Depoe Bay History
Before the arrival of early homesteaders, coastal Indian tribes speaking nearly 20 different languages including Chinook, Salishan, Suislaw, and Alsea lived in the general area. The natural harbor in Depoe Bay was used for seal hunting and fishing. There were many streams in the area, which provided an abundance of fish. The rugged coastline in area of current-day Depoe Bay had beautiful features such as Arch Rock, the spouting horns, sea cliffs and terraces, many caves, and a subterranean fresh water lake, but was lacking in easy access to sandy beaches.
In 1855, the U.S. Army established a supply station in a slough off the Yaquina River, about one mile from the present junction of Highway 229 and Highway 20, near Toledo.
In 1856, the Coast Reservation was formed, and Indians from many miles around were removed from their homes to the new reservation. More on this below. Supplies for the Siletz Indian Agency, which oversaw the reservation, were brought there by ocean-going vessels and then carried overland. Today, this waterway is called Depot Slough.
In 1878, a man named Dr. F.W. Vincent and his grandfather sailed up the coastline from Newport, and observed a break in what looked like a wall of rock. They sailed closer in their 40-foot boat, and entered what they described as a beautiful little harbor (the present day Depoe Bay harbor), where they found anchor chains from a boat, two headlights, and the letters “U.S.”. They called the little harbor “Wrecker’s Cove”.
Depot Charlie – The Town’s Namesake
One of those who were forcibly removed to the Coast Reservation from his ancestral home in the Rogue (Tutuni) River Valley, was a young Tutuni/Joshua Indian named Charles. Minutes from the Council held at the Siletz Agency on December 15, 1873 with Chiefs of the Confederated Tribes reflect the following statement by “Depot Charlie”:
Depot Charlie (A Joshua, one of the most influential Indians on the reservation.) Have heard many things I am not going to tell. You told us not to speak about anything except great things. I am sorry for one thing: I am sorry to have you leave to day in this storm; I would like you to stay here to-day; will tell you one thing, and I want you to put this in your heart. You have a good heart; so have I. I think now we are beginning to do better. Church-members have come here and taught us and now we are all trying to be good. Do you think it would be well for these bad white men to come and drive off good men both white and Indian? That is all I want to say. One thing more; we want a saw and flour mill. You see this old building; we would like a saw-mill to build a good church. I want you to put what I say in your heart; We want a flour mill, then we can raise our own wheat and make our own flour and sell it and get money. Now we have no wagons; we want wagons. I am not chief, but I will talk to you. I want these old people to have wagons. I don’t want to see old women pack wood on their backs. Government has but few wagons and the Indians but few. One thing more: do you intend the good that are coming to be given to us, or to be sold us? (The speaker said he was satisfied with either way.) I want to talk about great things. I want all my people to hold up their hands. (A number here held up their hands.) All these people belong to the church and believe in God; God sees you. I am talking to my brother; that is what I call you; I think I have talked straight to you.
As the years passed, Charlie became a leader in his community and eventually was called Chief. Former Lincoln County Historical Society archivist Jodi Weeber said his title was earned rather than inherited.
The July 12, 1918 edition of the Lincoln County Leader reported:
Charlie DePoe, a leading man among the Indians, was a chief of the Joshua tribe and was noted for his good sense and wise councils and hospitality among the Indians. No one ever went away hungry from the home of DePoe Charlie.
The DePoe Family
According to the rolls of the 1885 census, Charlie (Charley) and his wife Minerva (Minnie) were aged 50 and 48 respectively, and they had five children: William (Willie), Delia, Robert (Bobbie), Clara (Mary), and Matilda (Tillie). Nine years later in 1894, when the U.S. Government took back much of the Coast Reservation land, members of the Siletz tribes were given 80-acre land allotments throughout the area. Charlie and Minerva each received 40 acres to the north of present-day Depoe Bay, according to the original allotment maps on file at the Historical Society.
Altogether, over 200 acres of undeveloped land that lay beside “a small ocean bay” was given to Charlie and his heirs. An official plat circa 1915 documents that Charlie, his wife Minnie, and children Matilda and William owned all of the ocean front land beside the bay. The land extended from the northern side of what is today Boiler Bay to the area now known as South Point. Charlie and Minnie resided on the land until their deaths.
Charlie and Minerva’s daughter Matilda was awarded acreage that is now within Depoe Bay city limits, from the small peninsula south to the middle of the harbor; her brother William was awarded the acreage from the bay to present-day Southpoint Street.
