For a quarter century, men along the southern Oregon coast made their living by turning offshore reefs between the Rogue River and Cape Blanco into profitable slaughterhouses.
The bounty stemmed from complaints of sea lions being destructive to the commercial salmon fishery.
In 1900, the Oregon legislature responded by authorizing a $2.50 reward for each scalp. This raised to $5.00 then $10.00.
Sharpshooters made good money. Dynamite was also used. The crews of gasoline boats oft times killed 300 to 400 sea lions per month.
Most hunters only took the genitals from bull carcasses. The Chinese in San Francisco paid $6.00 a pound for the body parts to use in medicinal aphrodisiacs.
The grease, skins and whiskers had slight value. Fat was cooked in off in big kettles, and the hides dried to make harness leather. Whiskers brought a penny apiece as tobacco pipe cleaners or souvenirs.
In 1926, the bounty was reduced to .50 cents thus ceasing the lucrative work of extinction. Nine years later, the state halted commercial salmon fishing on the Rogue, but this action did not stop the carnage.
Hunting sea lions continued as a local sport for decades until the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 ended the misguided slaughter.
Daredevil Spinner Bill Cronenwett, by Laurel Gerkman
Spinner Bill Cronenwett (Cr-o-nenwett) carved out his legend status on the Rogue River with dynamite, establishing the first commercial whitewater boat trips to Paradise Lodge from Gold Beach, Oregon.
In 1949, Bill arrived seeking employment as a log truck driver. Work was scarce, so he guided on the river by day, and took a night job as a bouncer and bartender at the Del Rogue Club.
Bills dual duties proved perilous. Roughed up one too many times, he decided to try selling cars, next landscaping, and then real estate sales.
Meanwhile, Bill devised a fishing spinner and sold it all along the coast from which his nickname originates.
While gold mining Rogue River canyon, he stopped at Paradise Lodge where visitors accessed by trail, air or downriver boat. Upriver navigation was too risky.
The daredevil in Bill had an idea.
He built a boat with the new jet propulsion engine and organized a crew to blast a safer channel through the dangerous rapids with dynamite.
Dodging natural hazards and fervent opposition, Bill persisted. By 1962, he finally got his permits and welcomed paying passengers aboard.
Decades later, Bill Cronenwetts vision became todays Jerrys Rogue Jets, and Spinners
Restaurant in Gold Beach is named in his honor.
Bill Rumbley, Notable Life of Generous Colored Giant, by Laurel Gerkman
According to Kay Atwood, author of Illahe, The Story of the Rogue River Canyon, When the dirt was smoothed over Bill Rumbley [in April 1921], the earth was enriched by a man whose fifty-year existence on the lower Rogue River brought grace to countless lives.
Rumbley was a mulatto, son of a white father and black mother, who stood an impressive six feet, two inches.
Born into slavery at Jefferson, Missouri, he endured the yoke of eleven masters until running away to California in 1850.
Rumbley followed the gold mining excitement to Klamath River and married a Karok woman.
In 1868, the family settled near Gold Beach. Soon thereafter, a series of tragedies claimed the lives of his wife and two children.
He continued to mine, raise livestock and operate the ferry, ever ready to do more than his share of work. His generosity was unmatched; his storytelling admired.
Rumbley was appointed Justice of the Peace and officiated marriages. He assisted the local physician with follow-up care to countless patients throughout the area.
Regardless of his color, the community held the ex-slave in high esteem.
Atwood continued, The thread of his goodness runs through legal records, newspaper articles and memories of people who knew him.
Green Sturgeon Surprise, by Laurel Gerkman
The Green sturgeon is usually an elusive creature, but one summer evening in 1968, passengers aboard a Mail Boat on the Rogue River had a big fish story to tell.
These ancient creatures spend their early life-stages in deep pools of large, turbulent freshwater rivers and return from ocean waters to spawn.
An adult sturgeon has a bony backbone and shark-like tail. They can live 70 years, reach a length of seven feet, and weigh up to 350 pounds.
Gary Combs was piloting his boat through Copper Canyon around dusk.
Combs explains, I always idle down, because its so pretty and folks can take pictures.
