Laurel Gerkman

As It Was Contributor

Laurel Gerkman is originally from Canada. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. This fed a lifelong curiosity of observing physical and human landscapes—always wondering “why.” Laurel, retired from real estate sales, has lived in Gold Beach for 20-years. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. She remains intrigued by the hardy people who originally came to inhabit this rugged, isolated, and spectacular region, and enjoys seeking stories that weave these elements together. Laurel is the author of Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery, a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.

The Knapp Hotel in Port Orford, Ore., was a lodging landmark for traveling dignitaries and a beacon for sailing ships until it was demolished in 1945 to make room for Highway 101.

The Brookings, Ore., Azalea Festival has expanded in size and popularity since its beginning in May 1939.

Here’s a glimpse into life, circa 1924, on the Southern Oregon Coast:

For eons, Sisters Rock sat undisturbed, but in 1893 S. H. Frank purchased the natural harbor formation, located midway between Port Orford and Gold Beach, Ore., for storing and shipping tanoak bark to his tannery in San Francisco.

A solitary grave-marker stands at Clay Hill Rapids, a few yards uphill from the Rogue River Trail.  The marker only hints at a woman’s sad story.

In early January 1919, John Stannard, left Gold Beach, Ore., by commercial vehicle to attend the opening session of the State Legislature as the newly elected representative of Coos and Curry Counties.  Stannard never returned.

In the spring of 1924, rumors began to fly that a Ku Klux Klan organization was being organized in Curry County, Ore.

In 1962, a century-old tower bell was spotted at the bottom of a deep part of the Smith River, 24 miles east of Crescent City, Calif.

Prior to 1924, the village of Gold Beach, Ore., was hardly recognized by the Catholic Church until Father L.E. LeMiller decided to build a small place of worship to accommodate the dozen or so parishioners.

In February 1937, the vessel Cottoneva docked in Port Orford, Ore., to take on a load of lumber.  It would be its final stop.

In 1903, the Little Nanny ship was in service transporting goods between Eureka and Klamath, Calif., when a couple of unusual passengers were brought aboard.

In spring of 1936, the Reliance Production Corp. chose two locations in Del Norte County, Calif., as settings for the film “The Last of the Mohicans,” based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper.

In 1912, Gold Beach erected a new courthouse, which turned out to be the finest place in town for pasturing sheep, because the front square was enclosed with a fence.

In 1936, the gold miner Slim Damon accidently shot himself while prospecting in Curry County’s Mule Creek Canyon in Southern Oregon.

In December 1917, members of the isolated hamlet Agness, Ore., gathered for a potluck lunch and social time at their community hall.

In 1880, inclement weather took a toll on the expected attendance at Miss Anna Geisel’s Christmas Eve Ball, held in her newly opened dance hall in Ellensburg, present-day Gold Beach, Ore.

The small, gas schooner Rustler frequently stopped along the Southern Oregon Coast with dangerous cargoes.  In February 1917, it arrived at Gold Beach loaded with 30 drums of gasoline and a ton of dynamite.

On Dec. 18, 1919, the oil tanker J.A. Chanslor lost its way in the fog along the Southern Oregon Coast, striking a reef close to the shoreline north of Cape Blanco.  Heavy seas split in two the fully-loaded vessel, spilling its cargo into the ocean and drowning 36 crew members.

In September 1929, the body of Tuey Chung Fook was disinterred from the cemetery in Gold Beach, Ore., because of the Chinese desire that their dead be buried next to their ancestors.

For John R. Smith, construction of his Floras Lake Resort proved slow due to difficulties getting material and equipment into the remote location on the Southern Oregon Coast.  With the accommodations scarcely complete, he held a grand opening in the summer of 1926.