, March 6, 2015

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 latter 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 by Buck Sherwood 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 Street.

The Corps destroyed most of the remaining buildings 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.

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