Charlie’s great-grandson, Chief William Hauser DePoe Sr., was born on December 14, 1929, to Robert Charles and Mary Houser DePoe. He was the fourth of five children: Reggie, Chuck, Peter, then William, and Roberta. He was a World War II veteran, a National Indian Basketball All Star, and a professional musician who played with Lionel Hampton and Tommy Dorsey. He spent his last 15 years in Depoe Bay, where he appeared in regalia at community events and devoted much of his time to Native American cultural development.
Chief W. H. DePoe Sr. died in 1997, and his son, Chief William “Chewescla” DePoe, holds his now-hereditary title. He is the second oldest of five children: Charlotte, then William, Ronald, Ilene, and Peter. Chief Chewescla has participated in athletics all his life, and still actively participates in many events, including basketball tournaments, jogging, the tribe’s annual “Run to the Rogue”, and dancing at the annual Gathering of Nations Pow-wow in New Mexico. He also attends the annual Fleet of Flowers held in Depoe Bay on Memorial Day.
Birth of the Town
Around that time, many Siletz Indians sold their land for low prices to land developers, and others forfeited their property because they hadn’t paid property taxes. Titles at the Historical Society show that the land owned by Matilda and William DePoe was sold after their deaths, by their siblings Delia, Robert, and Clara, in 1923 to a Siletz Indian couple, Frank and Rachel Carson, who eventually sold the property to a real estate speculator named Lee Williams for $6,000. In late 1926 or early 1927, Williams sold it to the Sunset Investment Company for $10,000. Officers of the Sunset Investment Company included President R.C. Yeast, E.B. Winchell, H.L. Collins, and H.T. Kent. Sunset divided the land around the bay into 185 lots which sold for $100 each.
In the late 1920s when the Sunset Investment Company purchased the DePoes' land with the intent of establishing a town here, a rosy future was predicted for the new town. It was believed to be destined that the town would become one of the leading summer and winter resorts on the Pacific coast.
The Depoe Bay and Rocky Creek Bridges were designed by Oregon's masterbridge builder Conde B. McCullough. In the 1920s, McCullough designed all Oregon's bridges along Highway 101 (then called the Roosevelt Highway).
The Depoe Bay Bridge was completed in 1927, and was only 18 feet wide. In 1940, a second span was built on the seaward side, making the bridge 48 feet wide with a sidewalkon each side and a walkway under the bridge. The bridge is 312 feet long and is located at mile post 127.6. The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2005.
The Rocky Creek Bridge (aka the Ben Jones Bridge) was also completed in 1927. The 20-foot wide bridge was rehabilitated in 2001, and while not listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it is eligible for inclusion. The Rocky Creek Bridge is located just south of town on Otter Crest Loop, and is 360 feet long.
Establishing a Post Office
In 1928, the community applied for a post office under the name DePoe Bay, but when the federal approval returned the town’s name was listed as Depoe Bay, as it remains today. Edith Ferguson served as the first postmaster. Mrs. Ferguson also established the aquarium, and owned Depoe Bay’s first grocery store and gas station. Her daughter, Pauline Holfert, coordinated the Fleet of Flowers for many years.
A World Class Aquarium
In 1930, Paul Baird was busy putting the finishing touches on the new Depoe Bay Aquarium, which was owned and operated by H.L. Collins, J.C. Bradford, and Jerry Newman, all of Portland. The aquarium was situated 200 feet north of the bridge on the east side of the highway, with a rustic rock and cement entrance. It was the first salt water aquarium in Oregon, and was considered one of the best in the world at that time.
Outside the aquarium to the right of the entrance was a seal pool, and the keeper used to get in and wash the resident seal with a long-handled scrub brush. The young, bright-eyed seal loved this, and would lay on his side while he was scrubbed. To the left of the entrance was another pool filled with sea roses, urchins, anemone, yellow tail rock fish, and crabs. The new aquarium was managed by G.P. Smith.
