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Brookings - Harbor Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 940
Brookings, OR 97415
(541) 469-3181
(800) 535-9469
Fax: (541) 469-4094
Email: chamber@wave.net
The Brookings-Harbor area remained the province of Native Americans up until 1853 when a small group of white men settled the Chetco River Valley. Anglos actually explored the valley as early as the late 16th century, but the "Cheti," the Native Americans who originally inhabited the land, were basically left alone in those days. They peacefully harvested roots, berries, and acorns from the land and clams, mussels, sea lions, and salmon from the ocean and river. When the white man chose to drive the Native Americans away in the 1850's, he also chose to rename them.
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At that time, the Cheti became known as the Chetco, and the river that sustained them for so many years was dubbed the Chetco River. In 1856, just three years after the white man arrived to stay, the Chetco were unceremoniously ushered to the Siletz Indian Reservation near Newport. Meanwhile, the settlers went to work turning Chetco Harbor into a major port of call along the Pacific coast. Thanks to kind weather, fertile soil, and abundant timber, the settlers endured relatively few hardships.

During the 1870's and 1880's, travelers and merchandise going between Chetco and Grants Pass went via Crescent City in horse-drawn stage coaches and wagons on a one-land dirt road. When two vehicles met on the road, one or the other had to back up a distance to let the other pass. These prosperous pioneers did not structure an actual town until 1891 when The Chetco Land and Townsite Company founded the town of Harbor. Until then, the area consisted of nothing more than a loose assemblage of stores, hotels, farms, and ranches. It wouldn't take long, though, before the population began to grow exponentially. In 1904 the County established a ferry across the Chetco at a point about one fourth of a mile above the E. L. Miller home at the mouth of Ferry Creek. The ferry was discontinued in 1915 when a bridge spanning the river was built.

With timber having emerged as one of the region's primary economic staples, the Brookings Timber and Lumber Company went to work and eventually turned the area known as "Brookings" into a major lumber-producing town. In 1921 the Company started construction of a long railroad bridge over the mouth of the Chetco River so that the redwood logs could be hauled from the logging camps in California to the mill in Brookings. The C&O company quit operation in 1925 and this bridge burned in the 1930's. Only one pier is left standing reminding us of the booming logging days of the early 1920's.

The early settlers fished often and extensively, at first for their own food, then also for commercial shipment to California markets. The Van Pelt family were among the early commercial fishermen of the area. Ocean-going commercial fishing boats range in length 20 feet up to average approximately 60 feet. During 1973-76, 2,255,000 pounds of salmon, 5,903,000 pounds of steelhead, 2,496,000 pounds of crab and 2,717,000 pounds of shrimp were unloaded at the Port of Brookings.

Since the Chetco bar is usually smooth, private boats 14-feet in length or longer are often used for salmon fishing, bottom fishing, and some crab fishing. Salmon and bottom fishing is generally done from May through October. During the winter months, crab is sought.

The significance of mining in the Brookings-Harbor area speaks more to the future than what it may have produced in the past. Up the headwaters of the Chetco River some gold was found. The original discoverer was Chester (Chess) Bravo, who took out $18,000 worth of gold from one pocket. Very little else was found but the rumors of gold strikes abound.

In September of 1942, a small Japanese plane dropped a bomb just north of the Brookings Harbor area. Mr. Nobuo Fujita, the pilot whose plane was launched from an offshore submarine, had been advised that the bomb would create a panic that would tap American resources the same as the Oregon coastal fires had during the 1930's. As it turned out, the fires created by Fujita were extinguished rather quickly, but he still remains notorious for representing the only foreign power to have dropped a bomb on the continental United States during World War II.

Since dropping the bomb, Fujita has several times returned to the area as a mission of peace and friendship. In fact, in 1962, he donated his cherished samurai sword to the city. And on the 50th anniversary of the bombing in 1992, Fujita planted a symbolic redwood on the exact spot where the bomb landed. The bombing was further commemorated in 1994 with an on-site historical marker.
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