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As It Was: Bandon, Ore., Has Surprising French Connection

In 1879, famed science-fiction writer Jules Verne wrote a book about a utopian city called Ville-France, run by a French doctor, and a German city run by an evil scientist.  The book was called “The Begum’s Fortune,” after an East Indian widow who bequeathed her riches to the two men.

The book relates how the Oregon Legislature allowed the construction in 1872 of Ville-France on “a small river of sweet mountain waters” located almost exactly where Bandon, Ore., was founded, in reality, a year later at the mouth of the Coquille River.  In the novel, a German city east of the Cascades plans to demonstrate racial superiority by destroying Ville France using a huge bomb and another weapon that freezes all life within its reach.  The French are peaceful people concerned mainly with sanitation, public health and railroads.

Anti-German sentiment resulting from the Franco-Prussian War influences the book, and sympathetic donations to wounded French soldiers from the citizens of San Francisco may have influenced Verne’s choice to locate his book in the Pacific Northwest. 

By book’s end, the German bomb had backfired and Ville France, now Bandon, was saved.


Sources: Verne, Jules. The Begum's Fortune. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandon_Oregon. Accessed 22 Aug. 2018; "The Begum's Fortune." Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/The_Begum%27s_Fortune. Accessed 22 Aug. 2018; Verne, Jules. The Begum's Fortune. Pierre-Jules Hetzel, 1879. Jackson County Public Library download.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.