Category: Articles

Tillamook Burn

Fire has been a big concern on the minds of many in the Pacific Northwest. With the recent record high heat, low precipitation, it seems this summer has been primed as repeat in history. One such fire that has been on my mind is the Tillamook Burn, which occurred not far from Cannon Beach in the Tillamook State Forest.

Tillamook Burn, 1933. Tillamook County Pioneer Museum

Tillamook Burn, 1933.
Tillamook County Pioneer Museum

On August 14, 1933, a fire began. The fire was said to have started in Gale Creek Canyon when a steel cable dragging a fallen Douglas Fire rubbed against the dry bark of a wind-fall snag causing friction and enough heat to set the snag ablaze – although recently this cause has come under some debate by historians.

Meal line at camp for Tillamook Burn fire fighters.  Oregon Historical Society #bb004582

Meal line at camp for Tillamook Burn fire fighters. Oregon Historical Society #bb004582

Due to the drought like conditions a cease and desist order had been issued to logging companies working in the area. However, the logging company that was still operating was said to have been unaware such a warning. Some say the company just wanted to get that one last log. Recent evidence has suggested that perhaps a rival company purposely started the fire, or perhaps some other accidental mishap as yet unknown caused it. Some have even suggested that another fire started in yet another location slightly before the fire at Gales Creek Canyon. Whatever the case, one of the most historically devastating fires in Oregon history had begun. It decimated through 311,000 acres before finally being extinguished, not by man, but by September rains. The fire was battled by several thousand fire fighters most of them were volunteers, loggers, farmers and men from the Civilian Conservation Corps with little to no fire fighting experience.

One of the reasons that this fire is so well known in our area was due to the speed with which it moved and the weather that created the perfect setting for such a fast moving fire.   In just 10 days the fire had burned about 63 square miles of forest.   One of the factors associated with creating a perfect “storm” was the relative low humidity at the time. Generally, the Oregon Coast (most of Oregon for that matter) has a relative humidity over 60%, even in the summers. At the time, the humidity was down to about 20%. Additionally, high temperatures and easterly winds didn’t help the situation.

By the end of the fire over $442 million in contemporary (1933) dollars of lumber were lost – serious loss to the timber industry and the nation. During this time the United States was struggling through the Great Depression. Salvage operations were immediately begun to harvest usable portion of the burned wilderness. Some of the trees, despite being burned, had usable timber inside.

This first fire paved the way for a series of other devastating fires in the Tillamook Forest. Another fire in 1939 burned over 200,000 acres, and in 1945 two fires burned another 182,000 acres.  The Tillamook Burn was and still is, at least at the time I’m writing this, one of the most devastating fires in Oregon history.

Taken August 25, 1933 as the Tillamook Burn fire "blows up"  The smoke column rose eight miles high and was seen throughout wester Oregon and Washington.  Oregon Department of Forestry

Taken August 25, 1933 as the Tillamook Burn fire “blows up” The smoke column rose eight miles high and was seen throughout wester Oregon and Washington. Oregon Department of Forestry

According to Ellis Lucia in his book, Tillamook Burn Country, “Northern Oregon beaches were buried two feet deep in ash and debris, which also fell onto ships five hundred miles at sea and on Boise, Idaho. The great smoke cloud was seen in Montana.”

Forest fires, or fires in general, are going to happen. Most of us are aware of this. That’s why many communities have a fire department, often established well before a police force. For example, Cannon Beach’s fire department was established in 1947, while a Cannon Beach Police Department wasn’t established until much later.

Most of the fire fighters in Oregon are volunteers. They are landscapers, mechanics, business owners, basically people you see every day.   For myself, I can’t even imagine the breathless heat that getting close to an out of control fire would be like. And what is even harder to imagine is the kind of people who are landscapers, mechanics, and business owners that know what a fire is like and still answer the call. Cannon Beach is no exception. So, if you can, thank a fire fighter. Or better yet, buy that guy or gal a beer. They deserve it.

Thanks to the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Department of Forestry, Tillamook Pioneer Museum, Tillamook Forest Center, Kick Ass Oregon History, and the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum for the information provided here.


With the recent article in the New Yorker making the rounds, I thought this would be a good time to look back on what happened in 1964. Some of you are probably saying, “Okay, I get it, tsunamis. The coast is a dangerous place.” Insert eye roll here, but the thing is a tsunami is a real possibility. And for some of us a constant threat in the back of our mind. Could what happen in 1964 be worse? Could Cannon Beach handle it?

On March 27th, 1964 a Megathrust quake (sometimes referred to as the Good Friday Earthquake) shook Anchorage, Alaska to its core. The term Megathrust refers to a quake that occurs when one tectonic plate is forced under another, otherwise known as subduction. This type of quake can exceed 9.0 in magnitude; the Good Friday Quake was a 9.2. Tremors lasted for four minutes and set into motion a tsunami that swept along the North American shoreline.

Many coastal communities were unaware of the strength of such a quake, or of the tsunami heading their way.

In the early morning hours of March 27th a group of six poker players had gathered at Frank Hammond’s house. A “big bet” of fifteen dollars was on the table when the phone rang. Bill Steidel, one of the poker players, recalls, “The phone rang and one of the men got up and answered the phone. ‘They said there’s a tidal wave coming,’ he said. We all ignored it, because we heard that every winter, that there were some big waves coming. It wasn’t unusual to hear that.”

Then the second call came. The wave had hit. As Steidel recalls in his 1995 Cannon Beach History Center oral history interview, “We said (to Hammond), ‘Where are you going?’ He (Hammond) says, ‘the last wave broke over, you know that tree in my driveway – the last wave broke over the top of that tree.’”

