Sharksville, Oregon, or a place to stay dry

Name: Sharksville, Oregon
Class: A8
GPS:
46.179546, -123.906167 (approximate)

Directions: Located at what is now Astoria’s docks near Pier 3.

Description:

Sharksville was named after the USS Shark, one of many ships that sunk at the Columbia River Bar. Part of the wreck, with three cannons attached, floated down the coast and gave Cannon Beach it’s name.

Sharksville, Oregon

The United States Navy Schooner, USS Shark was dispatched to Honolulu Hawaii on April 1st 1846 for repairs and preparation to travel to the Coast of the Pacific Northwest. It’s mission was to map the mouth of the Columbia River, explore the Columbia River area further, show the American Flag to ascertain the attitudes of settlers along the Willamette River, and if necessary, provide arms to American Settlers in the area. She was ordered to return early September of that year.

Under command of Lt. Neil M. Howison, a promising young Naval Officer who had been given command of the already famous ship by his command officer. They arrived at the Columbia River on July 15th, 1846 and were able to successfully pass over the bar on July 18th, despite a minor grounding that seemed to have caused no damage.

She unexpectedly arrived six days later at Fort Vancouver, surprising the Hudson Bay Company who had not expected the visit, and the officers of the HMS Modeste which had been dispatched by the British just in case a war with the United States over the Oregon Country broke out. Along with the Modeste, the HBC had three vessels docked at Fort Vancouver.

Lt. Howison, no doubt in an effort to not spark a war during fragile peace talks, encouraged American Citizens in the area to await a peaceful resolution to the question of who the Oregon Country belonged too. This put him in the good graces of all involved, from settlers and local Newspapers, to the officers of the Hudson Bay Company and the Officers of the HMS Modeste.

He explored the area, met Provisional Governor George Abernethy, and spent a significant amount of time in the Willamette and Tualatin Valleys documenting agricultural, political, nautical and mercantile information. He sent his officers to gather information also, while much of the crew and the Shark stayed at Fort Vancouver.

During their visit, everyone seemed to be on cordial terms. The HMS Modeste helped unground the USS Shark when she found some shoals at the mouth of the Willamette River. The crews helped put out a fire at the Fort, and games were organized and participated in by all involved.

But not all was rosy, US Naval Regulations confined sailors to the ship. But the lure of good wages and land made at least four desert the ship. One of the earliest printed pamphlets in the Oregon Country was an advertisement of reward for their return.

The USS Shark left Fort Vancouver on August 23, 1846. Lt. Howison was apprehensive as though as another American Ship had hired the only pilot, a Native, a few days before. This ship, the Toulon, was found to be grounded itself just below Fort Vancouver. The USS Shark spent three days helping it get off the bar.

Finally, they arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River on September 8th. Despite his reservations, he attempted to cross the bar on September 10th. Almost immediately the tide forced the ship towards the breakers and the sand bars. Despite his best efforts the ship hit the bar and began to break up in the tide.

The first boat away was lost, along with the ships gold and it’s papers as the crew tried to abandon ship. Luckily all were saved due to ropes dangled overboard. They managed to wait out the tide and were able to successfully abandon ship the next morning, with no crew lost. They found shelter in a small shack that had been built by members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition forty years later, and firewood was gathered from the Sloop of War, USN Peacock that had wrecked there earlier.

Over the next several weeks, the crew built a larger house on Point George while Lt. Howison attempted to charter another ship. The two buildings were dubbed “Sharksville” by the crew. He and the crew also further explored the area and were furnished with supplies by the Hudson Bay Company. They also worked to scavenge anything they could from the wreck of the Shark.

Native Americans reported that a portion of the hull had grounded south of Tillamook Head. Howison sent Midshipman Simes to visit, but he found that two of the guns were inaccessible. He did manage to get the third one above the high water line but the weight was such that it was not worth dragging over the mountains between what is now Cannon Beach and Astoria.

Two more crew members deserted, but the Toulon returned in October. This time with news that the boundary question had been settled at the forty-ninth parallel. Lt. Howison was able to secure passage on a schooner owned by the Hudson Bay Company, the Cadboro, in November 1846.

