Horner Museum Tour Guide Series

A Bicentennial Tour:
The Nash Trail of 1877

By Kenneth Munford

(Note: In manuscript list of Horner Museum Tour Guides in Collected Papers of Kenneth Munford, this tour is listed as #00, sponsored by the Oregon State University Press.)

August 7, 1976
Leave from Corvallis: 8:30
Leave from Philomath: 8:45

In this itinerary the page numbers refer to Oregon: There and Back in 1877, by Wallis Nash, reprinted 1976, Oregon State University Press.

Miles and Point of Interest or Checkpoint

0.0          Parking lot east of Memorial Union, Oregon State University.

5.5          Philomath College, which had been in operation as a private college ten years when Nash and his companions camped nearby on July 12, 1877 (pp. 133, 278). The College closed in 1929. The building, now on the National Register of Historical Places, is being restored.

The railroad behind the College property, which the tour route parallels for much of the way to Elk City, is now a branch line of the Southern Pacific. It was the Oregon Pacific when Col. T. E. Hogg, William Hoag, and Wallis Nash completed it from Yaquina Bay to Corvallis in 1885.

Continue west on U. S. 20.

4.5          "Wren" sign. Turn right passing the 3G Lumber Co. mill. Note the old wigwam burner in which slabs and scraps were once burned and the new, tall, blue and red storage bins for sawdust, hogged fuel, and chips, which are now put to useful purposes. Cross the railroad and continue north on state Highway 223. Note on the left a number of farms that have been turned into Christmas tree plantations.

6.8          "Hoskins" sign. Turn left. You are in Kings Valley, in which Nahum King settled in 1845, flour mill built in 1853, and post office established in 1855. The valley is drained by the Luckiamute River. The railroad is the Valley and Siletz which connects Independence with Valsetz but does not connect with the Oregon Pacific line. The Nash party camped near a mill in this valley on July 13, 1877.

1.7          Fort Hoskins (pp. 146-147, 279). The farmyard on the right was the site of a U. S. Army post occupied from 1856 to 1865 by regular troops and, during the Civil War, by the 1st Oregon Infantry Volunteers. The site is being excavated by archeology students under Dr. David Brauner of the Anthropology Department of Oregon State University. They will take visitors through in small groups. Beyond the Fort tavern and shops of the Valley and Siletz railroad, turn left at "Summit" sign, cross Luckiamute River, and continue on Bonner Mountain road, turning left (5.3 miles) on West Fork Road.

8.6          Highway. Turn right to Summit (p. 146). This is where the Oregon Pacific crossed the summit of the Coast Range. In the next 2 miles the elevation drops 490 feet, from 729 to 239 feet above sea level. From this point on you may be able to see on the hillsides snag and stump remnants of the 1850s fires.

2.7          Nashville, named for the Nash family, who moved to Oregon in 1879 and took a homestead five miles northwest of here.

Turn right at Nashville for a side trip to the site of the Nash homestead.

4.7          Little Rock Creek Valley. On his 1877 horseback trip through the Coast Range, Nash came upon this "green valley in the heart of the wilderness" (pp. 280-283). A series of fires twenty-five years before had clear¬cut the area south and west of here, leaving only a few islands of old growth. Bracken fern and brush and small trees were returning by natural regeneration. Beavers had dammed the creek, creating ponds. The Nashes built their "ranch in the foothills" and children and grandchildren maintained homes here until 1966. Most of the valley is now owned by Publishers Paper Co., who have removed all but one house and cleared fence rows and brush. The fields south of the road have been replanted and those on the north are being prepared for later planting.

Remnants of a sawmill that operated from 1955 to 1963 can be seen .4 miles west of the old Nash house. This is a good place to turn around to retrace the route to Nashville.

5.2          Nashville. Follow railroad westward.

5.0          Site of first school. Just before you cross track note low marker on right. It reads "Near this point was taught the first school in Lincoln County A. D. 1866. Elizabeth Lee Porter - Teacher." The Porter farm was near here. The graves of Mr. and Mrs. Porter are under a concrete slab with a fence around it just north of the grove of tall trees a quarter of a mile east.

0.2          Nortons, probable site of Nash's camp at "Meade's" on July 14, 1877. Nash writes (pp. 143-144), "For fifteen or twenty miles we passed among the huge, black standing trunks which had survived the fire, and resisted the slow decay which had brought down many of their neighbours, now rotting into red and yellow soil among the thick fern and wild pea-vines."

The Yaquina Fires started in the vicinity of Nashville, Summit, and Burnt Woods and burned west to the coast carried along by dry east winds, destroying about 500,000 acres and 25 billion board feet of timber. They were a series of large fires, probably started by lightning storms in several summers between 1847 and 1853. Some fires probably held over in large trees or old windfalls through the winter months and broke out anew the following summer.

There were large "islands" of timber within the area which were not burned. Seed from these islands and individual unburned trees regenerated the present forest. Subsequent fires and logging have produced the present mosaic of age classes. Abandoned farm land has also been reclaimed by the forest, adding to the wide range of ages in the present forest.