A giant octopus called “Kid Octopus” was the star attraction of the new aquarium, and liked to show off. There were 17 tanks inside, and the inhabitants were all acquired in the vicinity of Depoe Bay: squid, starry flounder, sandabs, California halibut, Blenny eel, Pacific cultus, hake, Tom cod, California sea trout, sculpin, China rock fish, black and yellow rock fish, Pacific white perch, striped perch, wall-eyed perch, cut-throat trout, silver salmon, bit skate, smooth round shark, red snapper, ling cod, sole minnow, round-nosed sole, wolf fish, least perch, black rock fish, shore crabs, market crabs, hermit crabs, star fish, and black fish. Tanks were beautified with eel grass, several varieties of kelp, and ocean mosses.
By 1972, the aquarium was the third oldest in the nation. In the seal pool, a large fur seal named Alvin entertained visitors. Inside the building, entryway tanks held shrimp, colorful tube and plume worms, sea livers (Chiton), mussels, limpets, barnacles, oysters, many species of star fish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. One tank held a wolf eel with jaws so powerful that it was capable of snapping a 2x4 in half or chomping off a steel gaff hook. An adult eel could be as long as eight feet. The aquarium usually housed three-four octopuses. In the heart of the aquarium, Numerous humorous harbor seals swam about their tiled pool, barking as they slapped their wet chests with their flippers in their efforts to get more fish. Other tanks held crabs, founder, sole, ling cod, sea perch, kelp fish, anemones, sculpin, red snapper, sea bass, and grouper. As was true in the past, the specimens were caught locally. The aquarium closed its doors for the final time in September of 1998.
Bringing in the Coast Guard
In 1930, Representative James Mott introduced a bill to authorize the treasury to establish a Coast Guard station in Depoe Bay. The station was to be an auxiliary to the Yaquina Bay Lifeboat Station. The station was established in 1940, as an auxiliary to Yaquina Station in Newport. In 1949, the volume of work done to aid fishing craft and other coast-wise traffic was rapidly increasing, and authorization was received giving new staff and equipment to Officer-in-Charge Francis J. Greenbrook. The station name was officially changed to Coast Guard Moorings, Depoe Bay. Also in 1949, Depoe Bay’s motor life-boat “Yaquina Bay” went to Newport for repairs; when it was returned, “Yaquina Bay” had been painted over with “Depoe Bay”, bringing smiles all around at the station. In 1995, proposed cuts to Coast Guard funding would have reduced the 24 assigned personnel to only 10. President Clinton stepped in and signed a bill prohibiting closure of small boat search and rescue stations in Oregon, ensuring the station would have sufficient personnel to continue its involvement with rescuing fishing boats and people in trouble on the water.
The station’s current area of responsibility extends from Cape Kiwanda to Spencer Creek. Their primary mission is to provide search and rescue to commercial mariners, recreational boaters, and surfers. The station also supports numerous other missions including marine environmental protection, fisheries conservation enforcement, towing, and enforcing boating safety regulations. The station averages 100 search and rescue cases per year, and currently has 31 active duty personnel, two 47-foot motor lifeboats, and one 25-foot RB-S. The Coast Guard’s continued presence ensures that our commercial, charter, and sport fishermen can operate with safety and protection.
Depoe Bay Elementary School
Depoe Bay had an elementary school from 1933 through 1968. The building, which now houses City Hall, taught 30-40 children each year in two classrooms. Each classroom had three grades. When the school was established, there were 77 school districts in the area, and 105 schools that served the children. By 1991 those numbers had shrunk to 18 schools served by one district (Lincoln County).
The children were fortunate to be able to take field trips to the beach, the county seat, and a variety of other community resources rich in educational value. Instruction in subject areas as suggested in the state guides was richly supplemented by a great variety of other materials, and provided work at the achievement level of each pupil. Depoe Bay Elementary School graduates were consistently at the top of their classes when they went on to junior high school.
Outstanding art projects were presented as well as promoting an interest in ecology through “save the birds” and anti-litter campaigns. A music teacher visited the school once a week to give the students band and vocal music instruction. A gym teacher also came once a week for specialized exercise and gymnastics activities. Team sports weren’t an option because of the small enrollment, but abundant playground equipment was provided as well as a covered area which offered shelter for playing outdoors during rainy weather.
The schoolhouse was also used by parents for community plays. Locals gathered frequently at the school for entertainment and social gatherings. Among the actors were Russ Hunter, Betty Taunton, Stan Allyn, Alexia Bates, Russ Bailey, Pauline and Fred Holfert, Sid and Melissa Neal, Ted and Muriel Mudrow, and Bev Poling. Bev Poling, mother of Beanie Robison, Suzi Robison Snyder, Pogo Robison, Krista Robison Watson, and twins Lars Robison and Liz Robison Martin, remembered the school as the social center of the community: The PTA was a very active group – the social hub. We just did things.”
