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Two Little Ghost Towns on S. Oregon Coast Near Bandon: History of Prosper, Randolph

Published 11/17/22 at 5:49 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Two Little Ghost Towns on S. Oregon Coast Near Bandon: History of Prosper, Randolph

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(Bandon, Oregon) – In this 21st century world, it's hard to imagine now what life was like early in the 20th century, and downright impossible to really conjure the previous century. That's especially true of the Oregon coast. (Photos courtesy Bandon Historical Museum)

This was a time, at least in the Bandon area, where you'd see great ships moving up and down the Coquille River. Bandon wasn't necessarily the center of attention. In the 1880s and through the 1920s, cars largely didn't exist here as there weren't roads for awhile, and Highway 101 wouldn't come until closer to 1930. So ships were the only way to move cargo like logs or just basic supplies. Often these were scows, a kind of precursor to the barge.

It's just those industries of basic supplies, logging and shipping that created what are now two ghost towns on the south Oregon coast. At one time, they were bustling ports, filled with workers, ships, loggers, retail stores and all kinds of equipment.

There's a whole history here – provided by the Bandon Historical Museum and volunteer Jim Proehl. They also provided a wealth of engaging history photos found here.

Now, the spots just east of Bandon known as Prosper and Randolph are mostly empty shells – ghosts of something that was long ago.

Randolph came to be in the 1850s as part of the Gold Rush, because of its black sands that yielded some amount of gold. It quickly became the main supply port for those pioneers on the south Oregon coast. But by the late 1860s its usefulness was becoming less and less, and by the turn of the century had largely been abandoned in favor of its younger brother, a little town called Prosper.

Randolph is largely just a few homes with no buildings left of its original existence. Prosper at least still has a few businesses, including a handful of indie lodgings, and some docking facilities. But it's nothing like the Prosper of around 1905.

Flooding in Prosper was not rare

The unincorporated south Oregon coast place had its very beginnings in 1867 when Charles and Adam Pershbaker arrived in Randolph, where Adam took over a store started by his brother. It took awhile, and there were many ups and downs, but Pershbaker quickly showed his grit when the retail spot achieved great success.

In 1884, Pershbaker and partner John Dane started the first cannery in the area. In 1887, Pershbaker used his riches to plan the first sawmill, which roared to success quickly after its first run in 1888.

In 1893, he moved the store by scow down the river from Randolph and onto what would soon be called Prosper. Two years later, after a lot of rain, giant cracks showed in the hill where the store was, and sensing this was going to be problem Pershbaker moved his stock somewhere else. A week later, a major landslide hit this burgeoning business area and the building slid down the hill, damaged beyond all repair.

According to a newspaper in 1905 and another edition in 1916, called the Bandon Recorder, somewhere in the late century Pershbaker established the first shipyard, and Prosper got its name from one of the ships being built. Prominent local ships built here were schooners Mascot, Winchester and Mispath, among others.

In 1894, one of the first canneries burned but was soon rebuilt. In 1896, Pershbaker erected his sizable home here in Prosper. He sold the sawmill in 1903 and retired from all his businesses.

A 1905 report by the Bandon Recorder showed the town as quite bustling, with some 100 residents by this point. Hopes were high for this place, but it had not yet incorporated.

By 1928, the end of the town started with its post office being shut down.

A 1916 edition of the paper shows there's still energy in the little burgh of Prosper, and it was thriving.

Yet according to Proehl, it was prone to flooding and landslides. That, he thinks, was part of its demise.

Later news clippings in the '40s show shipbuilding was still going there. After that, there doesn't seem to be any reference to the town. What's clear is that it was gone by 1990, when a state legal document for a lawsuit refers to the “vacated town of Prosper.”

There were likely a lot of factors, Proehl believes.

“There still isn't a good, stable road from upland to riverside,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “It never incorporated and so didn't develop a street or water system; maybe lacked the right person to lead that kind of organization. Perhaps Moore Mill in Bandon had stronger capital behind it and outlasted the Prosper Mills. The Oregon Coast Highway took a different route.”

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