History Brings Books Alive

Three Book Reviews by Judy Fleagle

Lifting Oregon Out of the Mud

by Joe R. Blakely, Bear Creek Press, Wallowa, Oregon (541-886-9020; www.bearcreekpress.com), 2006,
65 pages, $15, softcover.

Lifitng Oregon out of hte Mud

With the introduction of cars in 1908, it was evident that the state needed better roads, especially along the coast where travelers bogged down in either mud or sand. The packed sand on beaches was used as the road between many towns.

Lifting Oregon Out of the Mud traces the development of the Oregon Coast Highway from the formation of a redesigned Oregon State Highway Commission in 1917 to when the last rivers were bridged in 1936. It took the efforts of six governors.

Through informative narrative and historic photos, Blakely portrays the incredible task of building 400 miles of road along rocky bluffs, over and through forested mountains, and across numerous ravines and rivers. When the I.L. Patterson Bridge across the Rogue River was completed in Gold Beach in 1932, the Oregon Coast Highway from the Columbia River to the California state line was open for business. Ferries, however, were still needed on five major rivers. The final chapter covers the amazing construction feat of building bridges across those five rivers in less than two years. At last, the highway that connected the coastal towns to each other and the rest of the state was completed.

Lifting Oregon Out of the Mud is available through the publisher, online (www.amazon.com), and at coastal bookstores.

Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain: A 1909 Journey to the Coast

by Lewis M. Head with photos by Benjamin A. Gifford, Bear Creek Press, Wallowa, Oregon (541-886-9020; bearcreekpress.com), 2005 (original version 1910), 28 pages, $11.95, softcover.


In 1909, Lewis Head, a writer, and Benjamin Gifford, one of Oregon's best-known photographers, hiked from Elk Creek north of Cannon Beach up and over Neah-kah-nie (1909 spelling) Mountain and down to the beach where Manzanita is today. Much of this overland route was only a footpath 18 inches wide.

The 2005 edition has been reprinted exactly as the 1910 original with the addition of a present-day map and a foreword by editor/publisher Mark Highberger. The author describes the mountain trails, mentions local history, and even includes the legend of the pirate treasure that is buried somewhere on the mountain. "In short," says Highberger, "the narrative makes for entertaining and nostalgic reading. Yet the book’s true value and most enduring quality are its photographs." They give us a glimpse into how the area looked a hundred years ago.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is its original purpose: It was intended as a lavish sales pitch from a real estate agency that promised, "Nothing in the world can prevent Neah-kah-nie Mountain from becoming the finest beach resort in the state of Oregon." Hmmmm!

Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain is available from the publisher and coastal bookstores.

Images of AmericaImages of America: Crescent City and Del Norte County

Del Norte County Historical Society, Arcata Publishing, San Francisco (www.arcadiapublishing.com), 2005, 128 pages, $19.99, softcover.

From the mid-1800s, when newly discovered gold in the Trinity Mountains drew hordes of prospectors to Northern California, to the relatively recent mid-1980s, the history of Crescent City and Del Norte County is chronicled primarily through historic photos from the Del Norte County Museum archives.

The histories of Crescent City, Smith River, and the Klamath/Requa area are brought to life through hundreds of photographs. A chapter is devoted to each city/area. Additional chapters cover the settlements built along the Smith River, logging the redwoods, and the later years, including modern improvements, natural disasters, and the area’s transition into a recreation destination.

The book was written by David Thornton Gray, museum volunteer and National Park Service retiree, on behalf of the Del Norte County Historical Society. Some of the most fascinating photos are of Crescent City's downtown before the destruction caused by the 1964 tsunami; the town of Klamath before it was totally destroyed by the 1964 flood; and giant redwoods being logged. One photo shows a logging crew of eight sitting on the undercut of a really huge tree!

Images of America: Crescent City and Del Norte County is available at area bookstores, from online retailers, and through Arcadia Publishing.

Oregon Coast November/December 2007

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