Gone and Mostly Forgotten

Jan 3, 2012 | 10 comments

From “Clamshell Railroad” by Thomas E. Jessett

     Every once in awhile I run across a bit of historic information that seems absolutely astounding.  A recent case in point concerns towns on the Long Beach Peninsula in 1895 mentioned in “Reminiscences of a Newspaper Man,” written by John W. Phillips for the Raymond Herald in 1920:
     Thirty-five years ago, we boarded the steamer at Portland, bound for a trip down the Columbia river to Astoria, our final destination being Oysterville where we had accepted a position as foreman, typesetter, job man and general printer on the Pacific Journal.  It was a beautiful moonlight night and the trip was much enjoyed.  The fare being only 50 cents, we thought then, and do now, that it was the cheapest transportation we had ever taken, but found out afterwards it was from the fact that the steamboat companies were engaged in a rate war.  We arrived at Astoria in due time, and then went on board the GENERAL CANBY, a small steamer plying between Astoria and Ilwaco.  Captain Thomas Parker was in command and, we believe, is still on the route excepting that the boat, or its successor, plies between Astoria and Megler.
     Ilwaco was at that time the largest and principal town of the county.  There were several other so-called towns, consisting of a post office and a general store, among these being Sunshine, Bay Center, South Bend and Willapa.  Natural advantages had given Ilwaco the lead, it being the gateway to the beautiful peninsula, known as Long Beach, reaching from Ilwaco on Bakers Bay to Oysterville, a stretch of 20 miles.  For about four miles from Ilwaco were numerous summer residences, the owners of each plat giving it a name, so that between Ilwaco and Oysterville there were at one time over 32 towns by name.
     What caught my eye was Mr. Phillips’ mention of thirty-two towns.  Thirty-two!  Absolutely astounding!  I read the rest of the article with interest, hoping that he would name those long-forgotten “towns,” but he did not.
     My curiosity led me to Raymond Feagans’ The Railroad That Ran By The Tide to do some double-checking.  I know that in the days of the narrow gauge railroad (1889-1930) there were a number of “stops” along the line, but thirty-two?
     Ilwaco, Holman Station, Seaview, Long Beach, Tioga, Pacific Park, Cranberry Station, Oceanside, Loomis Station, Ocean Park, Nahcotta were listed in the reproduction of an 1896 advertisement.  Still, that’s only eleven.  Just a fraction over a third of the thirty-two Phillips alludes to.
     On a 1905 Train Schedule, a stop at the Breakers is included and I have a photograph showing the waiting station at the Shelburne.  So that makes thirteen.  Klipsan is noted on a railroad map from the early 1900s.  Fourteen.  And that’s as far as I could get.
     I do know that the quirky little train would stop almost anywhere along its route so that the passengers and crew could hunt ducks in season or take a look at a ship that had wrecked on the beach.  And many are the stories of the engineer stopping to pick up a tired family walking alongside the tracks.  So, I have no doubt that there might have been thirty-two possible stops along the route, all with names.  I doubt that they were really “towns” as Mr. Phillips claimed.  But, what were their names?  I’m keeping an eye out for more information.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Fascinating, Sydney! It sounds as if the train ran in much the same manner as the Pacific Transit does. It, too, stops wherever someone flags them down. How I wish the railroad still ran!

  2. Tom

    Some possibilities towards your 32: Very near Nahcotta was Sealand just to the north. There was a place called Pioneer between Portland Tracts, and the Breakers, all of which probably had a train stop. New Saratoga near Skating Lake. Some were just real estate dreams…I imagine most of the missing “towns” are like these. Great blog by the way. I found it reading because I’m reading Oysterville and thought I’d hunt around; and because of an interest in Washington history. My mom lives in Willapa and I live in Seattle. Tom.

    • sydney

      Yes, I had forgotten about New Saratoga, though if it was near Skating Lake it wasn’t near the rail line. And, I certainly should have thought of Pioneer! I’ve never before heard of Portland Tracts — thanks! I doubt that Sealand was among the towns Mr. Phillips counted. It only lasted a short time after John Peter Paul platted Nahcotta and offered it to Loomis as the terminus for the railroad. But… if we counted it, we’d be up to 15 or 16! Whoo Hoo!

