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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 1930 to 1950
(The following comments were taken from a 1932 Financial Statement of Brookings)

"The future of Brookings looks exceedingly bright, particularly under the guidance of W.J. Ward and associates. Mr. W.J. Ward is a graduate of the engineering school of Cornell University, a man who has been closely identified with the development of Curry County since 1906, a man of good business judgement and sterling character. Yes, the future of Brookings is, indeed, bright."

~~~~~W.A. Swanson. Accountant/Auditor, November 2, 1932

"In conclusion, I further recommend that all buildings to be erected should be of Spanish Mission architecture, with red tile roofs. This is particularly true of all buildings north of Chetco Ave. This would brighten the hillside and make a spot which would be remembered by tourists and transients passing through the town."

~~~~~E.F. Sullivan. Construction Engineer, November 1932
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
By 1930 everything changed, particularly the players. John and Robert Brookings were gone. The Stouts were gone. The ships were sold.

The day the mill closed, the town went from a population of 1,500 to 200.

Brookings Land and Townsite CompanyOn April 1, 1930, Bill Ward purchased all of the C & O Lumber Company holdings within the platted town area and most of the adjoining land. In 1931, he hired Elmer Bankus to handle his fund-raising and be his ways-and-means man. Bankus was a land developer in Portland, Oregon and was recommended to Bill Ward by The Oregonian.

According to Joel Buffington, The S.S. Brookings became a pet food processing plant in the Oakland Bay. She was later purchased by a French shipping line and set sail for Europe and was never heard of again. The S.S. Necanicum continued to sail up and down the coast for a number of years and was to become known as Ole Nick. Elmer Bankus talked about her.

In 1933, Bill Ward sold 600 acres on Gardner Ridge to the Seventh Day Adventists in the Imperial Valley, California. It was the Dust Bowl days in Oklahoma and the Imperial Valley was being overrun by the Oakies (the grapes of wrath). A group of Adventists found their home in Brookings and immediately started building a mill on Marsh Road off Gardner Ridge. To do their building, the Adventists talked a young Adventist by the name of Cecil Watt into coming to Brookings to build the mill and houses for the Adventists.

The mill that Cecil built is gone as are most of the houses, but one or two of the houses still stand. In 1998, I took Cecil back to Gardner Ridge and to the house he built for himself and his wife Margerite. The home is still being lived in today. In 1934, Bill Ward wrote the following letter to President Roosevelt.

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings, Oregon
October 30, 1934

The President
White House
Washington, D.C.


