Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, 6/17/2016

Located in the small coastal town of Cannon Beach is a small museum that has interesting exhibits about local town history. 

The museum displays are arranged chronologically beginning with information about the first humans who arrived 10,000 years ago from Mongolia. They settled here in Cannon Beach between Tillamook Head and Silety River and were known as the Tillamooks. They lived in small villages at the mouth of coastal creeks in houses build of cedar planks and peeled spruce roots. 

In the 1780s they were infected with smallpox and their numbers were reduced from about 1,000 to 200 by the mid-1800s. By the late 1800s, their villages no longer existed. The Lewis and Clark expedition first encountered the Tillamook in January of 1806. Learning of a beached whale at what is now Cannon Beach, a party of 12 hiked from Fort Clatsop to the Tillamook Headland hoping to obtain blubber and oil. Following is what Clark wrote in his diary of his arrival at the site.

A 105' skeleton of the whale was still on the beach. Clark purchased 300 pounds of blubber and several gallons of oil from the Tillamook...much needed supplies for his Corps of Discovery.

President Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the Corps of Discovery, provided Jefferson Peace Medals to Lewis and Clark to use in negotiations and trade with the Native Americans they encountered during their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean. The medals were also intended to be a symbol of peace and friendship. Here is a replica that is on display at the museum.

The earliest recorded settler to Cannon Beach, Robert Alexander, claimed 640 acres along Elk Creek in 1848. A railroad (operational during the summer) connected the nearby town of Seaside to Astoria and Portland by 1890. The road from Cannon Beach to Seaside was improved and became a toll road in 1891. Also in 1891, James Austin established a hotel and post office. He named the area Cannon Beach based on a story that a shipwreck (with a cannon aboard) was buried nearby. Austin searched his whole life, without success, to find the cannon. Ironically, in 1898 (four years after his death), it was discovered after a storm in the creek that ran in front of his house. Here's a photo of Austin's widow with the town's namesake cannon.

Because the waters off the Oregon Coast are so treacherous, it was obvious that a lighthouse was needed. Construction began on Tillamook Rock (located at sea one mile due west) in 1879. Injuries and death plagued the construction workers and those who tended it. Just nineteen days before the lighthouse was operational, a three-masted, British ship (Lupatia), was sighted heading for the rock. Although bonfires were built to warn the ship, it crashed into the rock sinking with no survivors. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse became known as "Terrible Tilly."

The Cannon Beach Hotel was built in 1904 from wood that washed ashore from a raft that broke up at sea. Tourists arrived by stagecoach (a full day's ride from Astoria). By 1910 the Cannon Beach Post Office was located at the hotel. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson stayed here during his visit to the Northwest. Also shown are original furnishings of the Warren Hotel built around the same time.

Native American villages were built at the mouth of streams and rivers along the coast. Longhouses were built of western red cedar and spruce root thongs that served as homes for extended families, work houses, and ceremonial buildings. Constantly burning fires were used to smoke seafood, cook, and provide heat. Clatsop-Nehalem tribes were participants in the creation of the exhibit at the museum.

Additional exhibits provide information about about more recent times.

There was also a special exhibit, Coastal Reflections, by artist, Mary Arnold, on display. Her works of art are consist of batiks, hand-dyed fabrics, and hand-painted fabrics. She is a well-know for her quilt work and has participated in many regional and national shows. We found her pieces to be quite beautiful. 

The museum is open 11 am to 5 pm, Wednesday to Monday. There is no admission fee although a $3 donation is suggested. We have come to love our visits to these small local museums. As history buffs, it is so interesting to learn about these towns. Each one has its own interesting story to tell. 

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