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Brookings Land and Townsite Company Introduction to the Story of Brookings Oregon Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Part I of the Story of Brookings Oregon Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Part II of the Story of Brookings Oregon Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Part III of the Story of Brookings Oregon - The C and O Lumber Company Brookings Land and Townsite Company - The Story of Robert Somers Brookings and Brookings Oregon Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Contact us to participate in our website with stories or pictures prior to 1951. Links of Interest - Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings 1907 to 1929
The Brookings Organization
The Brookings Timber and Lumber Company
Purchased its first mill up the Chetco River in 1907. Established the Brookings Port. Built the original Brookings Mill. Purchased the ships required to haul lumber from Brookings, Oregon to Portland, Oregon and to California. Built a railroad north up the Chetco River where Camp Two was established. Purchased approximately 30,000 acres of timberland.

The Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Built the houses, the hospital, the bank, the utilities, the stores, the offices, the commissary, the community center, the fire department, the inns, the football team and the baseball team. But most of all, The Brookings Land and Townsite Company platted the town.

The North West Railroad
Provided land transportation for logs from the upper Chetco River and Jacks Creek areas to the Brookings mill site. Around 1922, the railroad was extended to California to transport logs from the Smith River Rowdy Creek area to the mill in Brookings. Letters to Mr. Westbrook state that the Westbrook barn was right in the path of the projected railroad but the barn stayed and the tracks had to go around it.

The Brookings Commercial Company
Provided Sea transportation from the Brookings mill site to the Oakland lumber yard, San Simeon, Santa Barbara, San Pedro, Long Beach and San Diego in California. Provided barges at the Oakland yard to other lumber yards in the Bay area. Lumber was also shipped to Portland on an order basis. Each ship departed Brookings with approximately 260,000 feet of lumber, usually Doug Fir.

As important as it was to ship their lumber to market, the ships were used to bring back all of the goods and wares needed to operate the town and the mill. Because the mill was operated on electricity, the principal cargo that was hauled from the Oakland yard to Brookings was fuel for the engines used to drive the generators. The fuel was brought in in 55-gallon drums. Empty drums in Brookings were a constant source of problems. The drums were needed back in Oakland to refill but the drums had the lowest priority for return shipment. Consequently, the San Francisco office was continually sending telegrams to Brookings instructing Brookings to return the drums. The best laid plans of mice and men.

Brookings was not their only stop and not their only customer. Enderts in Crescent City was a big customer of the Commercial Company as well as businesses from Gold Beach to Portland.

The Brookings Mercantile Company
Provided a company store. Anything from potatoes to Model T's could be purchased from the Company store.

The Del Norte Company
Located in Smith River, owned approximately 30,000 acres and provided the trees (principally Redwood) out of California.

The C and O Lumber Company / The California and Oregon Lumber Company
These companies were formally The Brookings Timber and Lumber Company, The Brookings Timber and Box Company, and The Del Norte Company. They logged the trees, operated the mill, moved the lumber to the loading dock, and operated the lumberyard in Oakland. The C. and O. Company had offices in Portland and San Francisco with its headquarters here in Brookings.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings 1907-1929
Bill Ward graduated from Cornell University in 1901 as a Civil Engineer.

During that same year, John Brookings and his son Walter, with the financial backing of his brother Robert Brookings,Brookings Land and Townsite Company - in Fredalba CA were logging in San Bernardino County, California. Their mill was located in Fredalba and the logs were transported by rail cars on railroads built by Brookings. The San Bernardino Newspaper carried the following reports about Brookings. "Backed by $150,000, the Brookings' proceed to run the largest sawmill operation on the mountain." Brookings estimated that they had 75 to 100 million board feet of virgin timber on their land and set out to meet the enormous demand for orange crates.

Roads were graded, tracks were laid and three steam locomotives imported to bring logs to the mill. With an $8,000 per month pay roll and 80 full-time men, the Brookings operation began stripping the mountain of its marketable timber. Pay was $1.75 per day for lumber piling and railroad work. Teamsters contract for $2.50 per thousand board feet of timber hauled to the Brookings box factory. But Brookings was running out of timber. If Brookings was going to stay in the lumber business, it was going to have to find trees to cut.

Following his graduation, Brookings hired Bill Ward and, in 1907, advanced 5 million dollars to him and sent him to what is now Brookings, Oregon to start logging operations here.

