Take a Tour Through Lincoln City’s Past!
Lincoln City’s self-guided Heritage Tour booklet features 14 stops that reveal the rich history of the region and its people. The guide contains both recent and historic photographs of locations like the Dorchester House, site of the first Republican issue conference in Oregon; the D River, arguably the shortest river in the world; and the Connie Hansen Garden, gift of horticultural artist Constance P. Hansen and open free to the public. The guide is available from the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, located at 4907 SW Hwy 101 in Lincoln City. 541-996-6614. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. (except major holidays). When you stop by for your guide, enjoy the Museum. Admission is free and the wealth of area heritage it contains is also free.
With the deep and generous knowledge and commitment of Anne Hall, Museum Curator, this tour was created through a partnership between the North Lincoln County Historical Museum and the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau.
Wander Through Our History
The first approach of Europeans to the Pacific Northwest was by sea. During the eighteenth century Spain, Portugal, England and France explored the Pacific Coast looking for natural resources and a Northwest Passage through the continent. As early as 1572 Sir Francis Drake explored the area, naming it New Albion. Contact with Native Americans remained undocumented until 1788, when Robert Haswell, Captain Robert Gray’s first mate, wrote in the ship’s log of an encounter with two native men in a canoe near the mouth of the Salmon River. Tour Lincoln City’s history by flipping through our Heritage Tour Guide!
The first recorded tourists came in August of 1837. Reverend Jason Lee, his new bride Anna Marie Pittman, Mr. Cyrus Shepard with his wife, Susan Downing, and their guide, Joseph Gervais came by horseback from the Willamette Valley to the coast along the Salmon River Trail. They camped in a grove of trees near the sea in what was later the Oceanlake area. Here the two couples enjoyed a belated honeymoon, bathing in the surf and relishing many clam and fish bakes. Their journals indicate that they very much enjoyed the unspoiled coast and that their health improved after several weeks of sun and sea air.
Then in 1849, Lieutenant Theodore Talbot gives a detailed account of an exploratory trip he made to Siletz Bay. His journals mention encountering an old Indian man who told Talbot that he and his family were the “last lingering remnants of a large population that dwelt upon these waters.”
In 1855, the area became part of the Coast Reservation and still later, the Siletz Reservation. Homesteaders began arriving soon after Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887. This act opened up Coast Reservation lands to white settlement and gave eighty acre “allotments” to reservation Indians. Native Americans, as well as white settlers, first inhabited land along the Siletz River, Siletz Bay and the Salmon River. Early settlers homesteaded the land and combined subsistence farming with fishing and hunting in order to survive on the isolated coast.
Kernville has the distinction of being the first town in this area. In 1896 Daniel Kern established the Kern Brothers Cannery. Located about five hundred feet above Coyote Rock on the Siletz River, it became the first major industry in North Lincoln County. Daniel’s brother John became the first postmaster when a post office was established at the cannery that same year.
The Siletz River was a fisherman’s paradise in those early years. Salmon abounded; so many you could see a constant disturbance in the water when the fish were going upriver to spawn. Homesteaders fished for extra income. The cannery provided a net, a cabin, net rack and a boat to use on credit. By the early 1920s, however, the numbers of fish were diminishing and new regulations in 1935 prohibited drift net fishing altogether.
The area then turned to logging for its industry. Many men saved their money and bought timber to log in the pioneering days of an industry that was to become the backbone of the northwest economy. These individuals were known as “gyppos”. After the earliest era of logging with oxen and mule, steam-powered “donkey” engines were used to pull logs out of the woods. When World War I brought the need for Sitka spruce, a wood that was both light enough and strong enough for airplanes, the industry flourished.
Sissie and Jakie Johnson Jr. were the first residents of Taft. They had been given a 160-acre allotment on Siletz Bay as compensation when reservation lands were taken away. With its location on Siletz Bay providing access to the coast and ocean, and the Siletz River providing transportation to people living along the river, Taft became the center of north Lincoln County’s social and economic life. Homesteaders came into town for festivities on most holidays, but the Fourth of July drew the biggest crowds.
John W. Bones erected the first store in Taft, establishing a post office in the store on January 22, 1906 with Mr. Bones as the first postmaster. When naming the town Mr. Bones requested first the name of Siletz Bay but this was rejected since there was already a town of Siletz in the area. He named the town for William Howard Taft who was then Secretary of War and later became president.
In the mid-twenties and early 1930s, Herbert Rexroad, one of the earliest businessmen to settle in Oceanlake, operated a campground in the grove of trees believed to have been the exact spot where Jason Lee and his party camped. The large tract owned by Rexroad and his partner Edgar L. Hoyt was registered as “Devils Lake Park” and constituted the main business section of the town. Another large tract of land, owned by the Catholic Church, was called Raymond, named for Father Raymond, the church’s pastor.