The tree was 30 feet tall.

The Ecola Creek Bridge was washed out during the 1964 tsunami.

The Ecola Creek Bridge was washed out during the 1964 tsunami.

Steidel describes the scene as a “Laurel and Hardy picture”. Every man ran for the door at the same time. Then they scrambled into their cars and made for their families as quickly as they could.

The news of the quake in Alaska and tales of an approaching tsunami was rebuffed by some, at least at first. The community of Cannon Beach was prepared for any number of Northern squalls, floods, and fires, but this was something different, something unexpected.

Bridget Snow and her husband had a unique view from one of the bluffs in Cannon Beach. As they scanned the sea they noticed the wave approaching, “from a distance (it) moved in flat, curling to shore and rising in height about a foot a second, about ten feet in all.”

By the time the first wave made it to shore it was a thirty-foot wall of water.

Elsewhere in Cannon Beach – Margaret Sroufe glanced out her window and was shocked to see dancing blue and green orbs right before the power went out. Intrigued she made for her porch. Sroufe and her husband had an unprecedented view of the damage caused by the tsunami from their home on west side of Elm Street, “There was a house down on the creek… and there was a little duplex, and the duplex started to move… and it hit the telephone pole, and went around the telephone pole, and it ended way back up in the pasture. And the bridge lifted up and moved on back into the pasture. It came right up to the edge of our driveway. We just stood there with our arms around each other… watching the water come up.”

Tsunami damage from the 1964 Good Friday Quake. Note the pieces of bridge and the small white house in the background.

Tsunami damage from the 1964 Good Friday Quake. Note the pieces of bridge and the small white house in the background.

Those who were heading for high ground via the Ecola Creek Bridge were shocked to find that it was gone. Steidel was the first to arrive, “the bridge was gone,” he said, “The water was all around me, and then a house went by. The house went over into the meadow and settled down.”

The tsunami only picked up speed as it moved further down the coastline. In Crescent City, California it moved with such strength and velocity that when hitting the shore Seagulls were caught in mid-air by the rushing 30 foot-or more waves. Witnesses have referred to these waves as “walls of water”.

The North end of Cannon Beach was the hardest hit by the ’64 Tsunami. Homes were torn from their foundations or flooded. In addition, the Ecola Creek Bridge was completely destroyed leaving behind only skeletal pieces of wood hanging from the road on either side. Tsunami debris was distributed throughout the town. Though Cannon Beach did not experience the fatalities or devastation of other coastal communities, it was a shocking occurrence that changed how those who live at the coast react to a tsunami.

Archaeological and geological evidence and oral traditions of the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest indicate that major tsunamis and earthquakes have occurred before.

Archaeological and geological evidence and oral traditions of the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest indicate that major tsunamis and earthquakes have occurred before.

The 1964 tsunami wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time that the coast is hit by a tsunami. The threat of a tsunami has always been a threat. There is extensive archaeological evidence and geological records that indicate past severe seismic events that have caused devastation along the entire west coast. Native American oral traditions of the region further confirm that such events have impacted ancient populations in the past. Archaeological work done in areas around Port Townsend, various parts of Oregon and northern California have shown that the Cascadia subduction zone has been and will be responsible for earthquakes and tsunamis. One such event occurred on January 26, 1700. How can we be so accurate on this date? The tsunami of 1700 was so devastating that it reached the shore of Japan and the time and date were recorded there. In addition to the records in Japan, dendrochronology and Native American oral traditions further substantiate a devastating tsunami in 1700.

Cascadia Zonal Chart

Cascadia Zonal Chart

Nearly every-year new information becomes available to the public thanks to the hard work of geologists, archaeologists, and other scientists. This information does not fall on deaf ears, which is why tsunami safety and preparedness has become synonymous with the Oregon coast, specifically Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach has had a strong emergency preparedness program for years. In fact, on April 14, 2010, the New York Times commended Cannon Beach for the city’s tsunami preparedness plans.  The town has been recognized  for being at the forefront with their policies.  Despite some of the claims in the infamous New Yorker article, many hotels in the area have evacuation plans outlined for guests, signs throughout town direct inhabitants to the safety of high ground, and local businesses have begun to construct tsunami and earthquake safe buildings. The best part is, the City of Cannon Beach, the Cannon Beach Fire Department, and the Police Station are willing to change and adopt new policies as new information becomes available or as new concerns arise. Suffice to say, the town of Cannon Beach does not use the “let’s just put that off” policy when it comes to being prepared for a natural disaster.

Education is still the number one combatant against casualties related to tsunamis and earthquakes. Safety drills, workshops, and community forums have led to a well-educated community. If you would like to know more about the tsunami that occurred in 1964, or even about the one that occurred on January 26, 1700, then stop by the Museum.  We’re open 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday except Tuesday.

The SS Mauna Ala

The Cannon Beach History Center & Museum’s latest exhibit WWII on the Oregon Coast explores a series of historic events, shared stories and artifacts. What it is missing are several stories that occurred in Oregon and pretty close by that not many recall or even know about.

One of our favorite stories came from the Oregon Military Museum and was contributed to by several 41st Infantry Division veterans. Many have heard of the 41st Infantry Division’s role during World War II, but prior to leaving the states this National Guard group was deployed to defend the Oregon and Washington coastline against possible Japanese landing. The story they shared was of the SS Mauna Ala, a Matson line freighter that was delivering Christmas supplies to the troops stationed at Pearl Harbor. The ship carried 60,000 Christmas trees, 10,000 turkeys, 3,000 chickens, tins of Almond Roca and more.

