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Hollering Place, Coos Bay

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Historical Background for the Hollering Place,
Coos Bay, Oregon

By Frank Walsh

Note: A project of the Concerned Citizens of Empire committee, the Hollering Place is located at the intersection of Newmark Avenue and Empire Boulevard and extends west from a bluff overlooking the bay to the waterfront. The committee wants to revitalize downtown Empire by helping to create at the site a wayside, an interpretive center, retail stores and waterfront structures for recreation and events. Frank Walsh, a member of the Concerned Citizens, is a retired teacher who began his teaching career at Empire Junior High (1950-1953). He and his wife, Maxine, now live in Empire.

The Hollering Place in the Empire district of Coos Bay should attract visitors and residents alike because it is at the very center of our early history.

The Coos Indians lived for centuries in three villages on the bay at Empire. In 1852, the natives traded with their new neighbors, shipwrecked soldiers and crewmen living in a temporary settlement of tents (Camp Castaway) across the bay on North Spit. Early on the morning of January 3, the captain of the transport schooner, Captain Lincoln, was forced to beach his leaking vessel on the spit during a raging storm. Everyone survived and with the help of Indians, the men salvaged most of the cargo.(2) After four months living in the dunes, the survivors left the area. Pvts. Henry Baldwin and Phillip Brack returned later and settled in Coos County.(3)

The lives of the Coos Indians changed forever during the summer of 1853 when settlers from Jacksonville founded Empire City. Soon Coos County was created and Empire City became the county seat. (4)

The first courthouse, a split-board shack, was torn down in 1875 and replaced at another site with a handsome building costing $4,000. It was located on the bluff across the road (Newmark) from the Hollering Place. (5)

Earlier at the same site as the new courthouse, Capt. William Harris and his volunteers build a substantial log fort during the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-56. For several weeks after the lower Rogues attacked Gold Beach, women and children at Empire City stayed every night in the fort. Eventually Capt. Harris and his men abandoned the fort, realizing that the peaceful Coos Indians wouldn t attack the town. (6)

Teaching only five students in a log shack, Esther Lockhart started the first school in Coos County during the fall of 1854 at Empire City. Her husband, Freeman, became the first county school superintendent. George Stauff built a two-story, four-room school in 1866. (7)

This school burned down shortly after midnight on May 8, 1919, and was replaced at the same site by the Empire Grade School - later named Market Street School and Empire Junior High. (8) These early schools (except Mrs. Lockhart s) were located a short distance east of the Hollering Place on land now used by School District 9C for parking and maintaining its buses.

Empire City in 1880

Empire City in 1880 was a thriving town of 600 people and was the port of entry for numerous ships. With David Bushing as the first collector, the government opened a customhouse in 1873. The Henry H. Luse sawmill, shipyard and store, which were just north of the Hollering Place, dominated the economy of the town. Native Americans, many of whom worked for Luse, lived on the beach while the white people lived on a wide marine terrace 50 to 60 feet above the bay. The business district (Empire City's first downtown ) was below on tideland. The white clapboard buildings were on wharves only a few feet above high tide. (9)

Empire ( City was dropped in 1894) went into a steep decline during the latter part of the 19th century. Luse sold his holdings in 1883 to the Oregon Southern Improvement Co., which built a huge sawmill in 1885 at the same site. However, the new owner and its successor, Southern Oregon Co., operated the big mill intermittently over the years, finally shutting it down permanently in 1893. People left Empire for jobs in the mills, coal mines and shipyards on the upper bay. Instead of going to Empire, shoppers traded at the Simpson Lumber Company Store in Old Town (now part of North Bend) and at stores in Marshfield (later renamed Coos Bay). (10) Finally, Coquille replaced Empire as the county seat in 1896. The population of Empire dropped from 252 in 1890 to 147 in 1910. By 1951, however, the city had recovered and the population was around 2,200. The Cape Arago Lumber Co. in Empire, along with the pulp mill and sawmill south of town were operating at full production. (11)

Today there s very little left of old Empire except for several old dwellings including three beautifully restored Victorian houses that are near the Hollering Place. The Major Morton Tower House (486 Schetter Ave.) was first built in 1869 as a three-room house and then completed in 1892 with a large addition. The four-bedroom house is a restrained example of Eastern Stick style. Present owners Alden and Cynthia Miller have lived in the house over 25 years. In 1872, Dr. Charles W. Tower, Maj. Morton Tower's brother, built the Old Tower House (476 Newmark Ave.). An excellent example of Gothic Revival style, the six-bedroom house is now a bed and breakfast owned and operated by Tom and Stephanie Kramer. Both Tower houses are on the National Register of Historic Places. Capt. James Magee, a master bar pilot, built the Capt. James Magee House (155 S. Mill St.) in 1873. Except for a bay window added in front in the 1920s and a concrete foundation built in 2002, the house has been altered only slightly over the years. The house still has a coke-burning fireplace in the parlor. Tom and Mary Greaves own and live in the four-bedroom house along with their children, Garrett and Brier.