In all, members of the crew spent ten months here before being rescued by another naval vessel.

Bibliography;
Oregon History Quarterly Vol 109, No. 4

Astoria-Megler Ferry Pictures and History

The Astoria-Megler Ferry ran near the mouth of the Columbia River between the towns of (now non-existent) McGowan Washington, and Astoria Oregon. It ran from 1921 until the opening of the Astoria-Megler Bridge on August 27, 1966. Until the paved highway between Astoria and Portland was completed in 1916, access to the Long Beach peninsula was only achieved via sternwheelers docking at Illwaco Washington.

Astoria Megler Ferry

Vintage photo from 1962 of one of the ferries

When the business for the sternwheelers died out, Captain Fritz S. Elfving saw a need to provide ferry passenger and cargo service to the north side of the river. He incorporated the Astoria-McGowan Ferry Company in April 1921 and raised $30,000 in capital. He then had the diesel motor ferry, Tourist, built in Astoria.

Astoria-Megler Ferry

Remains of the Megler Ferry Landing

Business between the two points was so popular that he built a second ferry, the Tourist II which was launched in 1924. By 1926, the ferry business had taken so much business from the Union Pacific Railroad that they started their own competing ferry business. The Union Pacific’s North Beach made it’s first run on July 6, 1927 between Astoria and Megler. The two ferries competed for three years, but the Union Pacific lost money so they sold to one of their employees, Captain Calvin E. Stewart.

Despite his best attempts, including purchasing all the land around Elfving’s Astoria docks and installing pilings to keep the ferry from docking, Stewart sold out to Elfving in 1932. Elfving closed the McGowan docks and started using the Megler dock which was apparently a better location. He ran the ferry business until his retirement in 1946, when the Oregon State Highway Department purchased the ferry. They added another ferry in 1948, the M.R. Chessman. And the Kitsap in 1962. All four ferries ran the route until construction of the Astoria-Kegler Bridge made the ferry service obsolete.

Megler Ferry Landing

Astoria-Megler Ferry

The bridge that put the ferry out of business

Bridgehunter.com has a great piece about what happened all to all the ferries.

The Goonies of Astoria Oregon – Filming Locations

The Goonies of Astoria Oregon – Filming Locations

In 1985 the most culturally significant movie of my generation came out. Weirdly titled “The Goonies,” the movie was filmed in and around lovely Astoria Oregon and had a profound effect on imaginative children across the United States. It also contains some great lines that can be invoked at opportune moments, perhaps in a board meeting where the proper answer to “Mr. Smith, can you make this happen?” is “Goonies never say die. Sir.”

The movie plot is straight forward enough. The opening scene is an escape from the local county jail that becomes a police chase where both cars of the Astoria City Police Department participate. The bad guys get away by jumping on the beach and getting loss in a four wheeler race. One of the characters sees the chase and runs to tell it to his “friends,” The Goonies.

The Goonies House

The Goonies House

We get to their house and have a few memorable scenes. Including the Truffle Shuffle, Data’s Zip Line entrance from the house next door, and the broken penis off “Mom’s favorite statue,” (a small replica of Michelangelo’s “David.” That was some risqué humor in 1985 and I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t approve of it.

Data's House - from the Goonies

Data’s House – from the Goonies

Through the magic of plot advancement and foreshadowing we find the entire town, (Astoria is actually mentioned in the film,) or maybe just the “goondocks” is getting purchased by a rich real estate developer. The character’s houses are all getting torn down “tomorrow” to make way for a country club. Because I think County Club when I think Astoria.

But let’s be frank, in 1985 Astoria probably should have been torn down. It was only the timely intervention of an arsonist who methodically burned down almost all of the old cannery buildings along the waterfront that really saved the town and allowed it to morph into the tourist destination it is today. A country club would probably have been an improvement in 1985.

So, the father of two of our main characters is the head curator at the local museum. Luckily a real museum was available to stand in for this important role in the form of the Flavel House Museum.

Flavel House Museum

The Flavel House built by Captain George Flavel in 1886. Now a museum.