The serenity of the scene abruptly shattered with a tremendous splash and loud thump.
Combs recalls, water was everywhere and the windshield broke. A huge sturgeon was flopping on the bow and began to slide off into the river. Ive seen em jump up out of the water before. Well, he sure did, and landed right across the boat.
One lady in the front seat screamed and scrambled backwards over her seat.
Combs chuckles, I imagine that big ol fish looked like a monster to her. Theyre strange looking things. Thats the first time its happened and probably the last.
Long Johns Long Gone, by Laurel Gerkman
During the grain harvest in 1907, George Engleman met with a serious loss while part of a threshing crew near Gold Beach, Oregon.
The labor was strenuous, and this September morning had turned warm and sultry. Engleman decided to relieve himself of his sweat-soaked long-johns. After removing the garment, he hung it on the fence to air out in the fall breeze.
At days end, he returned to the spot where the underwear had previously been placed, intending to clad himself in appropriate clothing to withstand the evening dew and dampness.
Engleman found only a naked fence and the family cow nearby. Upon closer examination, he noticed a rag hanging from the bovines mouth and quickly came to the conclusion that what was once wore by him on the outside was now worn by the cow, inside.
Attempts to compel the critter to cough up the unmentionables proved impossible, and Engleman suspected that even if he could retrieve his once snug-fitting drawers, the apparel would likely end up a misfit.
Engleman soon got the shivers and went to bed early. Neighbors said they could hear his cussing vocabulary working overtime long into the cool night.
Frozen Miner on Packsaddle Trail, by Laurel Gerkman
Alfred Hunziker lived in the Packsaddle mountain district near Brookings, Oregon. He worked on several ranches, dabbled in mining and trapped during winters. In February of 1933, he set out for supplies and did not return.
For several years, Hunziker had gained a reputation for his success at trapping mountain lions. He and John Taggert shared a winter camp. When his partner failed to make an appearance after 10 days, Taggart solicited help to search for him.
Taggert found that Hunziker left a neighbors ranch on the Winchuck River several days earlier, his horse loaded with gear and provisions.
Several miles up the trail, Taggert found the pack. A half-mile further, he found the dead horse. A quarter-mile more, the body of Hunziker was located face down in the snow.
Apparently, traveling through the deep snow has so hard on his horse that Hunziker abandoned the supplies, hoping to make it to camp. However, the tired animal collapsed and left him afoot. Hunziker then over-taxed his 63-year old heart and died from exposure.
Friends buried Hunzikers body near where it was found.
Hikers trekking the Packsaddle trail will still find a weathered wooden cross which bears the words Alfred Hunziker Froze to Death.
Sadie Lucas Widow Entrepreneur, by Laurel Gerkman
Marcellus and Sadie Lucas settled in the Agness area around 1903. The family engaged in raising sheep and cattle. Sadly, Sadie would soon need to earn a living and raise their six children on her own.
The Lucas first home was a modest cabin. The children worked and played hard often wearing denim bib overalls, hung by one suspender.
Marcellus became ill with Addisions disease and suffered for many months prior to his death in 1911.
Sadie knew her options were few, so she decided to muster the funds and local support to build a hotel. The Rogue River was developing a reputation for its fishing, and Sadie banked on her home cooking and hospitality to attract customers.
The Lucas clan planted a large vegetable garden along with apple, pear and peach trees. In the summer, they picked blackberries by the bucket.
Sadie served meals family-style and fried chicken became her signature dish including sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, beans, pickled beets and homemade biscuits with jam. Dessert was fruit cobbler.
For one hundred years, Sadie Lucas business idea has stood the test of time. The original lodge still welcomes guests. Overalls hang reminiscent on the clothesline, and traditional lip-smacking chicken dinners are served.
Marchmont Jockey Club, by Laurel Gerkman
Robert D. Hume was a wealthy entrepreneur in Gold Beach. He owned several splendid thoroughbred horses. In 1907, he organized the first meet of the Marchmont Jockey Club.
Hume was a showman, always striving to impress. He built his own racetrack, a one-half mile course complete with grandstand and infield, and offered one thousand dollars in prizes.
The races took place as scheduled and deemed successful, enough to warrant a second meet in August of 1908.