SS Mauna Ala formerly called USS Canibas

The SS Mauna Ala formerly known as the USS Canibas was steamer ship that was constructed in 1918. It was active until it ran aground at the mouth of the Columbia River Bar in 1941.

Unfortunately, while en route, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the ship rerouted back to Oregon. After the shocking attack on the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Oregon and much of the western coastline had enacted blackouts and radio silence, and of course, the captain of the SS Mauna Ala was unaware that these policies were in place. The ship was also under radio silence for fear of giving away their location to an enemy vessel.

The mouth of the Columbia River bar is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world, even under the best circumstances. A dark night in December without navigational aids didn’t make for an easy entry, so the SS Mauna Ala ran aground. Thankfully, the entire crew survived thanks to the Coast Guard from the Point Adams station.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Point Adams Station was in operation from 1889 until it was discontinued in 1967 (although some documents indicate it may have ceased operation as early as 1963.) It was located in Hammond, Oregon.

In an oral history interview conducted by the Oregon Military Museum, veteran Roy Brasfield remembered, “When war was declared (7 December 1941) training was interrupted; that night the unit headed for the Longview Bridge on the Columbia River. They were there for a few days when they received a panic message from Seaside – a ship was unloading men on the beach.”

Camp Clatsop

In another interview with veteran Carl Kostol, he shared, “On 10 December 1941 they heard of an emergency at Camp Clatsop (Camp Rilea). An officers’ meeting was called by the Regimental CO for E and F Companies… The Regimental CO told them a convoy was coming down from the Gulf of Alaska – a suspected invasion. Clatsop Beach was the most likely site for this. So they all went out carrying a full load of ammunition.”

Like other Americans, those who lived on the Oregon coast were shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The fear that the Pacific Coast might be the next target was very real for all who lived here. “We all know,” the Tillamook Headlight-Herald wrote on December 25, 1941, “that the coastal area is the first line of defense.”

With this in mind, men went to the beaches to defend the Oregon shores. Instead of Japanese troops they found something a little more benign.

Brasfield remembered that instead of troops off-loading on the beach, they found “the ‘men’ unloading were actually Christmas trees….”

With fully loaded weapons at the ready, Kostol remembered, “They were on post all night but there was not (an) invasion. A ship ran aground, a Christmas ship headed for Hawaii that had to turn back. Its cargo of Christmas trees started rolling in and some got shot at.” He added, “A case of steaks also washed ashore, as well as a case of Almond Roca candy.”

In the light of day, the “paratroopers” morphed in several thousand trees, turkey and chicken carcasses, cases of steak, and tins of Almond Roca. The military declared the contents of the SS Mauna Ala “open salvage”. The food and trees were gathered up by those stationed at Fort Stevens and Camp Clatsop and were cooked up for all to enjoy. Some of those stationed there were even able to send pounds of food, candy, and other items that washed up home. News spread pretty quickly, as this kind of news is apt to do, and soon beachcombers were milling around the beaches collecting Christmas goodies.

I’m sure a sense of relief came over those that watched Christmas trees float around in the tide. Perhaps that relief even turned into laughter, for what could have been a very serious threat, had become festive floaters. With the entire crew of the SS Mauna Ala saved and an invasion turned into something entirely benign, one hopes that those who picked up the butter, salt, steaks, turkeys, chickens, trees, and candy were able to enjoy at least one or two evenings of good food and good company without the threat of deciduous troopers knocking at their doors.

For more information about WWII on the Oregon Coast, visit the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum (1387 South Spruce Street) Wednesday through Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or check out the Oregon Military Museum’s website.

The S.S. Cannon Beach

Have YOU ever heard about the S.S. Cannon Beach? If you have, count yourself among the lucky few.  There are very few people living in Cannon Beach, in Oregon, or pretty much anywhere else that have even heard of this World War II era ship.

Inside the S.S. Cannon Beach on the day of its christening.

Inside the S.S. Cannon Beach on the day of its christening.

Even former Senator Hatfield hadn’t heard of the Ship in 1985 and requested information from the Maritime Administration of its existence.   Even in 2000, not many in Cannon Beach had heard of the ship that was named for their town. Former crewmember, Fred Walburn, was so surprised he shot an email to the Historical Society.

“Several years ago I was in Cannon Beach for a few days and was surprised to learn that no one seemed to know that a ship had been named for your fair city,” said Walburn. He was a crewmember on the S.S. Cannon Beach for a short period after its construction in 1945. They sailed form the port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) on October 8, 1945 with a cargo of aviation fuel. They were bound for the port at Yokohama, Japan. However, just outside of the Aleutian Islands the ship was caught in a severe storm, which caused significant damage to the bulkheads. The S.S. Cannon Beach was ordered back to San Pedro for repairs and that was the last time that Walburn saw her.

S.S. Cannon Beach 4 S.S. Cannon Beach 3

The S.S. Cannon Beach was christened on August 25, 1945 at Swan Island Yard. The ship was constructed by the Kaiser Company, Inc., for the United States Maritime Commission. According to documents in the Museum’s archive the ship was one of several emergency tankers planned in 1941. These ships were of a commercial design that the Sun Ship Building Company had been building for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. A total of 525 of these ships were contracted between 1942 and 1948.

Many of these ships were of the classification SE-A1 and were equipped with turbo electric machinery producing a shaft horsepower of 6,000.   The ships had a top speed of between 14.5 and 15 knots.  Construction of these ships was shared between the “Alabama Dry-dock & Shipbuilding Company, of Mobile, Alabama, the Kaiser Company’s Swan Island Yard at Portland, Oregon, the Marine Ship Corporation at Sausalito, California and the Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Company of Chester, Pennsylvania.”

