Brookings - Harbor Chamber of
P.O. Box 940
Brookings, OR 97415
Fax: (541) 469-4094
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.
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.
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
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.