As It Was: Lack of Harbor, Roads, Isolates Gold Beach, Ore.

Sep 20, 2017

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.

By 1890, a Curry wagon road connected Crescent City with Coos Bay, its grade ranging from sea level to mountain tops.

According to an early newspaperman, “Passengers riding the horse-drawn stages were thrown forward and backward, up and down, first to one side, then the other, until they were sore, full of anguish and all but disjointed.”  Teams pulling wagons had difficulty passing each other at high elevations, especially in winter mud and snow.

When two wagons met near Humbug Mountain, one of the teams had to unhitch its team, unload the wagon, remove the wheels, and uncouple and stack parts of the reach-pole to one side, so that the other team and wagon could pass. Then the dismantled wagon had to be re-assembled, reloaded, and re-hitched.

Finally, in 1927, construction of the Roosevelt Highway, U.S. Route 101, provided a year-round outlet for Gold Beach and other coastal communities.

 

Sources: Peterson, Emil R., and Alfred Powers. A Century of Coos and Curry. Coquille, Ore., Coos-Curry Pioneer & Historical Association, 1977; Schroeder, Walt. They Found Gold on the Beach. Gold Beach, Ore., Curry County Historical Society Press, 1999.