Coos Bay

SchoonerBy Finn J.D. John
There was a time, a century and a half ago, when Coos Bay was the shipbuilding capital of the entire West Coast.
It all started, as so much West Coast history does, with the Gold Rush. A young apprentice shipbuilder named Asa Mead Simpson, caught up in the excitement, jumped aboard a sailing ship in which he owned a small percentage and headed for the gold fields.

Gussie TelfairBy Finn J.D. John

On September 25, 1880, an old and battered but sleek steamship drew into the mouth of Coos Bay, at the end of its voyage from Portland.
As the vessel churned its way into the bay, it suddenly and definitively veered out of the channel and slammed directly into the bank of the bay, close by Rocky Point — hard aground.

By Finn J.D. John

Lifeboat from S.S. CongressPortland Sunday Oregonian
Passengers in lifeboat from  the burning steamer S.S. Congress

If you’d walked into the town of Marshfield — now called Coos Bay — on the afternoon of September 13, 1916, you probably would have found the streets eerily empty.
Storekeepers, restaurateurs, bank tellers — everybody in town was clustered around the beach south of the harbor opening, watching a 7,985-ton passenger liner belching smoke and flames, and praying the 428 passengers and crew members would be able to get off the ship before the whole thing became engulfed.

McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.