Humes racing program promised the best horses in the state, and that a trip to his Wedderburn ranch would be well worth the journey.
Preparations commenced for six days of activities. Camping tents were assembled for visitors and the baseball diamond raked. The racetrack was watered and worked into fine condition.
The unprecedented social event drew 500 attendees each day. One could find anything from blackberry pie, a bottle of beer to a fifty dollar a shot crap game.
The big crowds gave Hume a chance to play squire and gratify his sense of self-importance. Unfortunately, plans for the next years races were dropped when Hume died from complications of pneumonia in December.
Today, the Curry County Historical Society often holds their annual picnic on the racetrack grounds.
Oregons South Coast Outcasts: Angora Goats, by Laurel Gerkman
The idea seemed solid. In 1905, Robert D. Hume, brought an experimental herd of Angoras to Gold Beach which consisted of 400 nanny goats and 3 registered bucks. The successful entrepreneur speculated their adaptation would be immediate and prove a lucrative investment.
Angoras are longhaired, sure-footed critters that usually thrive in areas covered with weeds, grass and low bushes. Their stocky, muscular limbs and tiny, split hooves can easily navigate narrow ledges and rough terrain.
Early ranchers expected the brush-chomping abilities of these four-legged lawnmowers to clear large tracts of rangeland. In addition, their fine, white mohair coats would provide a seasonal cash crop.
Humes theory was incorrect. One year after the goats arrival, most of the herd had perished. Previously confined to pastures, their extensive new range caused them to travel until exhausted, and harsh winter storms proved unbearable.
The survivors were rounded up and placed in restricted grazing areas on neighboring homesteads. After 1950, the Angoras were deemed useless and either sold, butchered or released into the forest. A few stubborn outcasts subsisted.
Today, a couple dozen hardy descendents remain, often seen near China Creek, clinging like daredevils to the bluffs and parklands of Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, north of Brookings.
Jumbo African Frog Experiment, by Laurel Gerkman
Ottis T. Ferguson liked frog legs. When a boy in Oklahoma, his family caught and feasted on tasty amphibians by the bucketful. So, in 1936, he decided to build a frog farm on his ranch in Squaw Valley, near Gold Beach.
Ottis damned the headwaters of Cedar creek causing a half-acre pond to form and then constructed several pens. He went to Seattle and bought three pairs of Jumbo African frogs. The largest measured 33 inches from nose to toes.
Within a year, thousands of frogs were growing. Ottis waited patiently.
It takes about 3 years for a frog to be mature enough for the frying pan. Ottis was getting ready for his first feast when he was called to leave on a brief trip.
The rainy season had started. Ottis son, Ollie, asked his father if he should monitor the spillway, in case the pond got too full.
Ottis said, leave the spillway alone.
Young Ollie always did what his father told him.
Heavy rains fell for several days. The damn broke loose and released all the frogs. Ollie stood on the bank and watched.
For many years, jumbo-sized frogs were found in lakes as far away as Bandon, but none are found anymore.
Lone Ranch Borax Mine, by Laurel Gerkman
John Creswell first noticed the outcroppings of a white, chalky substance along Lone Ranch Creek, at his ranch north of Brookings, in 1857.
Local housewives found the peculiar stuff excellent for polishing silver. Boat builders and carpenters used it for marking measurements as a substitute for chalk.
A curious someone sent a sample to the California Academy of Science in San Francisco where it was pronounced a new material and named priceite (price-site), a borate of lime.
In 1890, a speculator found the assay record, and the Pacific Coast Borax Company acquired ownership of the 1,056 acres property. A mine was developed and shipments sent to their refinery in California.
Miners gleaned $23.00 per ton of ore, a good return. Subsequently, rivalries erupted accompanied by random bouts of gunfire.
Mining proved difficult and dangerous due to the slippery nature of serpentine rock in which the nodules are found. Within two years, after removing only 1,000 tons, operations ceased. It became apparent priceite couldnt be economically refined to a useable product.
Decades later, the Borax Consolidated Limited donated the oceanfront portion of their Lone Ranch holdings to Samuel H. Boardman State Park. The remaining acreage is slated for a future SWOCC campus and housing development.