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Coquille Valley Sentinel
Coquille, Oregon
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December 12, 2001     Coquille Valley Sentinel
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December 12, 2001
 

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ygone era were lifeline of C',quille Valley [m Union. Little Annie. sties last sounded on River 80 years ago. Dispatch. Telegraph. riverboats are now of a time when the River was the lifeline for Coquille and Myrtle these boats chugged up the river, bearing loads lumber, school children other paying load. The these flat bottom stern meant everything to along the Coquille in the 1880s through the )le back then survived stem-wheeler; it brought lumber and it took to market," said local marine histori- County water means a He collects pho- and of river ship- that started when :a youth in Coos Bay in the His love for water came mentor Martin Berg, a neighbor who happened at the North Bend Swing i, Young Peter Berge spent on the railroad was an old riverboater. other Coos County he started out young. teens, Berg worked on ving their way up Inlet. When he was 17, he a ferry that ran from Bay to Eastside. When he little older, he captained a Berge's interest in the from ligtening to Berg's' |and seeing the sights of dis- last week's Coquille Chamber of Commerce meeting. Much of Berge's information on the Coquille River came from area old timers Captain George Smith and Keith Smith In the days of the "Little Annie" and the 'Chann," Coquille river life was far differ- ent than it is now. There was no North Bank Road, no Highway 42S, no Highway 42. In those days folks had to plan a jaunt from Coquille to Bandon. It was either on the back of a horse or the deck of a stemwheeler. By far, it was easier to hitch a ride on the sternwheel- ers. Especially if someone had a cargo. Horse paths were not the ideal way to tote a wagonload of milk from Point A to Bullards Point. In fact, milk started the Coquille River stern boat industry. Coquille and Myrtle Point were large producers of milk, and in the late 1800s, every drop of milk was needed in the growing town of San Francisco. While ships could cross the bar into Bandon, their deep hulls couldn't clear the river. So, the little stem wheelers came to life. Flat as a pancake on the bottom, shoved along by a paddle wheel set in the stem, the little boats easily scooted from dairy to dairy. Even smaller boats were built to ply the shallow waters from Coquille to Myrtle Point The first riverboat was the "Mudhen," a dinky 23-footer built in 1878 By the 1910s, several companies had boats on the water. Most of the boats were built in shipyards that once dotted the Coquille. Others were built in Mai'shfleld' and sent, down_ to' spend their life on the river.. ..... and steam ..... in quiet spots along ,'s rivers. Throughout Berge continued collect- and aged photos of water life. Today, he his collection by giving public meetings, such as Before-tong, stern wheelers- helped establish the dairy lifeline, Ranches scattered along the Coquille River delivered their milk to Bandon, where the milk was processed by local companies and loaded on ocean going ves- sels. The town of Coquille grew thanks to the stem wheelers. "Coquille was the natural hub," Berge said. "As more ships came into Bandon, Coquille was the perfect place for everythingin the area to come together." Milk, fur, lumber from the hills and coal from area mines crowded Coquille's docks. Coquille was just one stop on the busy route. The boats wound their way from Myrtle Point and Coquillc, to Riverton and to the long gone towns of Prosper and Parkersburg outside Bandon. The boats made stops along the way at ranches. Especially during school year, when the boats picked up kids along with morn- ing milk. Later in the day, they'd drop off empty milk cans and youngsters. The steamers were an impor- tant way for anyone to get to town. "Let's say someone is build- ing a house in Arago," Berge said. "He takes the ferry to Coquille, orders his lumber, a horse and buggy brings the lumber to the river, they load his lumber on the sides of the ferry and he goes home to build." Competition was fierce; with no set transportation company or schedule, passengers took