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Karl K. Nettgen
Karl K. Nettgen
Principal Broker

Century 21 Agate Realty
29642 S. Ellensburg Ave. P.O. Box 127
Gold Beach, Oregon 97444
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JPR Stories

 The AS IT WAS series is broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio (NPR) from Ashland, Oregon. The program producer is Raymond Scully.  Stories are read by Shirley Patton.  As It Was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

To learn more visit

Laurel Gerkman contributes monthly historical snippets about the Gold Beach area on a volunteer basis. Scroll down to read a few samples.....

Bounty Hunters Slaughter Oregon Sea Lions  
Friday May 8, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

For a quarter century, men along the southern Oregon coast made a living by turning offshore reefs between the Rogue River and Cape Blanco into profitable slaughterhouses.  The bounty stemmed from complaints of sea lions being destructive to the commercial salmon fishery.

In 1900, the Oregon Legislature responded by authorizing a $2.50 reward for each scalp. This raised to $5.00, then $10.00.  Sharpshooters made good money. Dynamite was also used. The crews of gasoline boats frequently killed 300 to 400 sea lions per month.

Most hunters only took the genitals from bull carcasses. The Chinese in San Francisco paid $6.00 a pound for the body parts to use in medicinal aphrodisiacs.

Fat was rendered in big kettles, and the hides dried to make harness leather. Whiskers brought a penny apiece as tobacco pipe cleaners or souvenirs.

In 1926, the bounty was reduced to 50 cents, dampening the lucrative work of extinction. Nine years later, the state halted commercial salmon fishing on the Rogue, but this action did not stop the carnage.

Hunting sea lions continued as a local sport for decades until the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 ended the slaughter.

Jumbo Frogs Escape the Frying Pan in Gold Beach, Ore.  
Thursday April 9, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

Ottis T. Ferguson liked frog legs. When he was still a boy in Oklahoma, his family caught and feasted on the tasty amphibians by the bucketful. So, in 1936, he decided to raise frogs on his ranch in Squaw Valley, near Gold Beach, Ore.

Ferguson dammed the headwaters of Cedar creek to form a half-acre pond and then constructed several pens.  He went to Seattle and bought three pairs of Jumbo African frogs. The largest measured 33 inches from nose to toe.

Within a year, thousands of frogs were growing.  It takes about three years for a frog to mature for the frying pan. Ferguson was getting ready for his first feast when he had to leave on a brief trip just as the rainy season started.

His son, Ollie, asked if he should monitor the spillway, in case the pond got too full.

Ferguson said, “Leave the spillway alone.”  Young Ollie always did what his father told him.

Heavy rains fell for several days. The dam burst and released all the frogs as Ollie stood on the bank and watched.

Jumbo-sized frogs showed up for years in lakes as far away as Bandon.

Chinese Miner Goes Home  
Tuesday May 12, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

In 1880, Chow Long lived alone on a secluded Rogue River mining claim near Agness, Ore.  The friendly Chinese miner had tidy habits.  He always wore clean clothes, usually denim overalls and a faded coat.  His one-room cabin was spotless and sparsely furnished with a bed in the corner, nailed to the wall, and straw for a mattress.

Chow Long mined a bit, enough to keep the assessment work done. His flower and vegetable gardens thrived under his diligent care.  Chow Long had several cats.  They were like family.

One day, neighbors discovered the old man dead and buried his body in front of the cabin.  Months later, visitors to the gravesite found it empty.

Chinese from San Francisco had exhumed the bones. It was their custom to retrieve the skeletal remains of fellow countrymen for delivery to Dead Houses where they were cleaned and placed in urns or tin boxes.  Each set was labeled and stored until enough had accumulated for a shipment back to the Flowery Kingdom of China for reburial.

Chow Long was the last Chinese miner documented as residing in the lower Rogue canyon. Folks gave the name China Bar to the location of his claim.

Gold Beach Entrepreneur Organizes Horse Races  
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

A wealthy Gold Beach, Ore., entrepreneur who owned several thoroughbred horses, Robert D. Hume, organized the first races of the Marchmont Jockey Club in 1907.

Hume was a showman, always striving to impress. He built his own racetrack, a half-mile course complete with grandstand and infield, and offered $1,000 in prizes.  The first races were successful enough to warrant a second meet in August of 1908.