Children in Depoe Bay were relatively independent, allowed considerable freedom to explore the reaches of the town and use the bay as their playground. Many had rowboats which were used recreationally on the bay. There was little crime, and parents were more comfortable allowing children to roam without supervision.
The Early Salmon Bakes
Traditionally, native tribes of the Salishan family of Coastal Indians cut small green saplings, split carefully along most of their length, and used them as holding racks for sides of salmon cut from freshly-caught fish. Cross-braced with strong twigs, the racks were driven into the sand, and the fish were cooked over burning logs.
In the 1930s the small community regularly held a free fish fry/fish bake. In 1931, the fish fry was held at The Bridge Lunch restaurant, the future location of the existing Spouting Horn Restaurant, which was constructed around 1934 after moving The Bridge Lunch building out of the way to a nearby location.
At the 1934 fish fry, Depoe Bay established another one-of-a-kind event – a fish derby. One hundred large sea bass were caught and conditioned for a series of fish races sponsored by the DePoe Bay Pirates, as a means of raising money for a lifesaving station, which was sorely needed. Four hundred people attended the first race. Only a year later, 2,000 people attended the event. A typical race would involve placing cod, bass, or carp in a painted trough, where the fish would race to the gates at the far end, which when hit, released toy balloons denoting the order in which the fish arrived. The fish were free to swim to the open sea after the races.
A 1935 clip from an unknown newspaper describes a race in the style of a sportscast:
The barrier dropped. Salem Cyclone quivered, 400 spectators yelled ‘They’re off!’ and a swirl of water traced the Cyclone’s course down the trough.
Salem Cyclone won by a swim-away. Temperament entered into the Saturday morning fish race, when the Cyclone’s competitors, holding out for a closed course, shop, saltier or not-so-salty water, struck, turned prima donna, quit, sulked, would be-durned-if-they’d-swim.
Promoters were quite disgusted. Pandemonium reigned in the paddock. Trainers of contestants in the next race maintained, however, that their charges would perform.
Into the paddock came the racers. Swish shied at Tiderip; Tiderip swished its tail at Swish; Rasputin sulked at the barrier.
But Rasputin was only foolin’. Up went the barrier on the second race. Rasputin snapped out of his trance – showed his fins to Swish and Tiderip.
There was a race! Rasputin first, Swish second, Tiderip third. All are cod.
A few years later, in October of 1940, a potlatch event called “Indian Summer and Homecoming” was held at Government Point (now Boiler Bay State Park), for Indians of the Northwest. The event was organized by the North Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, with cooperation of the Chemawa Indian School and the Siletz Agency. Chief Tommy “Coquille” Thompson of the Siletz Tribes, whose authority was reputed to extend as far as Montana, was a consultant for the event. Chief Thompson and Edgar Simmons of the Grand Ronde Tribes organized their groups and extended invitations to confederations across the state. It was hoped the event would become an annual affair.
About 300 Indians participated. They performed war dances, feather dances, and specialty acts of all kinds in their native attire, and camped on the grounds. There were many Indian articles from the various tribes on exhibition. The oldest Indian dancer at the event was Martha Johnson, who was estimated to be over 100 years old. An Indian style salmon barbeque was held, with approximately-80-year-old Chemawa Indian Reuben Sanders supervising. Deep sea boat trips were free to all Indians, courtesy of the local fishermen. Passes were given to Indians at Oceanlake and Taft theatres, and the Otter Crest Outlook house extended courtesies, including use of its big telescope. The event was conidered a “grand success”, and plans began for the next year’s festivities before the month was out.
In 1956, the local Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first annual “Indian Style Salmon Bake”. Residents held a salmon derby prior to the bake. Fish caught in the derby were cooked for the event. Chief Saunders was again in charge of the salmon bake. The fish was cooked for about four hours over a 20-foot log fire near the observatory platform by the Depoe Bay bridge, and 600 persons were served.
In September of 1972, the Salmon Bake was moved from along the seawall of the Depoe Bay State Park to Fogarty Creek State Park to provide more room for serving guests, better parking facilities, and adequate sanitation facilities. Shuttle busses transported people between the city and the park. Volunteers split alder saplings for the racks, and split cedar boards for an 80-foot long fire line, which was constructed on the beach. The dinner of salmon, cole slaw, garlic bread, ice cream, milk, and coffee cost all of $1.75! In 1973, a record 3,200 people attended the event at Fogarty Creek.