Bill began by buying an existing logging operation 12 miles up the Chetco River. This was a mill started by Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City. It was a small, water-powered mill and was not a very financial success. Bill continued to acquire some 30,000 acres of Douglas Fir.Brookings Land and Townsite Company

It's important to understand that this area was virgin timber land because there was no means of transportation out of here except by boat. No railroads had been brought in and it was 100 miles to Eureka, Coos Bay or Grants Pass. Therefore, whoever proceeded to log would have to develop a way to transport the lumber to a major port and market. One of Bill Ward's first jobs was to sound the ocean along the shoreline for a suitable location to anchor ships while they were being loaded. He found the location described as Chetco Cove.

In October 1934, Bill Ward advised President Roosevelt by letter that detailed reports with accurate soundings and full description of the shipping facilities at this point were on file with the war department and with the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Bill advised the president that some 250,000,000 feet of lumber had been shipped out of this port and many thousands of tons of coast-wise freight had been handled on it. The depth of the water at the ship's berth was 24 feet at mean lower low water.

Brookings purchased five ships. They were the S.S. Cowiche, (renamed S.S. Brookings), S.S. Frank D. Stout, S.S. Martha Benher, S.S. Necanicum and the S.S. Quinalt.

By 1913, Bill Ward was having an affair with one of the mill workers' wives. A school marm from New York came to town that year to see if she could persuade Bill to marry her. He wouldn't and she went back to New York. In 1914, his affairis divorced her husband who was also named Bill and, in 1915, Bill Ward and Nancy were married. It was not until Nancy and Bill married that her husband discovered that his wife and Bill had been seeing each other secretly for three years.

The story goes that the ex-husband had been to the mercantile store next door and was going home with a sack full of groceries. As he passed the front of the Central Building, Bill Ward came walking out. The estranged husband reached in the sack and took out a can and threw it at Bill and proceeded to chase Bill all the way to the river, throwing groceries at him.

A young man by the name of George Knab boarded the Cowiche the day she steamed out of Baltimore to "catch on" at the Brookings mill.

Mr. Knab visited me some years ago and told me that Bill Ward had made him responsible for the hiring of teachers for the school. He proceeded to place an ad for a teacher and then he had to interview all of the applications. Because he was still single and very much in the market for a wife, he selected the teacher based on her looks, age and whether or not she would marry him.

Our good friend Enid Hurst started school in Brookings in 1915 in a box car.

The original Quinalt crashed at sea at Point Gorda, October 10, 1917. The telegram read "From the S. S. ADMIRAL SCHLEY, Steamer Quinalt is ashore at Point Gorda - crew and passengers in three life boats are proceeding to Shelter Cove - Dense fog calm light N. W. swell "SMITH ADMIRAL SCHLEY, 855 AM". A note on the corner of the telegram reads wired mill 10:45 AM 10/10. The Quinalt was replaced by Lloyds of London who was the insurer of all Brookings' ships.

Loading operations began without a dock and they used stevedores from Coos Bay to load the ships. Some of you know of or have heard of Skinny Ganong from Gold Beach. Skinny's father was one of the stevedores and it was here that he met his wife. Mrs. Ganong was on watch in Gold Beach during the war when, on an early September morning in 1942, a bomb was reported to have been dropped in the area of the Sixes. Years later, Mr. Fujita, the Japanese pilot, confirmed the dropping of bombs on Mt. Emily east of Brookings and the Sixes.

Brookings Land and Townsite CompanyThere had to be a receiving location for the lumber hauled out of Brookings and, to handle that, Brookings purchased a large lumber yard right on the bay in Oakland. To transport the lumber around the bay they purchased two barges. The Oakland yard was under the direction of the San Francisco office. Mostly because of his temperament and generally poor judgement, John's son Walter was placed in charge of the San Francisco office and was given the title of Vice-President. Son Walter was a constant irritation to the home office in Brookings. Many letters were mailed to Robert about Walter but Robert refused to interfere.

During the war, the army wrote to Walter and told him that he was going to be inducted. This was considered the best news to ever reach the Brookings home office. Walter immediately wrote his uncle Robert Brookings and asked uncle to please use his influence to get him out of the draft. Robert Brookings wrote back and advised Walter that he would not interfere with the army's plan to induct him.

When the army proceeded to call Walter, Walter then tried to negotiate a commission with the army. The army offered him Captain but he wanted Major.