In 1952, Emil Peterson and Alfred Powers in their history, A Century of Coos and Curry, predicted for Empire: This oldest of all Coos County cities is rising out of its old lethargy and gives promise of a come-back to reclaim its place among the leading centers of Coos County. With the Hollering Place, their prediction for Empire, now a vital district in the City of Coos Bay, could come true. (13)

The Hollering Place, or Ellekatitch as the Coos Indians called it, was actually on the North Spit directly across the bay from their three villages at present Empire. People traveling south along the beach route would holler over to the villages for someone to paddle over and provide passage. Later white settlers adopted the same practice. (14)


  1. (1) Lionel Yost, She s Tricky Like Coyote: Annie Miner Peterson, An Oregon Coast Woman (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 4, 11.
  2. (2) Nathan Douthit, A Guide to Oregon South Coast History: Traveling the Jedediah Smith Trail (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999), 133-135;
    Joe [Curt] Beckham, Shipwrecked Soldiers, The West (Oct. 1969), 34-35, 66-67.
  3. (3) Emil Peterson and Alfred Powers, A Century of Coos and Curry Counties (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1952), 262-263, 517; Myrtle Point Enterprise, Mar. 3, 1911; Beckham, Shipwrecked Soldiers, 34-35, 66-67.
  4. (4) Peterson and Powers, Century of Coos and Curry Counties, 45-48, 98-99.
  5. (5) Coos County Courthouse: 100 Years (1896-1996), Coquille Valley Sentinel, 1996 Supplement, 28; Stephen Dow Beckham, Coos Bay: The Pioneer Period, 1851-1890 (Coos Bay, Ore.: Arago Books, 1973), 13; Agnes Ruth Sengstacken, Destination, West! (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1942, 1972), 143.
  6. (6) E.R. Jackson, ed., After the Covered Wagon: Recollections of Russell C. and Ellis S. Dement, Oregon Historical Quarterly 63 (Mar. 1962), 20-21; Orvil Dodge, Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, Ore. (Salem: Pioneer and Historical Association of Coos County, 1898), 136; Sengstacken, Destination, West! 147-148.
  7. (7) Peterson and Powers, Century of Coos and Curry Counties, 213, 223; Sengstacken, Destination, West! 143; William T. McLean, An Historical Sketch of Coos Bay, manuscript, 1966, Coos Bay Public Library Archive, 6; Coos Bay Times, May 8, 1919.
  8. (8) The Trojan, yearbooks of Empire Junior High, 1952 and 1953, in possession of Frank Walsh.
  9. (9) Yost, She s Tricky Like Coyote, 109-110. The population of Empire City was around 30 in 1860. See Dodge, Pioneer History of Coos and Curry Counties, 396; Stephen Dow
    Beckham, Coos Bay North Spit: Historical Investigations of Federal Activities in Coastal Oregon (North Bend, Ore.: Bureau of Land Management, 2000), 6. Henry Luse built the sawmill in 1856 and his adjacent shipyard in 1867. See Beckham, Coos Bay, 31-33.
  10. (10) Beckham, Coos Bay, 44, 59; Douthit, Guide to Oregon South Coast History, 137.
  11. (11) Cape Arago Lumber Co. bought the Big Mill in 1942. By 1951, Scott Paper Co. owned the pulp mill and Coos Head Timber Co. owned the nearby sawmill. See Peterson and Powers, Century of Coos and Curry Counties, 99, 137. See also Douthit, Guide to Oregon South Coast History, 137.
  12. (12) Major Morton Tower was a Union officer from Massachusetts during the Civil War. He and his family came to Empire in 1872. His house was built by his brother, Dr. Charles W. Tower, who used the house himself for three years (1869-72). The house was located where the Old Tower House is today. Eventually the Maj. Morton Tower House was moved one block north to its present location where Maj. Morton had a two-story addition built in 1892. For his house and the Old Tower House see Nomination Forms for the National Register of Historic Places Inventory, 1984, 1985. Our thanks to Christine Curran, Heritage Programs Manager, State Historic Preservation Office, Salem, for providing copies of the nomination forms; for the Capt.James Magee House: interview with Tom Greaves, June 11, 2006; Empire Builder, Mar. 24, 1955.
  13. (13) Peterson and Powers, Century of Coos and Curry Counties, 99.
  14. (14) Sengstacken, Destination, West! 115; Youst, She s Tricky Like Coyote, 10-11; interview with Don Whereat, Aug. 7, 2006, for the Indian name of the Hollering Place. Don, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, was their historian.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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