Reading 100 Years of the Chinook Observer: Seagull update

A Chinook Observer clipping shows the wreck of the C Trader, whose lost cargo of lumber found its way into many Peninsula building projects thanks to local salvagers affectionately known as "seagulls."

Peninsulans are born beachcombers; "seagulls," in a word. There is an irresistible pull to the shore to see what the morning tide has brought.

In December 1963 the flotsam was that most treasured item, dimension lumber. The freighter C Trader, out of Raymond with a cargo of 2.4 million board feet of hemlock lumber, was aground in the Columbia, and part of her deckload had worked loose.

The freighter had struck bottom as she left Willapa Harbor, began leaking, and by the time the Coast Guard was able to turn her over to Fred Devine's Salvage Chief, it was clear that the freighter's pumps weren't up to the job of keeping her afloat. C Trader's stern settled onto the sand just out of the main ship channel. The 24-man crew was safely taken off, and the salvage rights were awarded. The Salvage Chief held the wreck in place, while she settled deeper and listed ever more obliquely.

"Some of the deckload had washed away Saturday when the ship grounded, and beachcombers salvaged much of it from Fort Stevens' shore. Thursday night at press time several pickups were seen bringing in lumber from Benson Beach."

Oh boy! Just in time for Christmas.

The next week's headline read, "Lumber Ship Went To Pen. Seagulls."

"Peninsula Seagulls won out in the finals, after Pacific Inland Navigation Co., Vancouver, gave up salvage operations from the beached C Trader lumber ship last Thursday. The salvage people between last Wednesday and Thursday successfully removed most of the deckload of lumber, then abandoned ship. Before leaving, hatch covers were removed in order that lumber might float from the holds.

"The ship lies in about 25 feet of water around 250 feet south of the main ship channel. After C Trader was abandoned, Peninsula fishermen lost no time converting their boats to 'lumber schooners,' some of them towing into Ilwaco port whole bundles of 2x4 eights counting upward to 300 pieces to a bundle; 2x6s 24 footers in bundles of 120 pieces. The 2x4s are hemlock and considered not so good for building, but the 2x6s are fir, and being bidded for. Some 1x6s were brought in. Chief McAdams [of the Coast Guard] informed this newspaper that a considerable amount of the lumber [is] going out over the bar, headed south, while other portions are lying off shore awaiting wind or water current to determine destination.

"According to reports the ship was insured for $800,000, and was carrying 2,400,000 feet of lumber appraised at $120,000. Cause of the ship's loss was givien as striking bottom when coming out of Willapa Bay a week ago heading for Los Angeles. She was owned by W. E. Chamberlain Company of Portland.

-Dec. 20, 1963

• • •

"This past week has been one of much lumber hustling, with fishermen having the upper hand, being in a position to get out on the Columbia River where dimensional lumber is - or at least was - running wild. Jim Suomela, Bob Beechey, and Jack Cutting are some of the boys who made very good hauls, judging from what we have seen piled at Ilwaco port ...

"Johnny Ramsey, Ole Johnson and Johnny's two boys were out Sunday morning; they made a wild dash from here down into Beard's Hollow area, spotted nothing, and then upon returning to Long Beach approach found 8 or 10 2x4s. Johnny stated that after they had loaded the two bys and were driving off, they heard two gun shots. ...

"From what I heard, Dale O'Connor's search for lumber ended with his Jeep 'in deeper' than the lumber - waterwise. The lumber floats, but the Jeep just laid there taking on water - four wheels but no drive ... and about that time Shorty Gray Sr. arrived at 7 a.m. coffee hour, and the boys commenced giving him a bad time about sleeping through a lumber snatch. He was told we had been up all night hauling lumber from the beach. Shorty gave all of us searching looks, and then remarked that he saw no splinters, and was not buying the story."

-Dec. 20, 1963

Peninsula Timeline: 1963

May 3, 1963 • "Mr. and Mrs. Fred Rutherford, Oceanlake, Oregon, appeared before city councilmen here Monday night at a special meeting and received permission from the dads to open a rides concession on the Red O'Connell block at South Tenth and Pacific. The Rutherfords plan is to have Harold Teague blacktop an irregular shape 20 foot wide track for GoKart riding and continue to build up other amusements on the property which is to be enclosed with cyclone fencing."

June 14 • "Fishermen working off Heceta Head, Oregon, off Waldport, hit the jackpot Sunday, moving in on a school of one million feet of dimensional lumber, loading their fish boats, running into port, dumping, and returning to sea for another load, stated Chief Thomas McAdams of Cape Disappointment. The lumber was lost from a barge last week off the Columbia River bar on an ebb tide and drifted south ... 135 miles in 120 hours. The lumber covers an area seven miles in length."

June 21 • "Lyle Clark, heading Ocean Park Water Co., Inc. ... informed the Observer that ample water has been secured through two wells for establishing a community water system. Clark stated that soon applications from local people will be received by the water company for hookups for community water and that as soon as a sufficient number of patrons are lined up, community fire hydrants will be installed which will be a contributing factor toward getting the area into a lower fire insurance classification and open the way for sewer system discussion. ...

"One well, drilled 275 feet by Taylor Brothers of Hoquiam, is holding at 115 gallons per minute continuous, and another, drilled 730 feet, has not yet been measured for positive output. However, according to Clark, the present wells are considered sufficient to supply Ocean Park area for the next ten years."

June 28 • "A five-digit ZIP Code for Long Beach post office is 98631, Postmaster Rival Moore announced this week. ... 'Zip code' numbers will go into effect July 1, the Post Office department announced. Every post office will have a code number."

Aug. 30 • "Editorial. Wayne Takes Over Observer Publishing. After about 48 years of newspaper work, counting out two years during World War I, and another few months upon moving into this Beach area early in 1930, this writer [J. M. O'Neil] is bowing out of the publishing end in favor of our worthy son Wayne R. O'Neil who has been with us since 1934 save for five years during World War II. ... If people of the area give Wayne the same splendid support they have given the Observer during my term as publisher, he'll do very well, and we shall all be mighty happy. I plan to be around, 'til death do us part, to lend a hand whenever and wherever needed."

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.