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As It Was: Girl Treasures Salvaged Bust from 1895 Ship Wreck

For a girl on the Oregon Coast in 1895, Francis Hofsess, her most prized possession was a plaster of Paris effigy of a lovely woman’s head and bust.

The tiny molded torso was among the merchandise aboard a British steamer, the Bawnmore, headed from Canada to Peru that ran aground offshore from Floras Lake, Ore., on Aug. 28, 1895.

The crew safely landed, but attempts failed to save the vessel and the top priority quickly became unloading the cargo.  It required strong and fearless men, dangerously working at night during low tides.

A call for salvage workers offering exceptionally high pay of $1.50 an hour attracted eager takers among villagers accustomed to only a dollar or two for a full day’s work.

A salvage crew member, Fred Hofsess, found the effigy floating in the surf among some rugs and other debris.  It had dainty features, light brown skin, its head, shoulders and bosom wrapped in sculpted cloth colored in delicate shades of pink, blue, and grey and decorated with gold jewelry.

Hofsess brought the treasure home to his daughter, Francis, who named it Lady Bawnmore, taking the name from the grounded ship.


Sources: Boice-Strain, Patti. Floras Creek Precinct and the Boice Family of Curry County. Hal & Patti Strain, 2003, pp. 153-55; Webber, Bert, and Margie Webber. Shipwrecks and Rescues on the Northwest Coast. Webb Research Group Publishers, 1996, pp. 114-30; Mather, Alice. "Pioneer of the Month - Frances Hofsess Autery." Curry County Echoes, Apr. 1979.

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.