In a letter addressed to former Oregon State Senator Mark O. Hatfield and dated April 4, 1985, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration department, states that the S.S. Cannon Beach was operated by Pacific Tankers under a General Agency Agreement with the War Shipping Administration. From September 1945 to September 1947 the ship primarily carried petroleum products in the Pacific. In October 1947, the SS Cannon Beach was sold to the Lanmore Company and registered under the Panamanian flag. It continued to transport petroleum until it was sold in December of 1960 to the Panama Trans-Oceanic Company, S.A. She was then placed in the shipyard of Hamburg, Germany, where she was lengthened to 575 feet and renamed the Carolyn E. Conway.

The S.S. Cannon Beach

The S.S. Cannon Beach

The former S.S. Cannon Beach continued to operate for another fifteen years before the ship was sold for scrap.   Sadly, breaking up of the vessel was completed in Taiwan in 1976.

Though the S.S. Cannon Beach had a sad ending and a rather uneventful history, there is no doubt that she brought a little international prestige to our small town and adds an interesting twist in Cannon Beach’s unique history.

WWII on the Oregon Coast

On December 7, 1941, citizens across the nation who were listening to their radios heard through the static the shocking announcement. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. World War II had begun. Fear of an attack on American soil was prevalent across the U.S., but especially along the West coast. As Les Ordway and George Shields remembered during oral history interviews taken by the Cannon Beach Historical Society, locals in Cannon Beach immediately took action, forming a beach patrol called “the Guerrillas,” guards were also placed at the Arch Cape Tunnel. After dark black outs were enforced across the West Coast. Car headlights were wired down, windows covered, and some families even used
candlelight rather than risk electricity.

Members of the Coast Guard's mounted beach patrol cross an inlet during their patrol on the west Coast.  The use of horses allowed the Coast Guard personnel to cover wide stretches of beach more quickly than on foot. Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Members of the Coast Guard’s mounted beach patrol cross an inlet during their patrol on the west Coast. The use of horses allowed the Coast Guard personnel to cover wide stretches of beach more quickly than on foot. Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cannon Beach wasn’t alone in their fears. Tillamook had the Tillamook Rangers that patrolled the beaches with shotguns and .22s. In addition to the coast guard, civilian and National Guard patrols blimps were a regular sight along the Oregon coastline.
The blimp patrols were based out of a Naval Air Station located in Tillamook Oregon. The hangars that housed the
blimps were and still are considered the largest wooden structures ever built in the world. Visit the Tillamook Air Museum to see just how large these hangars really are! Rumors often ignited fear among Oregon Coast citizens.

Locally, a rumor spread that Japanese paratroopers were hiding out atop Marys Peak. Some tried to leave the coast and head for the inland. Local families had “grub boxes” with provisions packed and ready to disappear into the hills
in the event of an attack.

Soldiers at Fort Stevens inspecting a shell crater in a patch of skunk cabbage just outside of the Fort.

Soldiers at Fort Stevens inspecting a shell crater in a patch of skunk cabbage just outside of the Fort.

The shelling of Fort Stevens didn’t help the feelings of fear and doubt. In June 1942, an offshore Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens. Many argue that this was nothing more than an exploratory shelling or just a show of force against the U.S. What the attack succeeded in doing was showing local coastal families what Japan was capable of. To make matters worse there was the more serious attacks of Japanese collapsible-wing airplanes that dropped incendiary bombs on coastal forests. These incendiary bombs were dropped mainly in Southern Oregon and their goal was believed to be to ignite uncontrollable forest fires. The first one was dropped just outside of Brookings in the Siskiyou National Forest. Initially, these findings weren’t released publicly. According to the Oregon State Defense Council the reason for this was to keep the knowledge of the bombings from reaching Japan.

Towards the end of the war Japan made what is considered by many historians to be a last ditch effort. In November 1944, Japan began launching balloons carrying explosive and incendiary bombs. These balloon bombs drifted east along the jet stream to the west coast of the United States. Of 9,000 balloon bombs that Japan admitted to sending to the U.S. there were only 342 incidents. Of these, forty-five occurred in Oregon. Of all of these incidents only one resulted in casualties. On May 5, 1945, a pastor’s wife and several children accidentally triggered one of these balloon bombs.  This is considered the only casualty to have occurred on the continental United States during the war.

A Japanese balloon bomb.

A Japanese balloon bomb.

While they varied in size and design, many of the balloons measured about 100 feet in circumference and about 33 feet in diameter. The ingenious design helped them drift along the newly discovered fast moving jet stream at an average elevation of 30,000 feet.

In January 2015, NPR released a historic piece about these balloon bombs. The article indicated that many remain unaccounted for. While seemingly innocuous these bombs can still present a serious danger as many of the explosives could have degraded and become more volatile than before.
Thankfully, the Second World War ended on September 2, 1945. This year the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum will mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of the war with an exhibit on WWII on the Oregon coast. The exhibit will feature stories, memories and history relating to the war and to the experiences of those who lived here.  The exhibit will open on Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23 with presentations from Alisha Hamel of the Oregon National Guard’s historic outreach program and Willamette University Professor Ellen Eisenberg.  Both presentations will begin at 7:00 p.m.  See the Museum’s website or Facebook page for more information on these events.

This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program.

Basic CMYK

The Cannon of Cannon Beach

Ever wonder how Cannon Beach got its name? The story is as confusing as most historical rumor wrapped tales, but it is still pretty darn good.  From the parcel at Elk Creek, to the town known simply as “Ecola”, eventually became Cannon Beach, but that’s not really the story we are going to focus on.  The focus of this story is of the original cannon that was discovered along the coastline in 1898. This carronade initially washed up in Arch Cape, Oregon in 1846. Where did it come from? Well, the very first cannon to be discovered in our area was torn, along with a portion of the decking, from the USS Shark.