For some reason, likely because not only is he the head curator of the museum, he was the only employee, he has a bunch of artifacts stashed in their attic. Never mind the fact that the Flavel House is a huge two (and a half) story Queen Anne style Victorian house of 11,600 square feet. With an unattached carriage house that is roughly the same size as The Goonies’ House. They were obviously hurting for storage space in the museum, likely because of the cannons stored there.

So the kids find a map to the “buried” treasure of One Eye Willy, a thinly disguised nod towards local-ish legends about buried treasure at Neahkahnie Mountain. They track down the location to the treasure, plausibly buried in an old lighthouse now restaurant about forty miles away. That’s 40 miles in the real world, in the movie world it was only one scene.

In a building that is about typical for Oregon Coast construction in 1985, they find a way into the basement and a hidden passage in the fireplace to start following the clues on the map. There are a few “Home Alone” moments with clever traps set by the Pirate One-Eyed Willie, and more with the clever thinking of Data and his “James Bond” gadgets.

They eventually get to the end, find the pirate ship loaded with jewels, gems, gold coins, an anatomically impossible “One-eyed Willie” skeleton, have a fight with the bad guys, get robbed, get thrown off the ship into a pool of water, and barely escape a cave in. Yeah, the ship was in a cave. Just… go with it. They get found by the police, the maid finds one of the kids was not robbed, his marble bag (seriously who played marbles in 1985?) is full of the same type of gems you can get for $5.99 per a bag at any National Park in the United States. The museum curator heroically tells the real estate developer to shove it because they can pay off their bills now. Which tells you something about inflation, or the state of the town – it was worth $5.99 in 1985.

Thirty years later, this movie is still one of the biggest events in Astoria History. Forget about Lewis and Clark staying nearby in 1805-1806. Or the location very closely becoming a catalyst for war between the United States and Great Britain. Or that time when an advanced prototype military robot gained sentience and became self aware.

Directions:

The Goonies house is not actually where you think it is. It’s up on a hill, and has a pretty dang nice view that is only alluded to in the movie.

Astoria, Oregon - Home of the Goonies

Head east out of town. When you get to the Safeway turn right. You’ll see the school where Arnold Swartznegger had a tumor, take a left there, then another left after to get around the school. Then take a right and head straight up. When you can’t go any further you’ll see The Goonies sign just to your left.

Goonies Private Drive

Goonies Private Drive

Park here, but don’t block any drives ways! And walk up to the house as quietly and respectfully as such a shrine to childhood fantasies should be treated.

The County Jail and Flavel House Museum (441 8th St, Astoria, OR 97103) are next to each other. Other film locations, including the abandoned restaurant, and the beach scenes were at Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach.

Uniontown Oregon (Clatsop County)

Name: Uniontown
Class: F2
GPS: 46.190010, -123.848178
Directions: From Astoria Oregon, head west along Marine Drive. Uniontown is located in the shadows of the Astoria-Megler Bridge

Description:
In the 1880’s Astoria and pretty much the entire Columbia River was known for one thing, salmon canneries. Canned Salmon caught by Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian fisherman was brought into the canneries to be processed by Japanese and Chinese immigrants before it was shipped world wide.

One of these companies was the Union Packing Company who built a cannery near Bond street. [zotpressInText item=”WNP8V6D6″ format=”%num%”] The company was not very successful, so the real estate owned by the company was platted into lots and deeded to the company’s stockholders. This area was called Uniontown, but was known unofficially as Finntown due to the number of Finnish fishermen who lived here. The town spread to encompass Astoria’s western end, before being totally absorbed by Astoria.

Bibliography:

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Astoria Column, Beacon of History

Astoria Column, Beacon of History

Astoria Column, Beacon of HistoryAstoria Column, Beacon of HistoryAstoria Column, Beacon of History

One of Astoria’s most unique tourist features is the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 to commemorate important historical events around Oregon, it sits on top of a hill at a unique vantage point that encompasses beautiful mountains to the south, the mighty Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Columbia River, City of Astoria, and the inspiring Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Astoria Column, Beacon of History

In addition, there is a bit of education here too.
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