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As It Was: Rogue Boatman Ferries WWII Generals to Hideaway

The finest boatman of his time on the lower Rogue River, Reuel Hawkins, could thread the water like no one else; some even wondered if the river talked to him.

Famed World War II generals Eaker, LeMay, and Spaatz decided to build a fishing cabin on a perch above Brushy Bar.  They hired Hawkins to haul in their building materials for their hideaway known as “The Eagles Nest.”

After riding with Hawkins on the river, they tried boating it alone. Their first attempt stranded them in the middle of Tacoma rapids.  From that moment, they stuck with Hawkins.

Generals Hap Arnold and Nathan Twining frequently visited, and Dwight Eisenhower planned to visit, but canceled after receiving the Republican presidential nomination.

Hawkins continued to ferry the famous passengers through the whitewater until one day in February 1954, when the Rogue had swollen and filled with debris.  Hawkins was navigating upriver from Gold Beach with a companion when the motor died.  The boat entangled at Snag Patch and capsized.  His passenger struggled to shore, but the roiling water washed Hawkins away.

 

Sources:  Schroeder, Walt. “Characters, Legends and Mysteries of Curry County, Oregon.” Gold Beach, Ore., Curry Historical Society, 2007, pp. 149-151; Meier, Gary and Gloria. “Whitewater Mailmen - The Story of the Rogue River Mail Boats.” Bend, Ore., Maverick Publications, Inc., 1995.

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Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. 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. 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.