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As It Was: Mail Boat Delivers New Car to Agness, Ore. in 1928

In 1928, the automobile editor of the Portland Oregonian heard that the postmaster at remote Agness, Ore., had never been in a car.  In those days, no roads led to Agness, an isolated village 21 miles up the Rogue River from the coastal town of Gold Beach.

As a publicity stunt, the editor, Edward Miller, asked Frank Lowery, one of the pilots who delivered mail along the river by boat, to carry a Chevrolet roadster to Agness.

On Sept. 15, they loaded the new vehicle onto a boat only a few feet longer than the car.  The car’s back wheels, tires removed, sat on the edge of the bow, and the car faced the stern.

During the trip, the boat sometimes scraped bottom in shallow water and it took Lowery’s skill and experience in fast water to avoid tipping the car into the river. 

Lowery and his son Fred reached Agness at 5 p.m. and drove the car to the post office.  The next morning the postmaster took his first ride ever in a car.

On present-day roads, Agness is about an hour-and-15-minute drive from Gold Beach.

Source: Gary and Gloria, Meier. Whitewater Mailmen: The Story of the Rogue River Mail Boats. 2nd ed., Bend, Ore., Maverick Publications, Inc., 1995, pp. 53-55.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.