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Pacific City History
History of Pacific City Oregon

The Great Fire of 1845
The Willamette Valley had become quite the settlement by the mid 1800's. There were fertile farm land, plentiful game, and plenty of rain for crops. Legend has it that one of the new immigrants was burning brush from his newly homesteaded land as the fire got out of hand. Fanned by an unusually high easterly wind, it raced west into the Coast Mountain Range. It consumed everything in it's path including old growth timber that had stood for hundreds of years.

As the monstrous fire neared the coast, the local Indian population became under siege. It is said the Nestugga Indian Tribe was camping on what is now the Big Nestucca River near what is now called Woods. They were forced to paddle their dugouts downstream in a panic, leaving all their possessions behind to find refuge on the sand spit, now called Bob Straub Park. The fire desecrated the land and the wildlife. For centuries the Indians had relied on the large herds of elk, deer, and bear for sustenance. After the catastrophe, their main staple became the fish from the rivers as the game in the area was virtually eradicated.

By 1854, there were only a handful of settlers in the Tillamook Valley and the only access from the Willamette Valley was over the very crude Hebo Trail laid out by these early settlers. This trail ran from Grand Ronde over Mt Hebo (originally called Mt. Heavo) to where Hebo is today and then followed an old indian trail 20 miles to the Tillamook Valley.

Before the settlers began arriving to the Nestucca Valley in the 1870's, it was populated by Indian Tribes of the Nestuggas and the Killamooks (note the name origin of the Nestucca River and Tillamook). The original name of Haystack Rock is said to be "Chief Kiawanda Rock" named after a very well known Chief of the Nestugga Tribe from the early 1800's (note spelling difference). By the time the Tribes were relocated from their homes to a reservation on the Salmon and Siletz River, the Indians numbered around 200. Around 1876, Chief Nestugga Bill and the last of the small tribe, paddled down the Little Nestucca River across the bar into the Pacific Ocean and headed south to their new home.

It was along the Nestucca River that many of the early pioneers came on sea going steamers such as The Della, The Elmore, and The Gerald C.. These steamers frequented the rivers, bays, and bars from San Francisco to Astoria. Other pioneers traveled over the mountains by rough trails crossing many rivers with no bridges. In 1882, a road from Grand Ronde to the Nestucca Valley was completed greatly improving travel. Many descendants of the early settlers still live in the area.

Because fish (salmon) were so plentiful in the Nestucca Bay, a commercial cannery was built in 1886 by Linewebber and Brown. It was located on the east side of the bay and thrived for many years employing both Caucasian and Chinese workers. The cannery canned and shipped 12,000 cans of salmon a year. The fishermen and cannery workers both made a good living.

Fishing, Logging, and eventually Dairy Farming, became the primary occupations in the valley. Because of the unique location near both river and ocean, it became the focus of recreation. Early "vacationers" would brave the elements by buckboard and horseback coming from the Willamette Valley to enjoy the Pacific Ocean and the river. It was usually at least a 2 day trek. Many of these early resort seekers had never seen the ocean having come from the midwest on the Oregon Trail. Campgrounds and facilities soon sprang up to accommodate these travelers.

Originally called Ocean Park, the area was homesteaded by Thomas Malaney who platted the town in 1893. It was originally located across the river from Woods, which at the time had already been established as a major depot and trading hub for supplies for the settlers. Though Malaney and his brother had already sold some lots, a flood covered the area in 1894 before any houses could be built much to the chagrin of the lot owners. Malaney moved the town further south to higher ground (where it is now) and gave new lots to the previous buyers. The new town created competition for Woods who were not happy about the new venture.

A hotel was built around 1895 called the Sea View and later named the Edmundes Hotel. Visitors from the Willamette Valley stayed at the hotel and nearby campgrounds. There was a fishing dock, recreation hall (Dance Hall), and store along the river at the foot of Ferry Road where a hand operated ferry would shuttle pedestrians, wagons, buckboards, and eventually autos across the river to the ocean beach. A wooden plank road was built down Ferry Street to keep the autos from becoming stuck in the sand.

