Retracing the route taken by the first automobile trip from Newport to Siletz Bay was a lot easier than what it was 100 years ago this month. On this Centennial occasion, there was no need to improvise drivable surfaces across creeks, beaches and occasional flirtations with the ocean. About 250 people last weekend celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Pathfinders, the first auto trip from Newport’s Bayfront to Siletz Bay. The event kick-off featured proclamations by Newport City Council President David Allen and Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall at Bayscapes Gallery and Coffeehouse on Newport’s Bayfront.
A vintage car caravan left about 10 a.m. led by a Flanders 20 Studebaker of the same vintage and model as the original car. Owner Jim Kanne from West Linn drove the automobile. And off they motored in a fashion unimagined by those who were brave enough to try it in 1912. They didn’t even have a road. They had to make one up as they went along.
In 1912, the inaugural motorized journey to Siletz Bay from Newport was made possible by not only gasoline, but also with driftwood to create a drivable surface. It was also made possible by the group’s purchase of a big ship’s sail that came from a recent ship wreck just off the coast. That’s what got them across Fogarty Creek, one of the more formidable obstacles in their journey. As long as they were driving across a sail, they had traction.
When they got to Siletz Bay, the historic record showed they had a big picnic on the bay and a good quantity of Salem Beer and Blackberry Wine. After such a bountiful repast they understandably slept for a bit.
Their return trip to Newport, as it turned out, was far harder. They had engine troubles. Even had to get a horse to pull them a ways. But they did make it back to the Bayfront in just over 23 hours, fulfilling their initial boast that they could get up to Siletz Bay and back the same day.
Meanwhile, this past weekend’s caravan stopped at Fogarty Creek for a historic skit featuring Morgan Locklear as narrator Sea Lion Charlie; Justin Atkins as professional driver J. D. Grant, Michael Eastman as professional photographer Fred S. Sassman, Stephan as organizer Will Burton, and Frank Geltner as journalist T. F. Kershaw. It was a commentary on the trip which included the car’s engine problems – the carburetor we heard which, at one point, required the car to be pulled backward by a horse to get it to run again. So apparently they really did “get a horse!”
The caravan continued on to Roadhouse 101 where Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson read a proclamation. Participants and others enjoyed lunch at Roadhouse 101, which sports automobile regalia from one end to the other. Roadhouse 101 even features their own boutique beer, “Rusty Truck.”
Events the next day included a showing of “American Graffiti” at the Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City along with “The Road from Mud to Glory,” a production of the Lincoln County Historical Society. Then, J. E. Stembridge spoke at North Lincoln County Historical Museum. Stembridge is the author of “Pathfinder, The First Automobile Trip From Newport to Siletz Bay, Oregon July, 1912,” a publication of the Lincoln County Historical Society.
A party to conclude the celebration was held in the Pacific Maritime & Heritage Center of the Lincoln County Historical Society featuring “The Ocean,” a guitar and a drum band.
Companion exhibits also are up: “Cars: Motoring the Coast” at the Burrows House Museum of the Lincoln County Historical Society, and “Roads to the Future” at North Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Committee members included: George Collins, Diane Disse, Frank Geltner, Anne Hall, Bill Hall, Bob Lind, Sachiko Otsuki, Jim Stembridge, and Russ Whitehead.
Primary sponsors of the event were the Lincoln County Historical Society and the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.
The next transportation-driven re-enactment or celebration is not expected to occur until 2017, when the Lincoln County Historical Society creates another commemorative event for the 100 year anniversary of the construction of the first formal transportation system, comprised of dirt roads and railroads that transported Spruce timber from the far flung areas of the county to Toledo where airplane parts were fashioned toward the end of World War I. However, by the time the U.S. Army proudly had everything in place, the war ended. So the civilian locals reaped the benefits of the travel system left behind by the soldier engineers, a system that provided somewhat of a blue print for the roads, rails and bridges we have today.