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Coquille Valley Sentinel
Coquille, Oregon
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May 21, 1970     Coquille Valley Sentinel
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May 21, 1970
 

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Riverboats On The C0quille (Editor's note: Curt Beckham, Myrtle Point businessman, wrotethe following account of the picturesque riverboats which steamed up and down the Coquille River before good roads and motor vehicles rendered them obsolete.) Today we are only a few hours away from the east coast by jet plane, a few seconds away by dial telephone, and most every home has live television coverage with the flick of a switch. A look at the past may help one appreciate the communication wonders of the pre- sent to a greater degree. Travel to Coos County was once a delay- ing and trying endeavor which only the hardiest individuals would attempt. The above is the opening para- graph of my story about early day transportation to Coos County for which I have been fathering mat- erial and pictures for some time. It is to be called "Riverboats and Wagon Wheels". This is part of that story about one family and their riverboats on the Coquille River around the turn of this cen- tury. Not long ago I visited with Bill Panter of Bandon about his father and their boats. Bill is in his eight- ies, still drives his car, and has the spring in his step of a much younger man; also a clear mem- ory of the 'old days' and an alert mind of the present day happen- ings. Bill's father, William R. Panter was born in 1858 in a covered wa- gon in Nebraska. His father br- ought him to Coos County in 1860 where they settled on a ranch near Lampa Creek about nine miles up river from Bandom His boaiingex- periences began in the 70's when he worked as a deckhand on the stern- wheeler, Annie, for Captain Rack- lefL He was married to Ella Hut-: chinson in 1880 and to them were born Walter, Mary, Allen, Ruby, Stacy, Dora, Albert and Archie. His career consisted of mining, farming, logging but steam boating became his chosen work for many years. Before W.R. Panter got into the boating business he was a camp fore- man for an outfit yarding a tract of Pershbaker's timber on the north bank of the Coquille some five miles below Riverton. This camp had a pole chute one half mile long leading back on the high ridge from the river. Logs were skidded to the chute by oxen from where they were let loose to go speeding down into the water below. There were not many boats at that time but to keep from endangering them with these speeding logs the captain would whistle when approaching one of these log chutes. The loggers would not turn any logs loose until the all clear signal was given. The captain of the little steamer, Antelope, wanted his passengers to view some logs flying down to the river so blew his all clear whistle as he stopped across from the chute -ti i ? iiiil  ;i iii!ili iiili:ii!:: Captain Panter's "Telegraph." iiiili i: i:,i ii ;ii!iiii ....... where all could have a good view of the proceedings. One of the huge logs just missed the Antelope before it lost its momentum as the cap- rain frantically tried to move away. Captain Bob Fredricks, owner of the Dispatch, had all of the freight business that he could handle without bothering to pick up the farmer's milk cans from their small docks. William R. Panter quit his log- ging job to buy the small propeller steamer, The Maria, from Captain Fredricks. Panter purchased this forty foot boat in 1891 or 1892 to meet the growing transportation needs of the dairy business in the lower Coquille Valley. This was the beginning of a long and important career for Cap Panter as he was aHectionately called by the river folk down through the years. Cap Panter and his six sons were an important part of the riverboat bus- iness during the first decades Of this century. Soon after he purchased the Maria, Captain Panter envisioned another opportunity on the river. C. Tim- mons had a large salmon cannery at Bandon which bought the catches from far up the river. Panter purchased a large scow from the Herman brothers, boat builders of Randolph, to haul fish to the can- nery. This scow could carry 3000 salmon at one time. During the fall and winter salmon runs Panter would tow this scow from Beaver Slough to Bandon picking up salmon from the seine fishermen. There were at times so many fish being caught that the cannery put a limit of 50 fish per day for each fisher- man. From this venture Panter ma- de enough money to expand his boat- ing facilities. He organized the Myrtle Point Transportation Corporation com- posed of himself, his boys, Elmer and Sherman Hufford, and Paris Ward. As their business grew they enlarged their fleet of riverboats to include the little propeller boat, Venus i the Liberty built by the Hermans; the Antelope; the Dora; and the Coquille. The comPanY alSO used the Myrtle and the Echo on the run between Coquille and Myrtle Point. The Coos Bay, Roseburg, andEa- stern built its railroad from Marsh- field up Isthmus Slough and over Coaledo hill into the CoquilleValley. This rail communication was com- pleted to Myrtle Point in September of 1893. This added transportation link greatly increased the freight and passenger business on the Co. quille River. The largest boat which Panter owned was the. Telegraph which was built on the ways at the Herman ranch in 1913 for $9,500. It was a sternwheeler of 103 feet'in leng- th with a beam of 25 feel The Telegraph was on the run from Ban- don to Coquille during the years from 1914 to 1925 carrying a mayA- mum of 100 passengers at a top speed of 15 knots. It also hauled all kinds of freight on its lower deck. It burned slab wood as did all of the steam boats. It was on the Telegraph that we moved to Bandon in 1922. As I recall we had two cows, some chic- kens, a dog, and furniture which was loaded on this boat at the dock in Coquille City. Bill Panter related that he re- called the day the Telegraph was launched. As a fireman on the Dora they were rushing down river I The "Gem," built at Parkersburg, docked at Lyons Mill in Coquille. to be on hand for this occasion when their boat hit a "sinker". Bill had the fire door open at the mom- ent of impact which almost threw him into the firebox. One of the fastest boats of the Panter line was the Charm, a sleek 75 foot screw driven gasoline launch. It was built at Prosper by the Herman brothers according to historians Peterson and Powers, but Bill Panter thought it was cons- tructed by Oft Wlllard of Coqullle. He said that his father purchased the Charm from Charley Ashton for his passenger and mall run to Ban- don. This launch would make two round trips a day from Coquille to Bandon which was twice as fast as the older steam vessels would do Panter soon had the gasoline mot0; replaced by diesel power at a con- siderable savings in fuel The Charm was the last of his boats to travel the Coqullle River Even after the highway was completed, Cap Panter was compelled to op- erate this boat at a loss for some time before his mall contract could be terminated. In' 1926 Charm made its last run thus bringing to an end a way of life and travel along this once useful waterway. The Charm was sold to the Shaver Brothers of Port- land while the majestic Telegraph and some of Panters other boats were beached on the river bank near the Panter farm. There theyslowly disintegrated as they rotted into the mud of the river which they had served so faithfully. The Coquille Rlver Cap Partier with his boats and boys, played an important part in serving and sett- ling Coos County. The develop- ment of good roads, cars, andtrucks ended an historic era. Cap Panter was ready to m eetthis new change. Although his boating career came to an end when he was 68 years of age he was not ready to call it quits. ,That was before Social Security so this rugged in- dividual embarked on a new venture, that of servicing the very thing that had brought an end to his boating cBreer. He built a service sta- tion and grocery store in south Ban- don where he spent his remaining years. He lived to age 88. Many people can remember him so tall and erect in Ills captain's cap "as he strode about his place of busi- ness in the same mature: .:hat comes from running boats for 30 years on the Coqullle River. "Echo," "Liberty " and Dispatch, " moored at Cocluille.