An illustration of the USS Shark.

An illustration of the USS Shark.

The Shark, a U.S. naval schooner, wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River on September 10, 1846. During the wreck, Lieutenant Neil Howison ordered three masts chopped down and all twelve (although the exact number of cannons has been debated) of the ship’s cannons jettisoned in an effort to help lift the ship off of Clatsop spit. Before the crew of the ship could take action, the ship began to break apart, and pieces of the wreckage were scattered all over the bar.


A piece of that wreckage with several cannons attached washed ashore in what is now Arch Cape. Midshipman T.J. Simes was sent to visit the location where the wreckage washed ashore, and his report indicates that he was successful in “getting one cannon above the high water mark,” but high tides forced him to leave the two others buried (you might remember the exciting story of two cannons being discovered in Arch Cape in 2008.)


Despite his efforts, T.J. Simes was only able to retrieve one of the cannons from the piece of the Shark that washed ashore. In a twist of events, the cannon that was retrieved was lost again.   However, tales of the cannon swirled. In December of 1863, mail carrier John Hobson reported seeing a cannon in Arch Cape Creek (also known as Shark Creek). Soon after, however, the cannon became lost when tides buried it in the sand. Rumors of the peek-a-boo sightings of the cannon continued to spread.


On May 29, 1891, early coastal settler named James P. Austin established the first post office at Arch Cape and named the area “Cannon Beach,” which reflected his hopes of finding the lost cannon.  Austin knew that the cannon was supposedly buried in a creek bed nearby, and the settler reportedly spent much time and money on his endeavor to find the lost artifact, no matter how unlikely his discovery might have been. He searched unsuccessfully for the cannon until his death in 1894.


Austin's wife and the original cannon that Cannon Beach was named for, circa 1898 - 1900.

Austin’s wife and the original cannon that Cannon Beach was named for, circa 1898 – 1900.

Several years after Austin’s death, mail carrier George Luce spotted the cannon in the waters of Arch Cape Creek in 1898. He ran to tell Austin’s wife, and neighbors John and Mary Gerittse lent their team of horses to pull the heavy item out of the water.  Austin’s wife had the cannon placed in front of the post office in honor of her husband, and it was housed there (I believe) until 1945.


In 1945, Mel Goodin purchased and platted the land known as Cannon View Park. To make way for home sites the cannon needed to be moved. George Van Vleet, of Van Vleet Logging donated one acre of land to the state on which to place the cannon. The Oregon State Department of Highways prepared a site on the east side of Highway 101.  According to an article in the Daily Astorian Mr. Goodin, who was the owner of the cannon, donated it to the public. The cannon and accompanying artifacts were then moved to the new location.  How Mr. Goodin became the owner of the cannon, I’m still not clear on.


This is where the story gets a little tense and even political. How the story has been related to me. During my time at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum, I was told that an unidentified individual was stealing artifacts from around the cannon. At first a chain, or two, and then other pieces, until, finally, a portion of the cannon was “cut off.”

306 cannon & capstan Arch Cape

Notice that in addition to the cannon and capstan, there are several other objects believed to be from the USS Shark. This included cannon balls, and other iron artifacts. Theses were believed to be stolen in the mid-to late 1980’s.


According to a story reported by the Daily Astorian on April 12, 1989, the cannon and capstan had been repeatedly vandalized. It was because of this vandalism that the Clatsop County Historical Society and the Heritage Museum in Astoria chose to remove the artifacts and put them on display in a safe and secure environment. On April 13, 1989, CCHS Director John Cooper and Steve Kann moved the original cannon and capstan from the Oregon State Highway site to the Heritage Museum in Astoria.

As part of an agreement with the Arch Cape Community Club Committee, the Clatsop County Historical Society placed an exact replica where the original cannon once stood.

What happened to the original cannon?

What happened to the original cannon?

What happened to the original cannon? Well, after some years the cannon and capstan were given to the fully established Cannon Beach Historical Society with the express understanding that the artifact would be stored with the highest museum standards. The dates are questionable, but it looks as though the cannon arrived at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum in the mid-2000’s.
In 2012, the original cannon and capstan where sent to Texas A&M to undergo a conservation process to stop the oxidation that had occurred during their time exposed to the elements.   The cannon, that Cannon Beach is named for, will once more go on display at the beginning of next year at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum.  Though the story of the cannon is still sore for some, it is this author’s belief that it is one of the wonders of our coast. From ship hull to the icon of a town and everything in between, that little ton cannon has had quite a journey.


The historic summer retreat of former Governor Oswald West’s is as recognizable to many visitors as Haystack Rock or the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Though many might not know the historic significance it is has become an iconic part of Cannon Beach – the home that everyone wants to see.

Summer Retreat of Governor Oswald West, circa 1913.

Summer Retreat of Governor Oswald West, circa 1913.

The Cannon Beach History Center & Museum was lucky enough to feature this home on the 2014 Cottage & Garden Tour. Attendees walked the wood floors, and spoke with the wonderful homeowners.   In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “Lucky.” This beautifully appointed log cabin was a treat to see, not only for the unobstructed breath taking views of the coastline and Haystack Rock, but for its unique design and history.

Cottage Tour attendees enjoy the deck of the West-Bouvy Cabin during the 2014 Cottage & Garden Tour.  What a view! Photo by Erin J. Bernard.

Cottage Tour attendees enjoy the deck of the West-Bouvy Cabin during the 2014 Cottage & Garden Tour. What a view! Photo by Erin J. Bernard.

