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As It Was: Dangerous Cargo Blows Up Southern Oregon Schooner

The small, gas schooner Rustler frequently stopped along the Southern Oregon Coast with dangerous cargoes.  In February 1917, it arrived at Gold Beach loaded with 30 drums of gasoline and a ton of dynamite.

The 39-ton vessel faced a strong south wind, high seas, and a rough bar.  While waiting to enter the harbor, a heavy swell flooded one of the engines.  Attempting to cross the bar, the Rustler touched bottom as it met the Rogue’s powerful river current.

The Captain circled inside the breakers, tried again, and failed.  For nearly an hour, the Rustler bounced between the river’s outgoing surge that carried it into the breakers, which beat it back toward shore.

The vessel continued to struggle, running north to reach a gentle slope of sandy beach, finally running aground a half mile away.

The crew discharged its explosive freight, horse teams turned the ship around, repairs were made, and a tug hauled it back out to sea.

Two years later, an engine back-fired off Cape Blanco, setting the Rustler’s load of oil ablaze. The crew escaped on a 10-foot skiff just before the ship blew up.


Sources: "The Rustler had an Exciting Experience Sunday." Gold Beach Reporter, 1 Mar. 1917, p. 3; Schroeder, Walt. “They Found Gold on the Beach.” Gold Beach, Curry County Historical Society Press, 1999, p.253.

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.