(Bandon, Oregon) – In this world of the 21st century, it’s hard to picture what life was like at the beginning of the 20th century, and it’s almost impossible to think of the century before that. The Oregon coast is an excellent example of this. (The Bandon Historical Museum took the pictures.)
At least in the Bandon area, you could see big ships going up and down the Coquille River during this time. Bandon wasn’t always the most important thing. Between the 1880s and the 1920s, there weren’t many cars because there weren’t any roads, and Highway 101 wouldn’t be built until around 1930. So ships were the only way to move things like logs or basic supplies. Most of the time, these were scows like early barges.
Just the industries of basic supplies, logging, and shipping made two towns on the south Oregon coast that are now abandoned. They used to be busy ports full of workers, ships, loggers, stores, and equipment.
The Bandon Historical Museum and volunteer Jim Proehl have given us a lot of history about this place. They also gave us a lot of photos of ancient history that you can see here.
Prosper and Randolph, just east of Bandon, are mostly empty shells of what they used to be.
Randolph was founded during the Gold Rush in the 1850s because its black sands contained some gold. It quickly became where the southern Oregon coast’s early settlers got their supplies. But by the end of the 1860s, it was becoming less and less valuable, and by the turn of the century, most people had moved to its younger brother, Prosper.
Randolph is mainly made up of a few houses, and none of the old buildings is still there. At least there are still a few businesses in Prosper, like small hotels and docking facilities. But it has nothing in common with the Prosper of 1905.
In 1867, Charles and Adam Pershbaker moved to Randolph, where Adam took over a store that his brother had opened. This was the start of the unincorporated area on the south Oregon coast. It took a while, and there were many ups and downs, but when the retail spot became very successful, Pershbaker quickly showed his determination.
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On this grassy and sandy bluff just east of Bandon, the first cannery on the Coquille River opened in 1882. In 1884, Pershbaker and John Dane opened the area’s first cannery. In 1887, Pershbaker used his money to plan the first sawmill. When it opened in 1888, it was a big hit right away.
In 1893, he moved the store by scow from Randolph down the river to where Prosper would soon be built. Two years later, after a lot of rain, big cracks appeared on the hill where the store was. Pershbaker knew this would be a problem, so he moved his goods to a different place. One week later, a giant landslide hit this growing business area, and the damaged building slid down the hill.
The Bandon Recorder, a newspaper published in 1905 and again in 1916, said that Pershbaker opened the first shipyard in the late 1800s, and one of the ships being built gave the town its name. Some of the most well-known ships built here were the schooners Mascot, Winchester, and Mispath.
One of the first canneries burned down in 1894, but it was quickly rebuilt. Pershbaker built his large house in Prosper in 1896. In 1903, he sold the sawmill and stopped running any businesses.
In 1905, the Bandon Recorder said that the town was bustling, with about 100 people living there. People had high hopes for this place, but it was not yet a city.
In 1908, the town’s post office closed, which was the beginning of the end.
A newspaper from 1916 shows that the small town of Prosper still had life and was doing well.
Proehl said that the area was prone to floods and landslides. He thinks that was part of why it went away.
In the 1940s, news stories show that shipbuilding was still happening there. After that, it doesn’t look like the town has come up again. It was gone by 1990 when a state legal document for a lawsuit mentioned the “vacated town of Prosper.”
Proehl thinks that there were probably a lot of things going on.
He told Oregon Coast Beach Connection, “There still isn’t a good, stable road from upland to riverside.” “It never became a corporation, so it never built streets or a water system. Maybe it didn’t have the right person to run that group. Maybe Moore Mill in Bandon had more money behind it and could last longer than Prosper Mills. The Oregon Coast Highway didn’t go the same way.”
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