Governor Oswald West originally constructed the home as a summer getaway for his family in 1913. West, was a go-getter from a very early age. Born in Ontario Canada, West and his family first moved to Oregon in 1877, when he was just four years old. He started school almost immediately and left at age fifteen to begin a career in banking. He worked in Salem and Astoria, Oregon, and eventually landed a position as the State Land Agent in 1903.   West gained a reputation as an honest man who did not tolerate corruption of any kind. This reputation eventually garnered him the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1910. West eventually defeated his opponent, Jay Bowerman, and ended up taking office in 1911 and served as Governor of Oregon until 1915.

During his time as Governor West implemented a new parole system for prisoners, abolished capital punishment, was an active participant in the women’s suffrage movement, and prohibited alcohol in the state of Oregon.   A very active term with these projects alone, but West’s most memorable and lasting legacy was his desire to protect Oregon’s beaches. West established a beach bill in 1913 that was Oregon’s beach highway law, which declared the entire Pacific coastline to the high tide to be public highway. This law remains in effect today. This law later came into play with Oregon’s thirtieth governor, Tom McCall and the “beach bill” (more on that in a different article.)

It is believed by some, that the inspiration for West’s beach law was his summer retreat. West had fallen in love with Cannon Beach during his time spent as a banker in Astoria, Oregon. In 1912, West and his wife Mabel purchased an acre of land just south of Cannon Beach.   By 1913, West had finalized plans for a log house, barn, and springhouse.

708.4 Os West house w-tents

Governor Oswald West home pictured here with accompanying summer tent camp. Tent camps were common during the early 1900’s. This image was taken in the summer of 1914.

The home was originally constructed as an Adirondack-style log cabin and was considered to be quite extravagant; the home was quite large when compared to the cottages being built at the time. The home was originally forty by forty-eight feet with two stories and two beautiful hand-made stone fireplaces.   The home was sold in 1926 to Robert and Blanche Ellis, who did little to the property. It was sold once more just ten years later to Dr. Harry M. Bouvy an ear, nose and throat doctor. Bouvy made several improvements to the home while keeping the rustic log cabin design that West had in mind.   Descendants of Dr. Bouvy still own the home today.

Sadly, on May 30th, 1991 a sixteen year-old arsonist burned the historic home to the ground. Fifty-five years of family history went up in flame. Many in Cannon Beach can recall looking up to where that historic log cabin used to be and seeing a skeleton of charred wood, hollowed and forlorn. The home was almost completely destroyed. Due to the extent of the damage, the family was unable to utilize much of the original materials. In what could have been a devastating loss of history, the family banded together to rebuild an exact replica of the home they grew up in. To have the exact replication of the original cabin, the family went with the architectural firm in Portland of Fletcher, Farr, and Ayotte. The reconstruction began with extensive field documentation and salvaging samples, and the cabin was authentically recreated. Virtually all of the materials used in the original cabin were repeated in the recreation including the logs and porch columns, which were made out of Sitka spruce logs obtained near Tillamook. The reconstruction of the cabin was technically completely in 1995, but the fine-tuning continued.

The spectacular results of the recreation earned the cabin second prize in the exterior rehabilitation category of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1996 Great American Home Awards. The replica was so exact that many, who visited Cannon Beach didn’t notice a difference, in fact, only a few realized the level of painstaking effort and love that went into rebuilding this iconic Cannon Beach Home.

West-Bouvy home, image taken in August of 2014 for the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum's annual fundraiser the Cottage & Garden Tour.

West-Bouvy home, image taken in August of 2014 for the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum’s annual fundraiser the Cottage & Garden Tour.

Now, rightly called the West-Bouvy Cabin, the home sits as a testament to the love and hard work of one family to save a home that was not only an important part of their childhood, but of Cannon Beach’s unique history. For those in the history biz, this is a rare thing and for this reason, I believe this home is one of the Seven Wonders of Cannon Beach.

Ecola State Park

Two young women enjoy the view from the Ecola State Park trail, circa 1960.

Two young women enjoy the view from the Ecola State Park trail, circa 1960.

One of our favorite places to hike is Ecola State Park.  On the North end of Cannon Beach, this beautiful State Park has one of the best views of Cannon Beach and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.  The location is so “grand” that a number of major films have been shot there. Goonies, hello! It has hosted countless weddings, boasts over 150,000 hikers per year, and is visited by numerous surfers, photographers, bird watchers, and botanists.

Not just a great place to sojourn when in the northern part of Oregon, Ecola State Park also has some pretty interesting history.  In 1806 Clark and several members of the Corps of Discovery traversed the southern slope of Tillamook Head to Indian Beach, the primary purpose of their trek to trade with the Clatsop Natives for blubber from a whale that had washed ashore. They learned the Clatsop word for whale – ekoli – and named the area Ecola after trading with the “handsome and terrible” natives. While Clark complained about the difficulty and incline of the trail, he was stunned by the view from atop Ecola, “the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed.”

Samuel Boardman, commonly known as the father of the Oregon State Parks system.

The original 450-acre center of the Ecola State Park was first deeded to the Oregon State Parks on February 11, 1932. Most of the land and a few summer homes were donated by some of Cannon Beach’s most well-known families. Rodney L. Glisan, Florence G. Minott, and Caroline and Louise Flanders owned just 49 percent of the original 450-acres of Ecola State Park.

