Laurel Gerkman

As It Was Contributor

Laurel Gerkman is originally from Canada. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. This fed a lifelong curiosity of observing physical and human landscapes—always wondering “why.” Laurel, retired from real estate sales, has lived in Gold Beach for 20-years. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. She remains intrigued by the hardy people who originally came to inhabit this rugged, isolated, and spectacular region, and enjoys seeking stories that weave these elements together. Laurel is the author of Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery, a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.

In 1871, Willis White and two companions responded to a San Francisco newspaper ad that read, “Wanted, River-Drivers Rogue River.”

Before the massive migration of settlers to the Far West, the acorn was an important winter staple in the diet of native peoples and wildlife in Southwestern Oregon.

In December 1892, Capt. Nicholas Lorentzen, his daughter, Lena, and father-in-law were among the passengers aboard the barge Majestic, on a return trip from Vancouver, British Columbia.

One of the first settlers in Klamath, Calif., M.G. Tucker, constructed a building in the village center on high ground just 100 yards from the Klamath River. The Tucker House served several purposes, as a store, restaurant, and hotel, but also as the post office, a dance hall on Saturday nights, and the freight depot for cargo deposited on a large, nearby rock formation.

In 1919, the social event of the season in Gold Beach, Ore., was the Christmas Eve Masquerade Ball held at Gauntlett’s Hall.

In the early evening of June 15, 1925, Alva Henry noticed a foot-wide gap in the floor boards of the Chetco River Bridge that connected the coastal communities of Harbor and Brookings on U.S. Route 101.

In the early 1900s, Herman Jantzen lived in Windy Valley, a remote, serene place where the wind constantly murmurs through the trees.  It rests at the foot of Snow Camp Mountain on the Oregon South Coast.

Early residents of the Rogue River Canyon faced infrequent and inefficient mail service, relying for decades on miners who volunteered to post letters and pick up the mail when they traveled to town for supplies.

In 1828, the explorer Jedediah Smith first documented an extraordinary stand of native azaleas flourishing along the Chetco River in present-day Brookings, Ore.

During Prohibition in 1925, a group of Curry County Circuit Court jurors decided to corroborate the evidence during the trial of Mormon Brown, a small-dairy farmer recognized for producing consistent batches of fine, clear, white-lightning liquor.

In July of 1918, suspicion fell on enemy sympathizers as the cause of a raging forest fire between Pistol River and Brookings, Ore.

In July 1930, Ernest Schneider’s favorable first impressions of Illahe swayed him to remain in the remote settlement, despite its inconveniences.  Present-day Illahe remains an hour’s drive from Powers or Gold Beach, Ore.

The Southern Oregon coastal town of Gold Beach remained isolated for more than half a century after its founding in 1863.  Its harbor was considered a hazard to navigation, and Curry County didn’t have a single mile of a main roadway until 1878.

In 1940, two youth gangs engaged in a duel at Gold Beach, Ore.

In 1924, James Leith opened the first modern auto campground on the Oregon South Coast at Gold Beach.