During the last few days, press reports have indicated that the Administration is about to formulate plans to present to Congress looking toward a broadening of Federal work and a consequent lessening of work relief and direct relief. It is further indicated from these reports that the scope of the new plan will closely follow that previously formulated under the Public Works Administration and, in addition, the inauguration of a more intensive campaign pertaining to the government housing activities, both urban and rural. The subsistence homesteads of rural industrial communities will also come in for careful consideration.
In view of these reports from the press, it seems likely that the Administration may welcome pertinent data from various communities throughout the country. And it is with this idea that this report covering the possibilities of southern Curry County is respectfully submitted.
Curry County is situated in the extreme southwestern portion of Oregon. It extends from the California line northerly fronting upon the Pacific Ocean for a distance of about 65 miles. Its average width is approximately 30 miles and its actual area is 1,612 square miles. The county consists mainly of rolling land with a rough mountain area along the eastern boundary. The coastal bench land and the lower hills are extremely fertile and the alluvial bottomlands along its many streams are among the finest truck garden lands in the west. The present population is approximately 3,500, not more than 2 to the square mile. The county has no railroad and is dependent upon the Oregon Coast Highway (Federal Route No. 101) to transport its produce to market. At present, there are no active payrolls within the boundaries of the county, save those of a few very small sawmills that operate intermittently. Thus, the population of the county is entirely dependent for its livelihood upon agricultural pursuits. But, due to the extremely favorable combination of good rich soil and moderate climate, the inhabitants of the county have been able, to a very large extent, to provide for themselves during the depression of the last few years. There are, however, many things which the present administration could bring about that would greatly increase the earning power of this county, and which also would serve to make a place for four or five thousand more people. And, in bringing this about, the administration would greatly enhance the value of United States property held within the county boundaries, since approximately 67% of the county area is embraced in the Siskiyou National Forest.
Prior to 1913, the population of the southern parts of Curry County (to which this report particularly pertains) numbered not to exceed 500 people. In 1913, the town of Brookings was started and a large sawmill enterprise was undertaken. In a few years' time, southern Curry County numbered about 2,500 people, with the population of the town of Brookings close to 1,500. The payroll of this town averaged around $75,000 a month and this sum served to support nearly the entire community. In 1925, the lumber activity ceased. The population of the town fell away to about 200 people, barely able to earn a meager subsistence. In 1930, the town of Brookings was worked over as a summer beach resort and, since that time, the population of the town and immediate vicinity has increased to somewhat over 450. And, during the last 12 months, about 75 new families have come into the territory and have settled upon small farms mainly located up the Chetco River. During all this time, there has been no regular payroll in the territory but these new inhabitants have been able to take care of their subsistence and to do a creditable amount of work upon their respective homesteads.
In August 1933, a colony of Seventh Day Adventists was formed in southern California and purchased on long time contract 560 acres of land on the Chetco River about 6 miles east of Brookings. This colony consisted of about 30 families, close to 125 people, with practically no cash capital. The colony has divided its tract into small farms and has greatly improved its holding. Each family has a farm of from 10 to 30 acres on which houses have been built, land cleared, water developed, and crops harvested. The colony was fortunate in getting a chance to contract this land on a work-out agreement, requiring only that taxes and 6% interest be paid in cash for the first 3 years. The results of the first year of endeavor have conclusively proved that similar colonies could be established in southern Curry County and thus take care of about four thousand people. The main factor in the success of such colonization is that of adequate transportation. Financing, to a limited degree, is also a factor. In these two factors, the aid of the administration is greatly needed. And, it is to enlarge upon these two factors that this report will continue in detail.
Brookings is situated about a mile west of the mouth of the Chetco River on the Pacific Ocean. At this point is found what is locally known as Brookings port, which was developed by the lumber company during its early activity. On the government charts, this port is known as Chetco Cove. Detailed reports with accurate soundings and full description of the shipping facilities at this point are on file with the War Department and with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. As to the adequacy of this port to serve a large area, and as to its fine natural protection, it may merely be stated that the present wharf was built in 1917 and is today standing in fairly good repair with no expenditure made upon it since 1925. Some 250,000,000 feet of lumber have been shipped over it, and many thousands of tons of coast-wise freight have been handled on it. The present depth of water at the ship's berth is 24 feet at mean lower low water.
The Chetco River enters the Pacific Ocean at the extreme eastern end of the Chetco Cove. This river heads in the first coast range of mountains about 50 miles from its mouth. It presents, by far, the best route to the interior of southern Oregon. Either a railroad or a highway could be constructed up the Chetco, following one of its tributaries called Tin Cup Creek, through the Tin Cup Pass to the interior. The present needs indicate that a highway would probably serve the purpose of opening this territory to settlement better than a railroad. Such a highway route would also shorten by some 20 miles the distance from the Rogue River Valley and southern Oregon points to deep water. The feasibility of this route as an engineering project is well established. And as a means of opening a territory that would cheaply and adequately support three or four thousand people, this route is highly recommended. In addition to the agricultural possibilities of the settlement, such a highway would make available many hundreds of million feet of government-owned timber and would serve also as an impetus in the developing of the mineral resources of the territory traversed. The work in the construction of such a highway would take care of many people and would be the first step in alleviating the relief load in this community.
In addition to the local advantages of such a project, a highway up the Chetco River would mean a vast saving in transportation to shippers of all kinds in the southern and central Oregon region.
In addition the construction of this highway, a project entailing approximately $600,000 for the building of a short breakwater at the Brookings port is highly recommended. The details covering this breakwater project and the improvement of the Brookings Port are embodied in reports on file with the War Department.
The establishing of rural industrial communities in this Chetco River territory and the financing of the community already established are factors in this scheme of development. The ease in which subsistence may be gleaned from the soil of this territory makes the establishing of such communities very economical. The Adventist community previously mentioned has thrived on not to exceed $300 in cash per family during the past year. This community really needs financing to the extent of about $500 more per family in order that it may quickly swing into full production. Such financing would be adequately secured by the land, the improvements, and the crops, and would be self-liquidating. New communities could be established at a cost of approximately $1,000 per family, and these, with the right personnel, could maintain themselves and liquidate the money loaned.
At Brookings, a small sawmill could be started and put into operation for an expenditure of around $100,000. Adequate timber may be cheaply purchased, on a stumpage basis, as needed, and this operation could be put into full swing that would take care of all deficiencies in budget that might possibly arise throughout these various colonies. The whole scheme, properly tied in together and managed, would put the entire community of southern Curry County upon a self-sustaining basis, would permit liquidation of all moneys advanced within a reasonable time, and would serve to take care of an additional population of between three and four thousand people.
In this general résumé of the situation, no effort has been made to detail the products that may be produced nor the activities that may be undertaken. Such detail, however, is at hand and can be furnished at any time.
It is submitted that, in the history of past depressions in this country, one of the paramount factors in the return to good times has been the opening and development of new frontier areas. In a very large scheme of such development, it is further submitted that the territory comprising the southern part of Oregon and Idaho, and the northern part of California, Nevada, and Utah, presents such a frontier. This entire area is sparsely settled. It is held largely by the Federal Government. It has vast resources in undeveloped water, agricultural, and mineral possibilities. It lacks only transportation and the development of these resources. Given this transportation and development, it would take care of a vast population, and the Federal Government would have obtained a colonization unheard of in its magnitude. And the government also would have realized on literally billions of dollars of frozen assets that could be realized upon through the medium of transportation, irrigation, and waterpower development.