Today’s annual salmon bakes are held in September in the City Park, and is one of the city's biggest events of the year.
The Great Fire of ‘36
In late September of 1936, a great fire threatened Depoe Bay. The fire was oneof many that burned along a 25—mile front in the coast range, south to California. The fire burned for six days before suddenly flaring into an inferno which quickly spread in all directions. Before the fire reached Depoe Bay, it burned for six days, burning approximately five miles east, and hada two and a half mile front on the west. Fanned by a hot east wind which at times reached 35 MPH, the fire raced into Depoe Bay with a roar. Over 200 men battled the blaze. Using small but powerful pumps placed at every accessible stream and in the bay, firefighters succeeded in saving Depoe Bay from destruction after the blaze jumped the highway and started burning south of the bridge. Several homes caught fire, but the flames were subdued. Twelve families were left destitute by the fire. There are two versions as to how the fire got started. One is that someone set a shingle mill on fire; the mill was three-quarters of a mile east of town. A second version is that a homesteader’s cabin caught fire. Both versions claim that forest fire officials refused to take the situation seriously over a week before it hit Depoe Bay, saying that it would burn itself out shortly.
The World’s Smallest Harbor
Depoe Bay is the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor, currently covering approximately six acres, with a 50-foot wide, 100-foot long rockbound, dog-legged channel connecting to the Pacific Ocean. There are two freshwater creeks that flow into the harbor; North Depoe Creek enters at the northeasterly corner, and South Depoe Creek enters at the southeasterly corner. These creeks are very different in character. North Depoe Creek is rocky-bottomed and fairly fast flowing, while South Depoe Creek is sandy-bottomed and slow moving. Originally, the inner bay was shallow with a beach area on the east side surrounded by a cedar forest. Boats would simply anchor in the bay, afloat during high tide and resting on the bottom during low tide.
In 1937, Congress authorized development construction of the inner bay. When the construction was completed in 1939, the harbor was 375 feet long by 125 feet wide by five feet deep.
In 1950, the harbor was closed for improvements which were completed by 1952. A cofferdam was constructed across the mouth of the channel to keep ocean waters out of the bay, and flumes rerouted water from North Depoe Bay Creek and South Depoe Bay Creek to the ocean. The water in the bay was pumped out and the harbor was enlarged to 750 feet long by 390 feet wide by eight feet deep, and the retaining seawall along the east side was constructed. Just before the project was completed, rough waters at high tide tore out the south side of the cotterdam, flooding the bay. However, all construction equipment had been removed from the bay floor, and there was little consequence to this potentially devastating event.
In 1963 the 150-foot long channel was widened from 30 feet to 40 feet and deepened to eight feet at average low tide, by the Army Corps of Engineers.
In 1966 the existing breakwater was lengthened, and an additional breakwater was installed on the north side of the channel. In September of that year, Depoe Bay’s harbor was visited (at high tide) by the Omar, the largest vessel ever to enter the harbor. It weighed 33 tons and was 70 feet long with an 18-foot beam and a nine-foot draft.
In 1995, a new boat ramp and docks were installed in the harbor.
While the harbor was included in the Port of Newport District for a number of years, in 1975 the Port of Newport relinquished the harbor to the City. Since the harbor has always been and remains the heart of our community, this was an important change for Depoe Bay.
The Wild Life Museum
The Depoe Bay (Wild Life) Museum opened on May 7, 1937. The museum was valued at $75,000, and boasted the egg collection of J.C. Braly of Depoe Bay and Ed Currier of St. Johns, which was said to be the most complete collection on the coast, containing eggs of all birds found in Oregon (over 3,000 eggs). Indian relics unearthed in 1867 at Castle Rock, Washington were also displayed, including papoose boards, totem poles, and stone relics. There were over 500 stuffed birds, an agate display (stones were gathered locally), and a 200-specimen butterfly collection. Stuffed animals, heads, or skins included all species of Oregon deer, black bear, Alaska timber wolf, moose, elk, buffalo, bob cat, mountain lion, red fox, and coyote. There were several pictures from the 1905 Lewis & Clark fair.
The State of Oregon constructed the main seawall in 1941.
