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 I accepted that until I read an unpublished letter to the editor of the Oregon Journal at the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum (TCPM) from Kaaren Ann Kottages dated May 12, 1949, that was critical of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. 

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