Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Beach Was The Highway

In the early days of Lincoln County, there were very few roads connecting the length of the area.  The beach was the main highway and was used to transport mail, passengers, and supplies via horseback, wagon or buggy.  Each creek had to be forded, and larger rivers and bays were crossed by boat.  The winter storms made travel even more treacherous, with winds & high surf, floating logs & debris, and erratic currents & sneaker waves.

The following excerpt is quoted from an oral history of Paul Keady, recorded in the mid-1970’s [from the Oregon Coast History Center Library, Oral History Collections].
“Well, the odd thing about doctors in those days, they not only made house calls, but out here in the boondocks of Lincoln County, they would often take a horse and buggy, and take off to Waldport or Beaver Creek, or up the Alsea or somewhere--hoping to get there in time to assist some homesteader’s wife in the delivery of a child.  

On one of the occasions, when [Dr. Belt] was headed south of the Yaquina Bay, down the beach, when the beach was the highway, in the wintertime and stormy conditions with his one horse and buggy, an unusually large wave came, and caught him and the horse.  He saw it coming, and he turned up into one of the little alcoves that are off the beach...I know exactly which one it was.  He got as far from the wave as he could.  The water filled up in there, and he and the horse and buggy and all floated around for a while.  Then the water receded, without any of the logs breaking the horse’s legs or ruining the wagon, and he was not swept out to sea.  

And I, in my youthful eagerness asked him, ‘what did you do then, Doc?’  Well, he looked at me and said, ‘There was nothing else to do.  I merely straightened the horse around, and went on down the beach.’  And he got to Waldport--I hope in time to help some woman with her delivery...Doctors did those things in those days.”

The “Beach Highway” was used until the completion of the Roosevelt Highway (now Highway 101) in the 1930’s.  Makes me appreciate the bridges and pavement and engineering feats that were required to build that road.  And to be able to travel inside a warm, dry car in the foulest of winter weather!

Posted by jackie.

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