Over 229-acres of the Park was purchased by the State from L.A. Lewis for $17,500. This was a big to-do at the time. Many critics scoffed at the project of building a state park during such rough economic times. The stock market had crashed just a few years earlier, in 1929. The years following the crash, referred to as The Great Depression, were tough times for the country. It made it that much more difficult for many to justify funds being allocated for recreation purposes.   However, Oregon State Park Superintendent Samuel Boardman strongly supported the idea. Boardman received a considerable amount of backlash for his ideas, in an Oregon Daily Journal article dated 1947 Boardman states, “Before I could explain why Ecola Park should be accepted one of the commission jumped to his feet and proceeded to give me on of the most complete verbal tongue lashings my august person has ever been decorated with.”

In spite of conflicting viewpoints, the commission did vote to accept the park. Unbeknownst to the commission, their decision created several hundreds of much

The CCC camp at Ecola State Park.

The CCC camp at Ecola State Park.

needed jobs during the Roosevelt Administration. The job of constructing the park fell to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program of Franklin Roosevelt’s that was to create jobs and combat the economic crisis. A camp was established at Ecola State Park in the summer of 1934.

The Corps worked to improve roadways, build water systems, construct picnic areas, and lay stonework that is still evident today. They received room, board, and a livable wage that went back to their families. Work on Ecola State Park was completed in 1936, taking just under two years to complete.

Boardman was instrumental in Short Sand Beach, Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Saddle Mountain parks, but Ecola held a special place in his heart. In 1948 he negotiated the purchase of just over 300 more acres from Crown Zellerback for $46,063.

Ecola State Park was closed for an undetermined time while the area was secured.

Ecola State Park was closed for an undetermined time while the area was secured.

Years after becoming the state park we know and love, Ecola State Park experienced what was called “Earth Slippage.”  A landslide removed parking area, parts of a roadway, and even damaged stone buildings that once occupied the

upper portion of the park.  The slippage occurred in March of 1961 and caused the park to be closed for a period of time.  Due to this slide many safety precautions where set in place to keep the park from sliding in the future.


Whether hiking or surfing, or just taking a few pictures, Ecola State Park is a must-see on the Oregon Coast.


As you can see from the images, the damage at Ecola State Park was significant and is perhaps the reason that there are no longer buildings at the top of the park.

As you can see from the images, the damage at Ecola State Park was significant and is perhaps the reason that there are no longer buildings at the top of the park.

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock is one of Cannon Beach's, and probably Oregon's, most photographed landmark.

Haystack Rock is one of Cannon Beach’s, and probably Oregon’s, most photographed landmark.

One of the most iconic images of the Oregon Coast is Haystack Rock. It has been featured in magazines, artwork, and in photos from around the world. It has even, dare we say, become a member of the family? It has been prominently featured in family photos, wedding shots, and the like. This basalt “sea stack” stands 235 feet tall. There are varying accounts, but it is considered one of the largest monoliths in the world. More than that, this immense basalt rock is as famous as Mount Hood, the Grand Canyon, or any other breathtaking and beautiful natural occurrence. People travel from around the world just to photograph the rock in the beauty of the setting sun, by light of the moon, or by the light of day.


Haystack Rock is older than you might think and its journey longer than you’d expect. Its story began nearly fifteen millions years ago when volcanic lava flows from eastern Oregon flowed along the route of the Columbia River. When this lava reached the sea, it descended into the soft ocean floor, pooled in spots and pushed to the surface.


The story does not end there. Just three million years ago, Oregon temporarily gained more land to the west as the Ice Age reduced sea levels and the earth’s crust shifted. As a result, the ocean sediment became land instead of ocean floor and was slowly lifted as the western flank of Oregon gained more real estate. There, Haystack Rock remained nestled in Oregon’s new coastal plain.  During the last 11,000- 18,000 years, continued uplift associated with the movement of the earth’s crust and erosion removed approximately 30 miles of sediments and volcanic rocks along the northwestern Oregon coast. These lone invasive basalt sentinels – such as Haystack Rock – are what remain of the once great Northwestern Oregon Coastal Plain.


The basalt rock at Pacific City, Oregon.

The basalt rock at Pacific City, Oregon.

Haystack Rock is not the lone basalt sentinel, nor the biggest. Pacific City has their own rock, which stands over three hundred feet tall. So what makes Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock so unique, so appealing?


Well, for one, Haystack Rock is accessible by land. You can walk up to the rock, or onto the rock (although that is not allowed.) Haystack Rock is a dedicated, protected Marine Garden. As the sign at the base of the rock says, “All living things, plant and animal, are protected.”  The stewards of the rock are the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) and the Friends of Haystack Rock. It is the HRAP volunteers that you see in red at the rock at various times of the day and year.

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program was conceived in serendipity. Neal and Karen Maine brought spotting scopes and other equipment to Haystack Rock one summer day in 1983. They planned to observe birds and intertidal creatures, but their day did not turn out as quietly as they’d hoped. Curious passersby crowded around, asking for “interpretation of the wildlife.”


Inspired by the spontaneous enthusiasm of visitors to Haystack Rock, Mrs. Maine suggested that a program be organized. Mr. Maine, a teacher, had an easy time convincing Mayor Lucille Houston that an environmental education project was a good idea. In the Fall of 1984, Maine, Houston, and City Manager Mark Lindberg gathered interested environmental agencies who felt that the program would do more than law enforcement to protect the rock. A pilot program was launched in the summer of 1985, coincidentally the final summer that the Cannon Beach allowed driving on the beach. According to the City of Cannon Beach’s website, as many as 200,000 people visit the rock each day to see the nesting seabirds, and intertidal life.


The Haystack Rock Awareness Program educating visitors to the rock about the marine life found (and protected) there.  circa 1988.

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program educating visitors to the rock about the marine life found (and protected) there. circa 1988.