The town had no official name until 1926 when a post office was established with A. C. Deuel as the first postmaster. Some have given Mr. Duel credit for naming the town, but it is also thought Mrs. H.E. Warren, a member of the Booster Club, is the author of the name, having described the area as lying between the ocean and the lake. Oceanlake annexed Wecoma Beach, another small town to the north, and was incorporated as a full city on November 3, 1945. Boyd C. Jenkins, a dentist, was the first mayor.
The earliest homesteaders included Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hostetler, who bought Indian allotment land as early as 1910, and the Thorpe brothers, Alvin and Harry. Harry purchased land to the south of the Hostetlers and named the platted tracts “Camp Roosevelt” and “Roosevelt by the Sea” after the newly completed Highway. The origin of the name Delake has several versions. In one, early Finnish homesteaders would say of the area, “I’m going to de lake,” and the name stuck to the area. In another, the d and e constitute a French word meaning “by”, hence, the area “by the lake.”
The first store and Post Office in Delake was established in 1924. A.C. Duel was the storekeeper and became the town’s first postmaster.
The “D” River, which runs through the center of Delake, has been known by various names in the past including “the outlet”. A contest determined its permanent name, giving the shortest river in the world the shortest name.
In the early 1900’s, Charles P. Nelson glimpsed a lovely valley gently sloping to the sea as he walked the beach from Taft to Cloverdale, noting the wooded hills on three sides and crystal stream flowing to the sea. Years later, when Mr. Nelson and Dr. W. G. Scott were looking for land to develop they revisited the area, found it for sale, and purchased it. Combining their last names at the suggestion of Mrs. Nelson, they formed the Nelscott Land Company and the town of Nelscott was born.
When Nelscott’s second store opened in 1927, it contained offices for the Land Company, a restaurant, a bus depot, hotel rooms and living quarters. In 1929 it also contained Nelscott’s first post office.
Cutler City was the third town site in North Lincoln County. Originally part of the allotment of Charlie Depoe, a Siletz Indian, the land was sold to Mary and George E. Cutler of Dallas who established a town site on June 4, 1913. The North Lincoln Rhododendron Society was organized in 1938 for the purpose of preserving native plants and celebrating the blooming season. Cutler City, abloom with so many colorful rhododendrons from May through June, was chosen as its rhododendron capital.
INCORPORATION AS LINCOLN CITY
In the 1930s these towns competed with other coastal towns to attract tourists and increase business. Annual events like Taft’s Redhead Roundup and Oceanlake’s Regatta drew visitors from all over the state and further emphasized the distinctive characteristics of each town.
All of the towns in the area developed somewhat independently of one another and were at varying stages of development. Consequently, many people were reluctant to give up their town’s independent status. Despite objections, the need for better streets, hospitals, police and fire protection, and an efficient water system meant consolidation planning meetings were held in the towns from Roads End to Cutler City in 1964. After one failed attempt in May, in December of 1964, Oceanlake, Delake, Nelscott, Taft and Cutler City voted to consolidate as one city by a margin of only three votes. After electing a mayor and city council and establish budget, the new city became officially incorporated on March 3, 1965.
Choosing a name for the new city proved almost as divisive as agreeing to consolidate. Residents voiced loud objections to any name that was the same as an existing city, like Oceanlake, and no other proposed names found a consensus. Finally, a committee was formed to tackle the problem. A contest sponsored by the Newsguard and KBCH asked residents and school children for their proposals. The top five submissions were published as a ballot in the newspaper including: Miracle Beach, Lincoln City, Miracle City, Surfland and Holiday Beach. The two most popular were Lincoln City and Surfland. Although Surfland was the name preferred by school children, some committee members thought that was a “honky-tonk” name. In the end, Lincoln City was chosen; even though it was not the most original, it was least controversial.
THE CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF SILETZ INDIANS OF OREGON
The confederation is composed of many bands and tribes whose members are the descendents of aboriginal peoples who inhabited all of Western Oregon from what is now known as Northern California north to the north shore of the Columbia River in SW Washington State. These bands and tribes were removed to the Coast or Siletz Reservation beginning in 1856. The 1.1 million-acre Siletz Reservation was set aside to provide a permanent home for the tribes who had ceded a total of approximately 20 million acres of their lands to the United States government.
After the people were relocated to the Coast Reservation, the seven ratified treaties of the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue Valley Tribes were ignored. Within 20 years, more than 900,000 acres of the original reservation had been taken away without treaty agreement or compensation.
Starvation, violence, abuse, exposure to the elements, epidemics, and unscrupulous Indian agents took their toll, leaving the Tribal population weakened and dramatically reduced. The effects of the 1887 Allotment Act and the policies that followed steadily reduced the Siletz Tribe’s remaining lands and resources. Finally, in 1954, The Western Oregon Termination Act took the last reservation land from tribal members. Still the Siletz people and culture endured.
In 1977, after years of intense effort and lobbying, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians became the second tribe in the nation and the first in Oregon to regain federally recognized tribal status by a congressional act. In 1980, a modest land base consisting primarily of timberlands was re-established as the Siletz Reservation.