Kelp ore was discovered in 1904 by Thomas Brooten (pronounced Brahton) who built a large compound to which patients from all over the US (and some foreign countries) came for the healing properties of the ore. The resort was later turned over to his son H.H. Brooten who ran the business for many years. The sick would bathe in special baths, apply it directly to the skin, or take it by mouth. There appeared to be redeeming properties to the ore and it was used by many as a last resort to heal their ailment. This helped put the area on the map (literally). The famous Brooten Kelp Ore Resort flourished until it's peak during the 1920s when an outbreak of tuberculosis eventually closed the enterprise.

Because of confusion with another Ocean Park in Washington, the name was changed in 1909 to Pacific City and a Post Office was established. By 1910, a school was built attended by about 12 children the first year. A weekly publication called the "The Pacific City Lookout" publicized the the ecstasy of living at the new resort area. The town prospered and grew with many new businesses being established to accommodate the growing number of visitors as well as the permanent residents.

In 1926, with the once plentiful salmon population dwindling, there was an outcry by non-commercial fishermen to stop the unmanaged harvest. A state law was passed to close the bay and it's tributaries to commercial fishing (still in effect today). This action was instrumental in developing Pacific City's famous Dory Fleet who would launch their double ended fishing boats off the beach into the surf. Although in use during the early 1900's, the dories came into their own now. Entering the open sea was dangerous when crossing the bar at the mouth of the Nestucca Bay, so these hearty souls would battle the surf to gain access to the salmon off shore. Pacific City is one of only a couple dory surf launches on the west coast even today. The first dories were launched into the surf by horses as well as motor vehicles. During the 60's and 70's, the dory fleet numbered well into the several hundreds whose catch were bought by several fish buying stations. With larger commercial fishing vessels eventually supplying the demand for salmon, the Dory Fleet has slowly dwindled to only a few today. However, there are many of the old dories still being launched by recreational fishermen keeping the tradition very much alive.

Pacific City prospered during the 20's through good promotion being the closest and easiest access to the ocean from the Willamette Valley. The Airport was built which attracted numerous aviators and barnstormers. However, other roads were eventually opened to the coast, and with the depression of the 30's (coupled with the new fishing restrictions) the town suffered. However, the town recovered somewhat as Brooten Road was built during the 30's allowing easier access from the newly developing highway. A bridge was built across the Big Nestucca for pedestrians and autos to reach the beach. The bridge was designed and constructed so the planks could be removed during the winter runoff preventing the bridge from being washed away. This bridge has been replaced a couple of times over the years. Then, during the 50's, the CCC crews were enlisted to plant Holland Grass on the dunes thus stabilizing them for building homes. The State of Oregon took over the operation of the airport and improved it substantially attracting new interest. So many people moved to Pacific City from the McMinnville area, they referred to their hillside homes as McMinnville Heights. In 1960, the road to the sandlake junction was completed making yet another avenue to travel and attracting yet more tourism. By now, Pacific City had established itself as a vacation destination and perfect get-a-way from what had become a busy Portland and Willamette Valley. The annual salmon and steelhead run still bring sports fishermen from all over the State (and the US for that matter). And, as it was over a hundred years ago, the pristine beach is still irresistible for family fun.

Many old timers in town, along with some long time visitors, claim Pacific City has changed alot during the last 40 years. However, compared to other coastal towns, it remains a relatively undeveloped quaint village and has retained everything that originally attracted early settlers and visitors. Pacific City is still unincorporated and has no mayor or city council. Bordered on three sides by BLM land, and the Pacific Ocean on the forth, further development of the area will be greatly restricted.

Progress is slower today than it was a hundred years ago.... Pacific City has a long history and a bright future....

Want more history? Check out Pacific City Library History

Historic Pacific City
Extensive collection of historical photos in and around Pacific City or Ocean City as it used to be called.

Historic Dory Fleet
See what the people, the fish and the Dory fleet looked like years ago.

Tillamook Burn
Oregon's Historic Tillamook Forest fire of 1933 spread over 240,000 acres of forest land. Fires in 1939 and 1945 brought the total to 355,000 acres over 13 billion board feet of timber were killed.

Nestucca River Country Book
A photo History of South Tillamook County Oregon

Oregon Coast History
Read interesting Oregon Coast History.


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