|Myrtle Point, population 2711, is located
on State Highway 42 between Roseburg and Coos Bay. It's an hour's drive
from Interstate 5, the principal north-south corridor through Oregon and
20 miles from US Highway 101 which follows the Pacific Coast. That's the
way one locates it today.
In 1853, the first white settler, Ephraim Catching, found the site by traveling up the Middle Fork of the Coquille River approximately 20 miles. An Indian village had previously stood at the bend of the river. Catching staked a claim to most of the land in the area. In 1861, Henry Meyers, who had subsequently purchased the land, platted it for a community. The modest, self-effacing Mr. Meyers named it Meyersville. In 1879, Mr. Christian Lehnherr, a Swiss immigrant, who had purchased that portion of the land that is the current downtown area, re-platted the town and renamed it Ott. The charm of that name being lost on the local citizenry, it was subsequently renamed Myrtle Point.
In it's early days, Myrtle Point was important as a riverboat terminus and a stagecoach stopover on the Roseburg Road connecting the coastal communities to the interior. Timber, coal mining, and agriculture were the leading economic resources.
Today the trucks and tourists going through almost never stop, except occasionally for a red traffic light. Most of the timber industry has been shut down by the Federal and state government in deference to the birds. The mining never really amounted to much. Some agriculture and dairy cattle herding remains. There are no significant industries or employment opportunities, however. Local youth who harbor any ambition leave the area for employment. Those who stay usually support themselves by selling meth to each other or applying for welfare.
Although there are numerous rivers teeming with fish (in season) in the vicinity, no real efforts have been made to capitalize on the tourist or sporting trade. The steady stream of RVs passing through town each summer continue on to Bandon at the mouth of the Coquille River, where they find well-developed camping areas, motels, restaurants, and glitzy souvenir shops.
|Spruce Street is the main street of the downtown area. The picture on the left was made while the street was first being paved. The square looking white house which shows in the background of both pictures (on the right side of the street) is our house.|
|This is a closer view of our house. Uphill is the barn that came with the house. Originally built to house livestock, it now contains my Toyota and a crude woodworking shop. Originally, a ranch occupied the hillside and this was the ranch house. At the time of the First World War, the house was used as the meeting place of the local Mormon church. The house is quite sturdy although there are few parts still level, square, or plumb (if there ever were any).|
The front porch and entrance to the house.
The house was built in 1899 by James and Mary Brown. It's been through a succession of owners before us. One of the more stellar of the succession was Hiram "Curly" Hatcher and his second wife, Hattie. We still have a large convex oval picture from 1886 of Hiram and and his first wife Henrietta and their daughter Clara May hanging in the guest room. This tends to deter extended visits by guests, who are forced to have this grim threesome gazing at them.
|Hiram was born in Morgan County, Missouri,
in 1847. In 1863, he enlisted in Company E, 2d Missouri Cavalry
(Merrill's Horse) and served for the duration of the hostilities. In
1875 he went to Texas where he served in Company E, Frontier Battalion, Texas Rangers for a
couple of years.
Shortly after the turn of the century he moved to Oregon. His reputation
was established as an owner of race horses, most of which seemed to win.
He died in 1933, the last surviving member of the Jewell Post of the
Grand Army of the Republic. Hattie continued living in the house until
she died well over a hundred years old. Reports I've heard is that she
was not well liked, having developed a hostile disposition over the
A couple of years after we moved into the house, we got around to doing some serious landscape rearranging around the yard. While digging a hole for a plastic pre-fab fish pond, I unearthed a large skull. I became immediately apprehensive, imagining it to be the remains of one of the local Indians. I was certain that his descendants would not remain content with their ownership of the casino but want my house too. After examining the skull, I decided that must have been the ugliest Indian that ever lived. Continuing to dig, we came across other bones. The femur convinced me that this was not only the ugliest Indian but the biggest Indian that ever lived. Finally we excavated enough bones to determine that this was the final resting place of one of Hiram's race horses. That brought a great deal of relief to my mind.
A few years later, I had a local carpenter in helping me replace the flooring in the laundry room. I wanted the water heater moved to a different location. When we removed the floor reinforcing under it, we uncovered a trap door. Below it was an abandoned brick-lined water well stuffed full of debris. The carpenter asked if I wanted to check it out. I told him to just cover it up and leave that for the next owner.
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