Once again, Walter wrote his Uncle Robert and asked his uncle to use his influence to get him the rank of Major. Once again, Uncle Robert told him that the position of Captain was very honorary and he would not use his influence to get Walter any other rank.

I believe from the tone of his letters that Robert Brookings was glad to see Walter drafted. I have found no other communication referring to Walter Brookings after that.

The mill town began in 1912 and all of the necessary buildings were being built to handle the mill and the workers. Even then, there were three parts of town. The vice-presidents were located on what is now Redwood Street behind Coast Auto, The Mexicans were located in the area which is now Railroad Street and those streets named Willow and Hemlock and the Caucasian mill workers were located on Fredalba. Fredalba was named after Brooking's very good friends Fred and Albert Smiley in Green Valley, California. Fredalba Street was later renamed Pacific Avenue. Pacific Avenue was one of the most important streets in town because it led to the ferry.

Brookings Land and Townsite CompanyFinding men to work in Brookings was a tremendous problem. A lot of men were needed and a lot of the jobs were mill wrights, a skilled labor. Drinking was not allowed and there wasn't much to do except work and fish. Ads were continually run in the Little Rock Gazette. The ads were designed to appeal to the young men of Arkansas and offered stage transportation to San Francisco and ship voyage to Brookings, Oregon. It sounded to good to be true and served to create a unique ethnic culture in Brookings.

The isolation of the community caused a bonding between Brookings and Crescent City. Crescent City had many of the same problems caused by isolation from the rest of the world. But Crescent City had more of what Brookings wanted, girls. As a result, Smith River became the melting pot between the two towns and Saturday night dances in Smith River brought the two towns together. This led to many marriages between the young men from Arkansas and the girls from Crescent City. Smith River grew because of it and soon had its own hospital and Bank of Italy.

It is obvious that Brookings wanted more than a mill town; he wanted a town town. In 1914, Brookings incorporated the Brookings Land and Townsite Company in St. Louis, Mo. That was the same year that the Central Building was built. Bill Ward became the general manager of the company and of the town. One of his first tasks was to hire Bernard Maybeck to design a model town. Mr. Maybeck is famous for his design of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

One of my most prized possessions is The Original Map of Brookings drawn by Bernard Maybeck.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bill Ward was English; who else would design ROUND ABOUTS in Brookings, Oregon? (Years ago, I was in Muscat Oman of the Arab Emirates and the Sheik had built the world's most beautiful Round-About so he could drive his Rolls Royce around and around. Two of the off ramps exited only into sand.)

Bill Ward's original platt of Brookings, dated 1915, included two round-abouts, the Marion Circle and the Georgia Circle.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Coupon BooksBrookings Land and Townsite CompanyPay in Brookings was not in currency but rather in coupons. Coupon books were worth a dollar. There were twenty 5-cent coupons in each book. The pay master was located at the west end of the Central Building and every one walked up the three stairs into the back door to one of the pay windows.Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Coupons from Coupon Book The coupons were only redeemable at the Brookings Mercantile Store, owned and operated by the company. As the stories went, as wives ran low on groceries and household items during the week, they would send the children to the pay master for coupon books so they could buy what they needed at the store. At the end of the week when the husbands went to the pay windows for their pay, they would discover that their wives had already cashed out on the pay.

Starting pay rates for mill, yard and railroad workers was $3.40 per day. Those that worked hard were re-rated to $3.60. Rent was $9.50 per month, rooms for single men were 75 cents a week and up. Room and board was $8.40 per week. The cost of a steamer ticket to San Francisco was $13.00. The cost of the stage to Grants Pass was $12.50.

By 1917, America was at war.

Following the war, problems began to plague the Company. The lack of roads and the poor access to Brookings created many problems for the company. Labor was a constant problem. The socialist front, I.W.W. "Industrial Workers of the World" were causing problems that even interfered with the war effort. Because of the location of Brookings, they had to pay higher wages to get workers to come here. The Government Employment Bureau in San Francisco would not allow the company to take unskilled labor out of California. The promise to provide on-the-job training meant nothing to the bureau.

By 1921, the town had 12 grades of schools, four hotels, a moving picture theater, a church and amusement hall that also was used for town meetings. The biggest amusement was the chickens under the building that would constantly disrupt the church and the town meeting. Numerous letters were written to the caretaker of the building to please remove his chickens. There was a bank, garages, steam laundry, and stores. The population then was 1200. The town had been platted and a person could even purchase a lot.

