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Oregon Coast Names Part I: South to Central Coast History

Published 05/20/21 at 2:05 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Names Part I: South to Central Coast History

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(Newport, Oregon) – Discovering Oregon coast history also means finding out what’s behind some of those names of the various beach towns and beaches. It’s a bit of time-traveling with quite the heady lessons on occasion, showing off just what the heck some of them were thinking when your fave beach town was named, whose land they stole for them, and sometimes the wacky monikers these locales had before they got their official handle. (Above: Bandon at low tide, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more) -

This little sojourn through history is more of a sampling, really, but it’s big enough it needs two parts. Part two: Oregon Coast Names Part 2: Central and North Coast History.

How Gold Beach Got Its Name. Way back in the 1850s, as prospectors discovered gold on this part of the south coast, the little settlement was originally called Ellensburg. There is still a major thoroughfare by the name. In 1890, residents and the postmaster changed the name to Gold Beach to avoid confusion with the town in Washington by the name of Ellensburg. That declaration didn’t completely become official until 1891 when the legislature made it so. (Courtesy Curry Historical Society)


Courtesy Oregon State Archives

How Bandon, Oregon Got Its Name. The big attraction town of the south Oregon coast started out with the name Averill, sometime just after 1853 when Europeans first inserted themselves into the landscape. 20 years later, an Irishman named George Bennett and his family arrived from Bandon, Cork in Ireland. In 1874, with Bennett’s influence, the town became Bandon. Both Bandons, on both sides of the Atlantic, acknowledge each other’s influence by Bennett to this day.


Photo courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast: Charleston, Coos Bay, North Bend

How Coos Bay Got Its Name. Coos Bay is actually a few different areas that became one, including the little towns of Marshfield and Empire City. Both were created about the 1850s, but Marshfield was incorporated in 1874. The latter was named after a Massachusetts town, the original home of the south Oregon coast town’s founder, J.C. Tolman. The bay had already gone by the name Coos, derived from the language of the original peoples here, meaning “place of pines” and “lake.”

In 1944, Marshfield changed its name to Coos Bay. In 1961, Empire and Eastside joined Coos Bay, but North Bend did not vote yes so it stayed a separate community. (Courtesy Coos History Museum, Coos Bay).


How Yachats, Oregon Got Its Name. Slowly settled in the mid-19th century, originally it was called Oceanview. By 1917, it was decided that name was too common among coastal cities and it was renamed Yachats. (Courtesy newspaper reports)


Photo courtesy North Lincoln History Museum, Lincoln City

Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay and Otter Rock more or less only started around 1927 when Highway 101 was first built in the area. Otter Rock actually went under different names on and off when it was first settled around 1890, sometimes interchanged with The Punchbowl or Devil’s Punchbowl. For a time in the mid 20th, the punchbowl was referred to as Satan’s Cauldron, but that seems it was a brief marketing gimmick.

It was Charles DePoe who gave the little town its name: he was a local tribal member known for his skills in maintaining the local depot, nicknamed “Depot Charlie” for awhile. Exactly when and where his name was officially changed to Depoe is still debated. However, Depoe Bay itself stayed outside the system for decades, finally incorporating in 1973 – the year King Crimson and Yes put out some of their best material, and about when punk rock was first invented.


Nye Beach in the '50s or so

How Newport, Oregon Got Its Name. The name of the tribe here was the Yacona, going back at least 3,000 years (although some archaeologists discovered remnants of local tribes here more than 5,000 years ago). Originally known as Yaquina Bay back in 1866, Newport was formed out of that town in 1882 by former soldier Sam Case.

Nye Beach was a separate town for a long time, formed about the 1860s when John Nye claimed and developed it. See Oregon Coast Names Part 2: Central and North Coast History

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Newport, courtesy Lincoln County History Museum, Newport

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