Hume’s racing program promised the best horses in the state, making a trip to his Wedderburn ranch worth the journey.  Preparations commenced for six days of activities.  Crews set up camping tents for visitors, raked the baseball diamond and watered the racetrack into fine condition.

The unprecedented social event drew 500 people a day. One could find anything from blackberry pie and a bottle of beer to a $50-a-shot crap game.  Hume was in his element, playing squire to the hilt.  He died from complications of pneumonia in December, and the next year's races were canceled.

Today, the Curry County Historical Society often holds its annual picnic on the racetrack grounds.

Long Johns – Long Gone  
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

During the grain harvest of 1907, George Engleman met with a serious loss while working with a threshing crew near Gold Beach, Ore.

The labor was strenuous, and the September morning had turned warm and sultry. Engleman decided to take off his sweat-soaked long johns. After removing the garment, he hung it on the fence to air out in the fall breeze.

At day’s end, he returned to the spot, intending to clad himself in appropriate clothing to withstand the evening dew and dampness.

Engleman found only a naked fence and the family cow nearby. Upon closer examination, he noticed a rag hanging from the bovine’s mouth and quickly realized that what he once wore on the outside was now worn by the cow – inside.

Attempts to compel the critter to cough up the long johns proved impossible, and Engleman suspected that even if he could retrieve the once snug-fitting drawers, they probably wouldn’t fit him anymore.

Engleman soon got the shivers, went home and got in bed early.  It is said his cussing during the cool night was audible even by the neighbors.

Former Slave Earns Community Esteem  
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

Historian Kay Atwood, in her book titled “Illahe [ILL-uh-hee], The Story of the Rogue River Canyon,” wrote the following:  “When the dirt was smoothed over Bill Rumbley (in April 1921), the earth was enriched by a man whose fifty-year existence on the lower Rogue River brought grace to countless lives.”

Rumbley, born into slavery in Jefferson, Mo, as the son of a white father and black mother, stood an impressive six feet, two inches.  Rumbley endured the yoke of 11 masters before running away to California in 1850.  He followed the gold mining excitement to Klamath River and married an Indian woman.

In 1868, the family settled near Gold Beach, where a series of tragedies claimed the lives of his wife and two children.  He continued to mine, raise livestock and operate the ferry, ever ready to do more than his share of work. His generosity was unmatched; his storytelling admired.  Appointed justice of the peace, he officiated marriages and assisted the local physician with follow-up care to patients in the area.  The community obviously held the ex-slave in high esteem.

Atwood said, “The thread of his goodness runs through legal records, newspaper articles and memories of people who knew him.”

Sadie Lucas, Widow, Opens Hotel  
Monday, August 17, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

Marcellus and Sadie Lucas settled in the Agness area around 1903. The family raised  sheep and cattle and built a modest first cabin.  Their children worked and played hard, often wearing denim bib overalls with a single suspender slung over a shoulder.

When Sadie's husband came down with Addison's Disease, she realized that she would need to earn a living and raise their six children on her own.  Her husband suffered for many months prior to his death in 1911.  Faced with few options, the widow Lucas mustered funds and local support to build a hotel. The Rogue River was developing a reputation for its fishing, and Sadie counted on her home cooking and hospitality to attract customers.

The Lucas clan planted a large vegetable garden along with apple, pear and peach trees. In the summer, they picked blackberries by the bucket.   Lucas served meals family-style and fried chicken became her signature dish with sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, beans, pickled beets and homemade biscuits with jam. Dessert was fruit cobbler.

Nearly 100 years later, the original hotel still lodges guests and serves traditional chicken dinners.

And overalls hang reminiscent on the clothesline.

Wooden Cross Bears Witness to Frozen Trapper  
Friday, August 21, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

A mountain lion trapper named Alfred Hunziker [HUN-zih-kir] lived in the Packsaddle mountain district near Brookings, Ore., where he worked on several ranches, dabbled in mining and trapped during winters.  In February of 1933, he set out for supplies and did not return.

Hunziker and John Taggert shared a winter camp. When Hunziker didn't return to camp after 10 days, Taggart sought help to search for him.  Taggert found out that Hunziker left a neighbor’s ranch on the Winchuck River several days earlier, his horse loaded with gear and provisions.