Respectfully submitted,

W.J. Ward

Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite Company
Brookings Land and Townsite CompanyThe dock at Brookings Port failed and eventually succumbed to the sea. The railroad bridge across the Chetco River caught fire and was totally burned. The old mill burned down. The mercantile store became an old junkyard full of WW-II salvage items and was purchased by Henry Kerr where Henry's daughter, Carolyn opened a hardware store. The Saint George Hotel and the annex across the street were taken down and the commissary is now owned by Richard and Letty Lee and is the home of the Dragon Gate Restaurant.

A community library was opened in the attic of the Central Building and the building became the offices of Elmer Bankus, president and owner of the Brookings Land and Townsite Company, The Curry Coastal Pilot and The Brook-Ply Company. Plans were drawn for a Shriner's Hall in the attic but it never was completed. That project died when Bill Ward died.

Bill Ward died in March of 1936. His last letter was to his partner Elmer Bankus who was in Portland. His letter instructed Elmer to raise $7,000 by whatever means he could and meet him (Bill Ward) in Eugene in two weeks. Bill wrote that he had to see a doctor because he was bleeding at both ends but he would be OK soon. Bill died the following week. Bill needed money to lease and purchase potential oil-producing land in San Bernardino County, California.

The town passed to Elmer Bankus in March 1936 the day that Bill Ward died. Elmer did wonders with the town. He held it together by making real estate sales and deals which enabled him to pay taxes when there was no other money for taxes.

Brookings Land and Townsite CompanyBankus's first act of goodness was his giving Bill Ward's widow, Nancy, the row of houses located on Redwood Street so that she would have a home for her and her children plus rental income. In Bill Ward's quest for funds, he put every asset he owned into the Brookings Land and Townsite Company including his own home. He, in turn, borrowed money on these assets. When he died, the company passed to Bankus, leaving Bankus the sole owner of the Bill Ward estate, whatever it was, and it included all of his real property. Bankus also inherited the debts.

Elmer died in September 1973.

The estate of Elmer Bankus, which was the assets of the Brookings Land and Townsite Company, was sold by the trustees for approximately 2.5 million dollars. The Central Building along with the company name, Brookings Land and Townsite Company, were purchased by myself, Eldon M. Gossett, in August of 1977. After three years of restoration, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

Recently, Robert Brookings' name came up again in the Wall Street Journal in an article titled "The U.S. Clothespin Had Day In Sun But Now Feels Pinch" by William M. Buckley.

Fortunes have been built -- well, one fortune was built -- on clothespins. Robert S. Brookings, the St. Louis merchant who later established the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., began his career as a traveling salesman who, a competitor said, "could take a common clothespin and persuade a housewife it had virtues beyond all other clothes pins."

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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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