With the Tribe’s “restoration” began decades of growth. The Siletz Tribe now has a strong tribal government to oversee and implement the many programs and services offered to Tribal members as well as an expanding variety of job opportunities. Committed to serving their people, the nine-member Siletz Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Siletz Tribe and has been very innovative in exploring options for tribal economic ventures and providing the best possible services to Tribal members.
Since Restoration, the Tribe has progressed from Bureau of Indian Affairs management to self-determination and finally to self-governance, allowing the Tribe to manage nearly all its own programs. As a result, services to tribal members are more efficiently managed and new programs have been developed specifically addressing the needs of the Tribal membership.
The Siletz Reservation now consists of over 4,500 acres of scattered parcels within Lincoln County. Tribal headquarters and administrative offices are located in Siletz. Satellite offices in Eugene, Salem, and Portland provide a variety of services to Siletz Tribal members within an 11-county service area which includes Lincoln, Tillamook, Linn, Benton, Lane, Yamhill, Polk, Marion, Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. Programs and services offered include Adult Education, Cultural Enrichment, Direct General Assistance, Head Start Program, Higher Education, Housing Improvement Program, HUD Mutual Help Housing, Job Training Partnership Act, Johnson O’Malley, Tribal Court, USDA Food Distribution Program, Vocational Training Assistance and Social Services including Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation, and Elders’ programs.
Further information about the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians may be obtained by calling the Administrative Offices at 800-922-1399, 541-444-2532, or by visiting www.ctsi.nsn.us.
Lincoln Statue History
Anna Hyatt Huntington, the famous bronze sculptor, gave the Lincoln Statue to Lincoln City after the State of Oregon turned it down for Salem and City of Eugene turned it down for the University of Oregon. The issue for them was that the cost of freight to bring get it to either place would be $25,000, which in 1964 was just too large a sum of money for either organization to handle. The mayor of Lincoln City learned of the refusals and asked Ms. Huntington if its permanent home could be Lincoln City under the condition that City of Lincoln City pay for the freight. Ms. Huntington agreed.
Ms. Huntington was born in Cambridge in 1876. Her early works were domestic animals, two of which were exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. A collection of her works is on exhibit at Brookgreen Gardens, a studio she and her husband founded near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Anna Hyatt Huntington died in 1973.
The Lincoln Statue is currently on display in front of the Lincoln City Community Center on NW 21st Street.
Drift Creek Covered Bridge
The Drift Creek Covered Bridge was originally constructed in 1914 on Drift Creek just south and east of Lincoln City, Oregon. Like many wooden bridges, it was covered to extend its usable life past 9 years to about 80 years, the cover keeping the huge truss timbers dry and subject to far less rapid deterioration.
In 1987 the Oregon Legislature established a fund to help preserve Oregon’s covered bridges, but the Drift Creek Bridge was not blessed by the benefits of the fund. In 1997, the Lincoln County Commissioners determined that the bridge’s dangerous deteriorated condition required condemnation and demolition.
It was then that Laura Sweitz and her husband, Kerry, believing that “Life is filled with possibilities,” a motto which now hangs from the bridge, asked for a chance to save it. The Sweitzes offered to salvage what timber could be saved and reconstruct the bridge on their own land on Bear Creek Road in Rose Lodge, just east of Lincoln City. The County Commissioners accepted, and the arduous process of sifting the good wood from the rotted and infested wood began. They harvested replacement wood from their own land using traditional methods, including hand-cutting the shakes for the roof. Although the lack of funds and volunteer labor frequently delayed the project and disheartened the Sweitzes, in late 1999, the bridge appeared on the cover of a nationwide calendar, and the Oregon Heritage Commission included the bridge project in its “Heritage Needs Assessment.” The calendar gave their hearts a lift and the donation of the mammoth main cord logs by the local Simpson Timber Company furthered their resolve to rebuild the bridge and preserve it for the citizens of and visitors to Oregon.
In the early summer of 2001, the project was finally completed with landscaping and the setting of the cornerstone donated by Taft Masonic Lodge #200.
By July 14, 2001, when the bridge was finally dedicated, it gracefully spanned Bear Creek just twelve miles from its original home. More than half the reconstructed bridge is created from original materials, including much of its early graffiti memorializing marriage proposals, love, and the first fish caught.
The Sweitzes gave the bridge and the land upon which it rests to Lincoln County and embraced with open arms the opportunity to share it with visitors 365 days a year. It now stands as a memorial to its pioneer builders, from both this century and last, and a unique and serene place for visitors to enjoy.
ARRANGING YOUR VISIT:
Visitors are welcome 365 days per year. For all they have given, the Sweitzes, who live only a few yards from the bridge, ask in return only that visitors respect their privacy and their need for quiet.
If you wish to create that unique experience for you and your loved ones and need assistance in scheduling it or locating resources for catering, music, and other “special effects,” call Laura Sweitz at 541-994-1869.
Travel east of Lincoln City, OR, on Highway 18. Approximately 3.5 miles east of the Otis Café turn south on North Bear Creek Road. Proceed about one mile. The Bridge is on the left.