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Lost Mysteries of South Oregon Coast: Gold, Meteorite, Ruins

Published 09/12/21 at 6:26 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Lost Mysteries of South Oregon Coast: Gold, Meteorite, Ruins

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(Gold Beach, Oregon) – Mysteries along the Oregon coast abound, especially in the region's long and often disjointed history. Shipwrecks are long forgotten and their accounts now like jigsaw puzzles, World War II relics lie scattered around or disappeared entirely, and sometimes even the origins of town names are murky and unclear.(Above: Port Orford, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts)

Yet some things are more lost than others, particularly if you look to the south Oregon coast. In this truly rugged stretch, some thought-provoking legends remain: rumors and mysteries of gold, an ancient city and even a chunk of something from space.

Legend of the Lost City Near Gold Beach

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One truly bizarre legend out of the south Oregon coast comes from near Gold Beach in the Floras Creek area, according to the Curry County Historical Society. In 1881, one local newspaper (it's unclear which) ran a story about the discovery of ruins of an ancient city. Various mounds were covering up what were found to be remnants of ancient buildings, cut out of stone, and often lying on their sides after being tipped over.

The newspaper didn't appear to mention who was involved in the findings, just that excavations were being done and that more and more mounds were giving way to other buildings. There was no discussion about how old these were, either – certainly not what “ancient” meant.

Supposedly, a storm uprooting a large tree led to the exposure of some piece of building from below.

The paper also describes another find nearby of what appeared to be a mining ditch on a hillside in this spot, with a walled-up section at one end made of the same materials and masonry style of the ruins.

None of this carries any real credibility, of course. The end of the article touts how newspaper personnel will visit the place again soon, but thereafter the historical society notes no mention was ever made of it again. No exact location was given, either.

Whatever that was, it's a tiny oddball footnote in south Oregon coast history.

Port Orford Meteorite

About 1859, just as Oregon became a state, a government geologist named Dr. John Evans found some odd rocks about 40 miles east of Port Orford, and sent them off to Dr. Charles Jackson in New York. He concluded it was “like nothing of this Earth,” with a network of metals inside, including mostly iron but nine percent nickel.

It caused an immediate sensation, getting the name of Port Orford Meteorite, and coaxing Evans into attempting to provide more on where he found it. His memory did not serve him well, and then he died before being able to relay any truly accurate location in those south Oregon coast hills. By the 1940s, the Smithsonian Institute joined the fervor and offered up a reward, bringing all manner of treasure hunter and kook, with some even claiming they were seeing “visions” of it.

Later in the century, some newspapers loudly proclaimed it had been found, even featuring pictures of some unusual rocky chunk. It was not true, however.

In the early 1990s, the Smithsonian declared the entire thing a hoax, however, even suggesting Evans did this for financial gain and that he was not trained in finding these kinds of space debris on his own.

However, the tale ends with quite a mystery. Three scientists associated with the Smithsonian tested the meteorite sample and found it to be actually from the Imilac Meteor Showers.

Lost Gold Mine

Hills east of Port Orford, courtesy U.S. Dept. of Forestry

Also from the 1850s, there is the Legend of the Lost Gold Mine near Port Orford. A group of soldiers on a mission in the hills east of here made camp for a few days, and according to a variety of historical accounts some found a rich vein of gold nearby.

Each collected samples, and one tried to mark the area by burning four trees. Some were able to return soon but could not find the gold and quartz near the mark. Others had to wait years for their service to be over, with many delayed by the advent of the Civil War. Those that finally returned a decade or so later could not find the vein as well.

That legend sparked decades of searchers on the south coast, but no one has ever found any clear sign of where a gold vein might be.

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