The ships frequently lost their propellers at sea, they hit rocks and underwater logs going up the Columbia River. There were several major accidents in the San Francisco Bay. Worse, crews would walk off the job when the ships arrived in Oakland and the Captains would spend all of their time attempting to hire crew members for the continuation of the voyage.

Brookings gave up his interest in the Company in 1922 to the Stout Lumber Co. While the center of the west coast operation for the Stout Co. was in San Francisco, Brookings and Portland, the director was located in Thorton, Arkansas. Thomas Cutter became manager of the Brookings division.

It was under his direction that the railroad was built to Rowdy Creek. But it was still Bill Ward who did the engineering.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings, Oregon
Summer 1922
As told by Bill Ward
The home of The California & Oregon Lumber Company is in the southwestern corner of Curry County, just four miles north of the California State Line, and is on the proposed Roosevelt Highway, 130 miles from the railroad. The Chetco River empties into the Pacific Ocean at Brookings, and river and ocean fishing are unexcelled. The mountains near town abound with deer, bear and all kinds of game. Being a coast town, the climate is even throughout the year. During last winter, an unusually cold one, temperatures did not go lower than 29º above, and the hottest day in 1921 registered 91º.

The town has an excellent school with high school grades. There are four hotels, an up-to-date moving picture theater, church and amusement hall, bank, garages, steam laundry and stores. The population at present is 1,200, and the town is growing rapidly. Town lots and building materials are sold at low prices and on easy terms. The company owns and rents a number of cottages and apartments and is constructing new ones continuously. Rents range from $9.50 and up per month. All houses are equipped with running water and electric lights, and most of them are fitted with sanitary plumbing. Small tracts are available from to one mile from the town in the Chetco Valley.

Single men live in the St. George Hotel, or the St. George Annex. Both hotels are steam heated and electrically lighted, and are thoroughly modern. Both rents range from 75 cents per week and up. Board is $8.40 per week at the St. George, and $10.50 at the Chetco Restaurant.

The mill is operating on an eight-hour basis, and is cutting an average of 160,000 ft. of fir a day. The lumber is handled in unit packages by a monorail system and locomotive cranes. The mill is electrically driven. Logs are produced in the company's own logging operations. The finished product is shipped to the California market and to the company's distributing yard at Oakland by three vessels, the Frank D. Stout and Cowiche, both of which have passenger accommodations, and the Necanicum. The mill operates throughout the year.

A new logging railroad, 14 miles in length, is being built down the coast to tap a fine body of Redwood timber belonging to the company in Del Norte County, California. This road will be completed about the 1st of August, and about August 15th the mill will be placed on a double-shift basis.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company - Steamer Ticket for C and O Lumber CompanyThe best way to reach Brookings from Oregon points is via rail to Grants Pass and thence by stage to Brookings. Stage fare is $13.00. Brookings is reached from California points by rail to Eureka and from Eureka by stage. Stage fare is $12.50. Leaving either Grants Pass or Eureka in the morning, you reach Brookings the same evening. An intermittent passenger service is maintained by Frank D. Stout during the summer months from San Francisco to Brookings. Fare is $13.00.

Freight and household goods for Brookings should be routed via San Francisco, c/o California & Oregon Lumber Company, No. 2 Pine St., San Francisco.

