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As It Was: Family Treasures Fog Horn Taken from Sunken Oil Tanker

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.

Chauncey Woodruff, who lived nearby, had a sturdy ocean-going row boat and decided the next day to visit the wreck, camping overnight on the beach with his family.

In the morning, he rowed out to the crippled ship and proceeded to salvage ropes, lanterns, and any other useful items by tossing them overboard.

The Woodruffs especially treasured a portable fog horn.  It was a hand-crank model, in a rectangular wooden box, with built-in leather bellows.  For years, they used it on their ranch to call in field workers for dinner or as a signal for help.

Sixty-eight years later, Woodruff’s daughter Ruth donated the oil tanker’s fog horn to the Curry Historical Society Museum in Gold Beach, where it remains on permanent display.


Source: Strain, Patti. Floras Creek Precinct and the Boice Family of Curry County. Hal & Patti Strain, 2003, p. 308; Webber, Bert & Margie. Shipwrecks and Rescues on the Northwest Coast. Webb Research Group Publishers, 1996, pp. 154-56

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.