The Fleet of Flowers
The Fleet of Flowers was established in 1945. The event came to be to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman. It has since evolved to honor all seafarers and those lost at sea, and has many people in attendance every year.
The City has long supported this community event behind-the-scenes by providing services such as use of the Community Hall for wreath-making (including providing materials and supplies, and hauling away wreath-making debris), supplying the event stage, supplying electricity and water, assistance with setting up the sound system, and providing traffic control in the harbor parking lot on the day of the event.
The original event that inspired the Fleet of Flowers was reported in The Yaquina Bay News on October 8, 1936:
Late Sunday evening Depoe Bay was the scene of sea tragedy which took the lives of two brave rescuers when the troller Cara Lou was wrecked in the fog and darkness and the 2-man crew perished.
During the afternoon Eugene McWilliams, his 14 year old son and another lad G McLaughlin all of Salem, went out fishing in a small trolling boat the Norwester, despite the dense fog that enveloped sea and land. After they had been out for six hours, fears were felt for their safety. Roy Bower and Jack Chambers with their 30-foot troller Cara Lou put to sea to try and find the Norwester and help her to port.
They picked up the missing boat near the whistling buoy, by this time the fog and darkness was practically impenetrable but the two boats headed for the bay entrance, the Cara Lou leading. Unable to get any bearing for direction they ran too far north, the Car Lou going over the north reef was struck by a heavy sea which wrecked her. The Norwester close astern saw the accident but was unable to render aid ran out to the whistler and tied up to it until Monday morning they the fog cleared away and they came in safely.
When the Norwester was first missing the coast guard here was notified and men and equipment were dispatched to the scene and patrolled the shore line. Citizens of Depoe Bay watched the shore line in vain.
About ten o-clock it is said that calls for help were heard but aid was impossible. Other men would have willing gone out but owing to the low tide no boat could go to sea.
Early Monday morning the fog having cleared the troller Robert II (?), Percy Austin, master, with seven other men went to sea and after searching a few hours found the Cara Lou almost entirely submerged. Entangled in the rigging was found the body of Bower while floating nearby with a life belt on the body of Chambers was picked up.
Mr. Chambers 21, was a resident of Gladstone where his parents, a brother and sister reside, and where the funeral was held.
Mr. Bower 40, resided at Depoe Bay and is survived by his widow and one daughter. The second child was expected Monday.
The body was shipped to Los Angeles Tuesday.
Petitioning for a Liquor Store
By 1947, Depoe Bay had grown to a population of about 500, and seeking a liquor store, a petition with 437 resident signatures was submitted to the liquor commission.
Depoe Bay Gets a Church
In 1949, after four years of conducting Sunday school and church services in the Community Hall, Depoe Bay’s community church was established. A sealed metal box containing a white bible with a brief history of church work in Depoe Bay inside it was placed into the cornerstone.
Friendly Relations During the Cold War
On April 27, 1971, a Russian vessel stationed 18 miles due west of Depoe Bay radioed shore that their senior engineer, Vladimir Schkoore, was in need of hospital care. The officer was taken to the hospital in Newport, where he received an emergency appendectomy. He celebrated his 33rd birthday while recovering on shore. On May 14, Officer Schkoore was well enough to return to his ship, and the Jimco II, a Depoe Bay fishing boat owned and skippered by Fred Robison, returned him to his vessel, the 180-foot Pagraniski Yermalucke. Once the Jimco had been maneuvered out of the harbor, Captain Robison turned the wheel over to the Russian officer.
Record Snow and Chill
In December of 1972, snow fell to a record depth of four feet in drifts, and an all-time-low temperature of seven degrees below zero.
The Town Becomes Incorporated
Attempts to incorporate the community into a city began in 1963, and continued in 1966, but both attempts failed. The failed attempts were blamed on concerns that a heavy city tax would be levied to finance employee’s salaries and other expenses, although proponents claimed otherwise, stating that the mayor and Council members would serve without pay, and the only foreseeable paid employees would be positions that were already paid under separate districts. Proponents also agreed that incorporating would give residents the opportunity to control their own town and harbor. Incorporation was finally achieved on May 22, 1973 when voters in a special election approved incorporation by a vote of 175-for to 53-against.