6.6          U. S. Highway 20. Turn left to Eddyville. Trapp's farm (p. 147) was between Nortons and Eddyville. Eddy's grist mill, Nash wrote in Two Years in Oregon (pp. 58-59), had a "rough mill-dam, made on the model of a beaver-dam, and of the same sticks and stones, but not so neatly; the ends of the sticks project over the millpond below, and prove the death of numberless salmon, which strike madly against them in their upward leaps, and fall back bruised and beaten into the pool again."

0.3          Eddyville. Lunch stop. See note below.

6.6          Thornton Creek. The Nash party camped in this vicinity at "Wilcox's" (p. 147) on July 15, 1877. Continue on U. S. 20.

1.3          "Elk City" sign. Turn left. From quarries along this road (about 2 miles) building stone was barged down the Yaquina River to Newport for reshipment to California and shipped by rail to Corvallis. Settlements here have been called Pioneer, Pioneer City, and Morrison.

5.2          Elk City, on tidewater of Yaquina Bay. The Nash party arrived here about noon on July 16, 1877 (pp. 193-196). Elk City was one of the first towns in Lincoln County. Post offices were established here and at Newport in the same month, July 1868. Kit Abbey (pp. 140, 153, 278), Mr. Nash's guide in 1877, was the first postmaster at Elk City. Henry Moseley, the naturalist with Nash in 1877, described it as "a few rows of houses. The proposed town is hereto a failure, and many houses are deserted. . . . plenty of apples and raspberries."

With the completion of the Oregon Pacific railroad, Elk City had a few decades of prosperity. It was the transfer point for outgoing products, principally for the California market, and for incoming freight, which were shipped by barge between here and the oceangoing vessels docked at Newport. But later roads and highways bypassed it, and the railroad was extended to a new terminus at Toledo. A sawmill kept Elk City alive for some years, but now it too is gone. The community awaits whatever new developments that may be in store for it in its second century.

Rest rooms and parking space in the County Park near the Elk City Country Store. Note covered bridge and boat launching facilities adjacent to park. The Grange Hall, where an exhibit of early-day photographs may be open, is a block west.

Follow same road you came on back to highway.

5.2          U.S. 20. Turn right, passing Thornton Creek, and Chitwood.

7.9          Eddyville. Stay on U.S. 20. This is the same general route the Nash party followed on their return to Corvallis after spending several days in Newport and at the Siletz Indian Reservation.

9.6          Burnt Woods, named for the Yaquina Fires that had burned out the area west of here. The Nash party slept in the hayshed of "the Sluggard" near the mouth of Shotpouch Creek on July 21, 1877 (pp. 196-200, 282-283).

6.1          Blodgett's Valley. After passing through the town of Blodgett, continue east for 1.3 miles. The old highway parallels the new one for about half a mile. Turn off right onto it for a good parking and view point, from which the whole valley as described by Nash (pp. 200-204, 283-285, and map on p. 283) can be seen. Col. James A. Blodgett, one of the tour guides, was born at the west end of this valley. His great-grandfather was the first settler in 1848.

10.2        Corvallis

Nash in Corvallis

In 1877, after nearly a month in Oregon, Wallis Nash returned to his law practice in London, not intending ever to return. In 1879, however, he and his wife decided to emigrate to Corvallis with their four children and half a dozen other friends and relatives (pp. 287-289). They lived in a large house where Waldo Hall on the Oregon State University campus now stands. Evidence of their influence in community affairs may still be seen:

The Arts Center on 7th and Madison. Nash was a leader in raising funds, designing, and constructing this sturdy building as the Episcopal Church at 7th and Jefferson, where he played the organ, led the singing, and participated in the services.
The railroad. The Oregon Pacific, which became the Corvallis and Eastern before it fell into the hands of the Southern Pacific, had a depot at 9th and Washington and was extended by Nash and the Hogg brothers to Albany and into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.
Oregon Agricultural College. As Secretary of the first Board of Regents, Nash had a hand in establishing the Agricultural Experiment Station, building Benton Hall, and bringing Dr. Margaret Snell to the faculty to introduce Home Economics.
Landscaping the campus. Nash brought to Oregon the English gardner George Coote, who later became Foreman of the Horticulture Department and Instructor in Floriculture. Coote planted the double row of alternating English and American* elms winding east through the Lower Campus from Benton Hall. He laid out the pathway still in use from Apperson Hall across the Lower Campus to Jefferson as a short cut to the railway depot. See also pages xii, 285-286 in the 1976 reprint of Oregon: There and Back in 1877.

*The American elms trees later removed, leaving only the European species.

Lunch stop: At Eddyville, the East Lincoln Senior Citizens have invited us to use their Community Hall as a lunchroom. There will be a short program about 1:00 p.m. James Denison, District Forester for Publishers' Paper Co., will show slides and describe reforestation. Do not try to park on the lane leading to the Community Hall. Park in the Eddyville High School parking lot and walk a block east across the highway to the Community Hall.