Haystack Rock hasn’t always lived such a protected life. In 1904, a developer by the name of Mr. Mulhallan filed a land claim on Haystack Rock. Talk about oceanfront property! The size and location of the lots that he envisioned on Haystack Rock and its precipitous slopes, or the design of the homes he planned to construct there is unknown. In any event, the claim was subsequently denied. Thank goodness!   Could you imagine having a house teetering on Haystack Rock?


Another attempt to make use of Haystack Rock occurred shortly after the tsunami of 1964. The community of Cannon Beach was brainstorming new ideas to encourage visitors back to Cannon Beach. One such idea was to illuminate Haystack Rock at night. The power company was persuaded to run a line to the rock and set up two large lights. The lights were only lit for one night. The lighting terrified the seabirds roosting on the rock, they took off in fright – swooping over the town and covering it in… well, you can guess.


In 1968, the rock became a liability. Visiting tourists, who fancied themselves rock climbers, continually stranded themselves upon the rock. Rescuers had grown tired of this almost daily event. As a solution, Haystack Rock was blasted in such a way to make it inaccessible to climbers or climbing enthusiasts.  According to some locals, there was a small trail (or accessible area) on the rock face, although no one can agree exactly where.  It was dynamited off in October of 1968.


An image of Haystack Rock taken by Erin J. Bernard during the 2013 Cottage & Garden Tour.

An image of Haystack Rock taken by Erin J. Bernard during the 2013 Cottage & Garden Tour.

Over the years Haystack Rock has become a symbol of our small town and is, in my opinion, one of the Seven Wonders of Cannon Beach. It looms over homes and stands as a stalwart against the changing tides. Here’s to our favorite rock, whether it is the biggest in the world, or not!

Only in Cannon Beach will we celebrate not one, but twelve days of Earth Day. As a young student I vividly recall studying the sea once a year during a special school field trip. We would travel to the tide pools, peer through binoculars at circling birds, and eat sack-lunches by the shore. I was amazed to learn about how many thousands of organisms lived in a single drop of ocean water, or how many hundreds of feet a seal could dive in a matter of seconds. This yearly event has stayed with me over the years and I can’t help but feel that it has played a small part in fostering my love of our beaches. So you’ll understand why it makes me as happy as a clam to hear that Cannon Beach Elementary is participating in the Twelve Days of Earth Day event.

Cannon Beach Elementary Students Welcome the Tufted Puffin Back to Cannon Beach - Photo by Gary Hayes

Cannon Beach Elementary Students Welcome the Tufted Puffin Back to Cannon Beach – Photo by Gary Hayes

On Thursday the 11th at 10 a.m. a few Cannon Beach Elementary classes will welcome the return of the puffins to Haystack Rock with banners and fanfare. To some this might seem a small gesture, but I would argue that such observances help establish one’s relationship with the environment, and perhaps engender a passion for it.

America’s love and wonderment of the environment began in the late 1800’s. Just as people were flocking to the beautiful shores of Cannon Beach, preservation-minded groups, like the Audubon Society, were finding a foothold in the hearts of Americans. By 1876 the first special agent of the Department of Agriculture was appointed — this organization later became known as the U.S. Forest Service. It was around this time that John Muir founded the Sierra Club. Muir was an instrumental figure in the environmental movement. It was his activism that helped save the Yosemite Valley and the Sequoia National Park. Another inspirational naturalist was Gifford Pinchot, who coined the term “conservation ethic.” Pinchot served as the head of the U.S. Forest Service during the early 1900’s and was a passionate conservationist who spent much of his career overhauling the management of the forests throughout the United States. His name was often heard alongside Theodore Roosevelt, as the two men worked closely together in implementing policies and programs for the National Forest Service. Without the hard work of such staunch conservationists many of our national parks would not be here today.

Rachel Carson in 1951 (Globe Archive photo)

Rachel Carson in 1951 (Globe Archive photo)

In the 1960’s Rachel Carson stoked the flame of American environmentalism yet again. Carson is arguably one of the most influential modern environmentalists and is considered the founder of the contemporary environmental movement. As an activist she wrote many books throughout her career with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, but it was a book that she published in 1964 that had an overwhelming affect on Americans. The text was entitled “Silent Spring” and was a culmination of observations and research conducted throughout her career on the negative impact of synthetic pesticides, specifically the pesticide DDT. This book reflected a growing concern among Americans about the state of our agriculture and environment. For her works Carson received a best-selling authors award, was the recipient of the Burroughs Medal and the National Book Award for Non-Fiction. But the true success of her energies resided in her ability to movitate others to action. Carson’s staunch pursuit of the ethical treatment of our natural world inspired senators like Gaylord Nelson to institute policies and laws to protect the environment.

Senator Nelson became the founder of the Earth Day celebration and was a vital proponent of many parks programs and environmental protection acts. Nelson fought to protect the

Gaylord Nelson in 1967 (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Gaylord Nelson in 1967 (Wisconsin Historical Society)

environment through the varied Wilderness Act, Clean Air and Water Acts. He felt that the protection and preservation of our environment should be bedrock policies. The concerns of Nelson and Carson were manifested when they watched images of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. This spill created unprecedented damage and became one of the largest of the time — in 2010 it was still considered the third largest oil spill in the world. Spanning a ten-day period over 100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel and washed up along the shoreline. The American public was outraged by the images of seals and other marine mammals floundering in a dark sludge. Due to this event, Nelson sponsored the National Environmental Policy Act and subsequently founded Earth Day — a day he hoped to dedicate to raising environmental awareness throughout the nation. The importance of this momentous and perspective-shifting event is not lost on our small town. That is why we commemorate it with twelve days of celebration!

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