Taggert followed the trail for several miles and came upon the pack. A half-mile further, he found the dead horse. A quarter-mile more, he came upon the body of Hunziker, face down in the snow.

Apparently, traveling through the deep snow was so hard on his horse that Hunziker abandoned the supplies, hoping to make it to camp. However, the tired animal collapsed and left him afoot.  Sixty-three-year-old Hunziker died from exposure.

Friends buried Hunziker’s body near where it was found.  Today's hikers on the Packsaddle trail still pass by a weathered wooden cross which bears the words “Alfred Hunziker – Froze to Death.”

Colorful Figure Starts Jet Boat Business on Rogue River  
Tuesday June 16, 2009

By Laurel Gerkman

A fishing guide by day, bouncer and bartender by night, “Spinner Bill” Cronenwett [crow-nen-wett]  became known as one of the most colorful figures along the Rogue River.  He is credited with establishing the first commercial whitewater boat trips to Paradise Lodge from Gold Beach, Ore.

Cronenwett arrived in the area in 1949, seeking employment as a log truck driver. He became a river guide and worked at night as a bartender.  Later, he sold cars, went into landscaping, and then into real estate.  Meanwhile, “Spinner Bill” devised a popular-selling fishing spinner that earned him his nickname.

While gold mining in the Rogue River Canyon, he stopped at Paradise Lodge, which visitors accessed by trail, air or downriver boat. Upriver navigation was too risky.  The daredevil in Bill had an idea.  He built a boat with a jet propulsion engine and organized a dynamite crew to blast a safer channel through the dangerous rapids.  Dodging natural hazards and fervent opposition, Cronenwett finally got his permits and welcomed paying passengers aboard in 1962.

Decades later, jet boats still navigate the Rogue and a Gold Beach restaurant is named after “Spinner Bill,” the man who carved his legend with dynamite.

Lone Ranch Borax Mine  
Wednesday May 6, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

What began as a borax mine may end up as part of the Southwest Oregon Community College campus and housing development.

In 1857, John Creswell first noticed the outcroppings of a white, chalky substance along Lone Ranch Creek, at his ranch north of Brookings.  Housewives in the area found the peculiar stuff excellent for polishing silver.  Boat builders and carpenters used it as a substitute for chalk for marking measurements.

The California Academy of Science in San Francisco identified it as priceite (price-site), a borate of lime.  In 1890, the Pacific Coast Borax Company acquired ownership of the 1,056-acre property. A mine was developed and shipments sent to the company’s refinery in California.  Miners gleaned $23.00 per ton of ore, a good return. Subsequent rivalries erupted in random bouts of gunfire.

But mining proved difficult and dangerous due to the slippery nature of serpentine rock in which the nodules were found. Within two years, after removing only 1,000 tons, operations ceased.

Decades later, Borax Consolidated Limited donated the oceanfront portion of its Lone Ranch holdings to Samuel H. Boardman State Park. The remaining acreage is slated for the community college campus and housing development.

Green Sturgeon Springs Surprise   
Wednesday June 10, 2009
By Laurel Gerkman

The green sturgeon is usually an elusive creature, but one summer evening in 1968 passengers aboard a Mail Boat on the Rogue River got a very close look.

Young sturgeons thrive in deep pools of large, turbulent freshwater rivers and return from ocean waters to spawn.  An adult sturgeon has a bony backbone and shark-like tail, and can live 70 years, reach a length of 7 feet, and weigh up to 350 pounds.

Piloting his boat at dusk through Copper Canyon on the Rogue, Gary Combs idled down because, as he said, “it’s so pretty and folks can take pictures.”

Abruptly, a tremendous splash and a loud thump shattered the serenity.

Combs recalls, “water was everywhere and the windshield broke. A huge sturgeon was flopping on the bow and began to slide off into the river. I’ve seen ‘em jump up out of the water before. Well, he sure did, and landed right across the boat.”

One lady in the front seat screamed and scrambled over the back of her seat. With a chuckle, Combs said, “I imagine that big ol’ fish looked like a monster to her. They’re strange looking things. That’s the first time it’s happened and probably the last.”

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Karl K. Nettgen | 541-698-8171 | Contact Us
29642 S. Ellensburg Ave. - Gold Beach, OR 97444
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