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As It Was: Pioneer Writes History of Oregon South Coast

Oregon pioneer Orville Dodge compiled the first history of the Oregon South Coast in 1898. Titled the “Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties,” its 468 pages open with a florid description of what an imagined “first emigrant” found upon arrival “at the extreme (Pacific) border of a great land.”

“He found the blue waters of a magnificent ocean rolling its mighty billows against a golden shore, backed by lofty mountains that sent rushing down their sides and canyons beautiful rivers that formed valleys of untold grandeur and fertility, forests of mammoth timber covered the hilltops and mountainsides, and along the valleys the evergreen, myrtle and stately maple grew so densely that their thrifty boughs interlocked and formed shady dells that scarcely ever admitted the brilliant rays of the sun and twilight always reigned.”

Other flowery images included timber “hinged by a heavy moss,” “ valleys … alive with deer, elk, bear, panther, wild cat, California lions and lynx and … some wolves and coyotes,” air “darkened with ducks and geese, and every bay, lake, pond, slough and river … alive with the feathered flocks.”

Dodge’s extravagant language set the standard for coastal developers of the future.

Source: Dodge, Orville. Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, Or. Salem, Ore.: Capital Printing Co., 1898. Web. 15 May 2015. <https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=mnEtAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA6>.

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.