the first boat that chugged along. One fine morning, the "Charm" and the "Telegraph" collided while head- ing full steam for the same pas- senger patiently waiting on a river landing The boats grew with passen- ger demand. The Coquillc was built in 1908 as a single cabin steamer. In the teens, she got an upper cabin to haul more passen- gers. However, it wasn't the per- fect solution. She was then top heavy, so when she came around th s l)a, to,in t, .9utsid.9" Prosper, passengers had to move into the lower cabin to lighten the top load. Most ship owners upgraded their steamers via the stretching method. The "Telegraph," owned by the Panter family in the teens, was 87 feet long until she was cut in half and introduced to a 16 foot Duane McNair McNair, 52, died at in Bend on Dec. 9. No ser- planned. was born in Myrtle Point and in 1977. His mother, McNair and his brother, IiMcNair, are Coquille rest- Alternatives of Bend is : arrangements. A full obitu- be published in next week's Sawdusters " need piano The Sawdust Theater is in need of an ornate upright piano in excel- lent playing conditian . T.kosc who k'riow.ofan availb, bl pianb  may all. Diafie Wiltiamgat.396-5603'. : , ? ,I ; , ,!,(,,' ,. i i ,7i ( , WILLIAMS EXCAVATING :: &TRUCKINGI 'i Fill Sand ;T0ip bi! =t3hrk - ::i Land Clearing Cat/Backhoe J, "" ' Licen"d & -Bn'ded #'109282 MEAT PACKS, $2.00 to $3.00 a pound average(25# minimum). 1/3 steaks 1/3 roasts 13Hamburger ., (can substitute with half Hamburger and half Stew Meat) ERDMAN MEATS Custom:Meats ..... 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Bikes Tully assemblod and roady to ddol ') Let , us bey0ur BMX Headquarters PROUD .HOME OF: .7,KHS, HARd, REOLINE, and FREE AGENT BIKES, - nAY AREA BIKE ClEHTER 2253 Newmark Ave - North Bend -756-4522 TIlE SEN I INEl,--Wednesdav, December 12. 2001--3 RIVERBOATS such as the "Dispatch," above, plied the waters of the Coquille River, car- rying everything from milk to schoolchildren. mid-section. The "Charm" fol- lowed the theory "faster equals more trips" and she was built with a 100-horsepower gasoline engine. One riverboat didn't go up or down the river. The school boat "Union" went across the river, taking school kids from the Riverton School to the Coos Bay side of the river. Many locals still remember the "Union," which ran until the 1960s. Some even admit- ted their after-school high jinks to Berge. "When the ferry was going across, the kids liked to bunch up on one side, then quick run to the other side, then come back, and it would make the boat lose her steering," Berge laughed. Captain Shorty Martin would get mad -- but he'd get even. He'd pull up alongside the bank and just stuff the "Union" into the dirt, stopping the boat fitst and sending the kids flying. Then he'd start yelling. Accidents did happen along the river. Usually the early day versions of fender benders left captains blowing their tops while pointing at scraped paint on the hull. Most accidents happened on the Lampa curve, where the cur- rent Lampa Motmtain Road meets Hwy. 42S. When the river was our highway, a combination of wind and the flow of water from Lampa Creek would occasionally prove two objects can't occupy the same place at tile same time. Lampa [lead is also where several sternwheelers went to die when tileir time came. In the 1920s, roads were built along the river. That was it lbr the stem wheelers. Ahnost immediately, tblks started loading their cargos on tracks. While the riverboats Sentinel file photo straggled along with occasional cargo and passenger traffic, the closing of the Nestil Milk Condensing Plant in Bandon and the Great Depression were the final straw. And the steamers, even the "Telegraph," which was a little over ten years old, were scrapped. After the Nestil plant folded in 1924, the "Telegraph" was shoved into Lampa Creek along with sev- eral of her sisters. Other proud ladies were either converted to barges or left scattered along the river. Southbound motorists cross- ing the Hwy. ]Ol bridge near Bandon can see the rotting shell of a forgotten stemwheeler today. The "Charm" lived up to her name, though. The lucky stern wheeler is still in service on Columbia River as the floating office for the Shaever Transportation Company. 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