  3. Tom

    In addition to the names already listed, Lewis R. Williams mentions in Chinook By the Sea, a station between Sea View and Long Beach he calls “Beach Center.” (p 131)

    I read that “New Saratoga, overlooking Skating Lake, was to be a residential / resort addition to Oysterville and the actual terminal site” [of the Ilwaco RR.] (Sou’wester XXIV, 48) Like Sealand, hopes were dashed by the Nahcotta choice.

    After some more digging around in the place names issue, I found that:

    “A post office was established at Nahcotta October 16, 1889. About the same time, another town called Sealand was platted on the north border of Nahcotta. Sealand was the creation of B. A. Seaborg, a railroad stockholder, who lobbied to have Sealand named the official terminus of the railroad. Seaborg convinced the post office department to move their Nahcotta office across the railroad tracks to Sealand on April 3, 1890, and put Sealand on the November 1892 ballot as one of the choices for a new county seat, but Loomis and friends were the winners in the terminus sweepstakes, and South Bend won the courthouse. The post office was moved back to Nahcotta on February 1, 1894.” (Sou’wester XXIV, 45) In your July 7, 2011 “The Man Who Bought a Town,” blog entry, Sealand was sold on January 4, 1901. So Seaborg had it about 10-11 years.

    So with your original 14, I’d nominate for consideration, from the South: Beach Center, Portland Tracts, Pioneer, Breakers, Sealand, and New Saratoga as possibilities of Phillips’ 32 towns between Ilwaco and Oysterville around 1895.

    Around the Pacific County Historical Society and the area, do you ever see folks with back issues of the Sou’wester? I see them for sale used occasionally on the internet. I could spend the rest of the winter on the coast doing research about where all these towns and stops might be shoe-horned in…but work calls!
    All the best, Tom.

    • sydney

      The Pacific County Historical Society has duplicate copies of many Sou’wester issues for sale. Otherwise, I have no idea. Sorry.

  4. Kathy K P

    I would love a copy of this article. John W. Phillips of the Ilwaco Pacific Journal was my great grandfather. 🙂

    • sydney

      Kathy, I’ll try to locate it for you.

  5. John McCulloch

    On your towns search for the IR&N, I’ve come across an unused postcard that someone has pencil dated as August 13, 1938. It shows what I believe to be the coastline just south of Brisco Lake … and there’s a station there! I’d guess it’s at 113th street.

    That’s too far south to be Cranberry, too far north to be Breakers. The Klipsan Life Boat Station is about 225th. Perhaps the larger buildings shown would be a good clue.

    There’s a two story, large central block with two side ‘wings’ where the roof is lowered. Flat front and sides. on the beach end it has 4 windows in the large and two each on the ‘wings’
    south of it there’s a “U” shaped building with a smaller building at the ‘top’ and inland part of the “U”.

    While there are signs on the ‘Station’ and building[s], the aerial view is such that the resolution isn’t possible to enhance enough to read.

    Appropriate part of the image upon reply, sent to a direct email.

    JA [member PCHS]

    • sydney

      Hi John!
      I had to go back and re-read that particular blog to remind myself what you were referring to! (I’ve come to that point in life, I’m afraid, that new information is crowding out the old…) I would love to see your image and learn whatever else you know about it. My email address is sydneyofoystervillle@gmail.com
      Thanks so much for getting in touch!

  6. John McCulloch

    Thanks to a back and forth discussion with Sydney and Mike, we determined that the postcard, though claimed as “Long Beach Peninsula” was not. Identifying one building ‘proved’ the date to be in the post 1936 period, long after the IR&N rails were pulled up.

    So where are we? Just drive a few miles south to Rockaway, Oregon! The large building described above was the Natatorium. Googling and grouping terms related to ‘railroad’, ‘beach’, ‘1930’, and others, finally popped an image of the building – instant recognition!

    The station is probably Lake Lytle Station, images of that building found later seem to have the same style construction and the main Rockaway Station was quiet different.

    JA [member PCHS]


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