As we have sufficient timber to operate a plant with a capacity of 500,000 ft. per day for a period of thirty years, we are especially interested in having young men with families join us with the view of permanent employment. It is the policy of the company to, as far as possible, employ young men as Common Laborers and, from their ranks, promote men to fill the higher paying positions. Present rates for mill, yard and railroad labor is $3.40 for 8 hours. All men who show a willingness to give us a day's work for a day's pay, and desire to work steady, are soon re-rated at $3.60 and up for 8 hours work. Our rates will at all times be in line with other mills along the coast, as we want the best organization in the country.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Letter from George Knab, Arcata, CA, July 8, 1981
To Enid and Glen Hurst, Brookings, Oregon
(RE: Brookings 1922)
Dear Enid and Glen,
Oh Happy Day! How nice to have your letter and to see that letter put out by C&O in their campaign to bring workers to Brookings. It was issued about June 1922, about the time I left Baltimore on the Cowiche to catch on at the mill, arriving there on Aug 3, taking Ben Gray's son's job in the office on Mon., Aug 7th.
This ties in with that comment in the letter about starting on Redwood around the 15th. The mill started sawing Redwood on Monday the 7th, on a program of 70% Redwood and 30% Fir. Up to that time, the mill had been on Fir coming from the Jack's Creek area; which operation was dropped later to concentrate on the logging show at Smith River above Rowdy Creek-where they accumulated enough Fir to satisfy that share of the production overall.
Ben Gray's son had become so homesick to return to their old home at Sparkman, Arkansas, that he was determined to leave. He had been handling orders and shipping in the office, which was similar to my former job with Babcock Lumber Co. in Pittsburgh, Pa. That explains how I fell heir to the nickname of Smokey. No relation to Smokey the Bear! It was a lucky and quick break for me to catch on to a good job, and one for Mr. Gray and his son to arrange their situation.
The C&O letter was put out to bolster their crew, as there wasn't a local labor supply; and not many people came along the old roads in that day for much picking. That was the time of labor-trouble on the whole Coast with the IWW (International Workers of the World), and most of the road-people came under that classification. They were called Bindle Bums or Knights of the Road, which is what most of them were. They were advance-men for the IWW, and stayed on the job long enough to spread the word. However, they spent so much time spreading the word on the job that their stay was cut short; and they were back on the road. All that they had was the clothes they wore and the bindle-bundle on their back.
In self-defense, the mills had to keep an intelligence system to keep track of these wayfarers - C&O and Hobbs-Wall got the word from Philaetis Bell's Employment Office in Eureka, who, in turn, got the word from Willits. We got the word from Coos County up north, and I want to tell you that it was bulletproof in accuracy; as the "visitor" was bound to show within a few days of the notice - it went under the name of Lung Test, and the patients all flunked on schedule.
Back to the letter. It was published in the SF papers to match up with the Frank D. Stout, which could haul 24 passengers -- the new people were not charged a fare, which was an attraction in bringing them into the fold. We were lucky to net about a dozen out of each haul, and they were the ones we came to know in later years. C&O dropped this outside call for help in about a year, as more people were coming along until the mill closed permanently in June 1925. (Here again the Frank D. Stout made several trips to Longview, Washington, moving whole families to work at Long Bell Lumber Co. which was just starting at the time - family furnishing went along with the passengers.) Lifelong friendships began at Brookings!
Eldon Gossett was right about the Cowiche name being changed. (The Cowiche was renamed the SS Brookings.) She was one of the "CO" ships built by the Shipping Board in 1918/19. They were built on the Great Lakes for that type of bulk-cargo in iron ore and coal, with engines aft for single bulk-space forward, and they burned coal. Their length was set at 254 feet so that they could navigate the Welland Canal into the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic, if necessary - the canal was limited to 283-ft. length. When these "CO" ships became available as surplus, they were offered at $75,000 each, where-is, as-is. No ship had taken over two trips until laid up - they hauled coal to Germany as a relief package. West Coast lumber concerns jumped at these bargains, as the bulk-cargo holds were made to order for lumber handling.

George E. Knab, Arcata, CA
July 8, 1981

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company - IWW Songbook
Things did not get better. They got worse. The socialists were organizing labor under the I.W.W. They were called Bundle Bums or Knights of the Road. Their motto, "To fan the flames of discontent". Their theme, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things in life."

"It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the every-day struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalists shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially, we are forming the structures of the new society within the shell of the old".

"Take out the words, if so must be, but leave, oh, leave the melody".

By E.S. Nelson

Sung to the tune of "Red Wing"

Conditions they are bad,
And some of you are sad;
You cannot see your enemy,
The class that lives in luxury,
You workingmen are poor,
Will be forevermore,
As long as you permit the few
To guide your destiny.

Shall we still be slaves and work for wages?
It is outrageous -- has been for ages;
This earth by right belongs to toilers,
And not to spoilers of liberty.

The lunch whistle blew in the summer of 1925 at the mill that Brookings built and it never blew again.

A glorious era. Ended.

And that distinguished old gentleman with hair white as snow said, "If we can stimulate men to think through these questions of law and government and economics and social relations, we shall do more good for humanity than all the Charities." (Robert S. Brookings)

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
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Eldon Gossett - Brookings Land and Townsite Real Estate Company
703 Chetco Ave. ~ PO Box 4610 ~ Brookings OR 97415
Ph: 1-800-342-9405 or 541-469-7755 ~ Fax:541-469-7858
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