The first City Council was elected on July 31, 1973. It consisted of Graham Ainslee (136 votes), Stephen Cottrell (108 votes), Edward Kosack (108 votes), Robert Jackson (100 votes) and Jean Quinn (85 votes). Shortly thereafter, Stephen Cottrell was selected to be the City’s first mayor. Councilor Ainslee represented the water district and worked on the Highway 101 parking problem; Councilor Kosack worked with the Port Committee, which negotiated with the Port of Newport over property rights along the harbor; Councilor Quinn was Chairman of the Finance Committee; and Councilor Jackson was in charge of drawing up the City Charter, which was approved by a vote of the people. Councilor Jackson also set up Committees for zoning and planning, although a Planning Commission was not established at that time.
The new Council appointed Veretta Howard as City Recorder and Municipal Judge. In those early days, that first Council decided not to ask the people of the town for a (property) tax base, and Councilor Jackson announced the City would operate on a budget of around $12,000 per year from State revenues on the sale of gasoline and liquor. The Council held a regular meeting on the first Monday of each month at 8 PM in the Water Department building.
By 1976, the City was investigating bringing in various districts such as sanitary and water. Revenue of around $25,000 was brought in through transient hotel-motel tax, franchise fees, the tobacco-alcohol tax, federal revenue sharing, and gasoline tax.
Other mayors that have served Depoe Bay are: Jean Quinn (1975-76), Robert Jackson (1977-78, 1981-83, 1991-92, 1997-98), William Wahl (1979-1983), James McNurlin (1983-86), Donald Wisniewski (1987-1991), Ron Nairn (1993-96), Gary Hoagland (1999-2000), John Steen (2001-2002), Bruce Silver (2003-04), Jim White (2005-2010), and Carol Connors (2011-2012).
Depoe Bay in the Movies
Some of the locals still remember when Sometimes a Great Notion was filmed in the area in 1970, and Hollywood great Paul Newman was a frequent visitor to a Depoe Bay restaurant. After that, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson was filmed in Depoe Bay in 1975. In 2008, a Depoe Bay restaurant was used as a set for several scenes in The Burning Plain starring Charlize Theron.
In 1983, Vaughn Taunton, Ray Osuna, and some volunteers started a salmon hatchery program. Salmon had scarcely been seen since the 1940s. In the early 1950s, slides covered the gravel beds where the salmon spawned, and the streams became practically barren. Taunton and Osuna were participants in STEP (the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program). They owned eight hatch boxes, which they placed at the water treatment plant. Each box could hold 15,000-25,000 eggs. The first year they released 52,000 coho salmon fry. The next two years they released coho salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. The allocation of eggs in 1985 was expected to be 120,000 coho. The fry were scooped into buckets and slipped into streams. Only Coho were released into Depoe Bay streams; Steelhead and Chinook were released in tributaries to the Siletz and Salmon Rivers. In 1984, a report of Taunton and Osuna’s endeavors was entered into the Congressional Record by Oregon Congressman Les AuCoin.
Taunton had strong feelings about the lack of restrictions for fishing on rivers and streams. He said:
Walking within a few feet of spawn beds will cause shock waves that can kill eggs close by. A chain reaction occurs in which eggs surrounding the dead eggs also die, and the infection spreads, causing the loss of many eggs. Fish are caught and then thrown back in a damaged state. These fish never spawn. A ‘black’ salmon, one which is either ready to spawn or else one which has just spawned, is not edible. Leave the fish alone and give them a chance to spawn! If you’re after conservation, close the streams for 60 days to allow escapement for coho and Chinook. At the end of this time, open the season to steelhead. Follow this program for four years and then review results.
One salmon, not able to make it upstream, was found dead on a rock. It was cut open and examined to see if it contained eggs. The fish was 25 inches long and weighed seven pounds. Its egg sac weighed one and one quarter pounds, and was estimated to contain 2,500 eggs. Multiply that by the number of fish in the rivers and streams that have been caught or damaged so they never spawn, and one can begin to realize the loss of future adult salmon, unless fishing during peak spawning periods is restricted.
Thanks to the work of these men, Depoe Bay now has a strong program in place to support the hatching and releasing of salmon into the wild.
Information researched and compiled by Emma LuMaye
Copyright © 2011-2014, City of Depoe Bay
Many thanks to these sources:
Lincoln County Historical Society archives & interview with Archivist Jodi Weeber
Email communication with Autumn DePoe
Niki Price, Oregon Coast TODAYl
Pery Murray, City Recorder
Records at Depoe Bay City Hall