June 18, 2021
Bandon is a city in Coos County, Oregon, on the south side of the mouth of the Coquille River. It was named by George Bennet, an Irish peer, who settled nearby in 1873 and named the town after Bandon in Ireland, his hometown. The population was 3,066 at the 2010 census.
Before 1850, the Coquille Indians lived in the area. Then in 1851, gold was discovered at nearby Whiskey Run Beach by French Canadian trappers, though the gold rush did not have much of an impact on the area. In 1852, Henry Baldwin, from County Cork, Ireland, was shipwrecked on the Coos Bay bar and walked into this area. The first permanent European settlers came in 1853 and established the present town site. In 1856, the first conflicts with Indigenous Americans in the United States arose and those were sent to the Siletz Reservation. In 1859, the boat Twin Sisters sailed into the Coquille River and opened the outlet for all inland produce and resources.
Bandon was founded by the Irish peer George Bennett in 1873. George Bennett, his sons Joseph and George, and George Sealey came from Bandon, Ireland. The following year the town's previous name of Averille was changed to Bandon after the town of the same name in Ireland. The next year, Joseph Williams and his three sons arrived, also from Bandon, Ireland. In 1877, the post office was established. In 1880, cheese making began. That same year, Congress appropriated money to build the jetty. In 1883, the first sawmill, school house, and Catholic church were built. In 1884, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the jetty.
George Bennett also introduced gorse (Ulex europaeus) into the local area, which in the following decades went wild and became a nuisance in both the town and in the neighboring countryside. Gorse, a spiny plant, grows so thickly a person cannot walk through it. It is also a very oily plant, which easily catches fire.
Cranberries have been grown in Bandon since 1885, when Charles McFarlin planted vines he brought from Massachusetts. McFarlin had originally come to pan for gold in California. He did not make his fortune, or even a living, so he turned to what he knew best. He brought vines from Cape Cod and planted them in the state's first cranberry bog near Hauser. This bog produced cranberries for eight decades. His variety adapted to growing conditions on the west coast. The variety was named McFarlin in his honor and was the principal variety grown on the west coast until overtaken by the Stevens variety. Bandon is also the location of the first cranberry bogs to be wet harvested, which is done by building dikes around the bogs then flooding them.
In 2010, Bandon was named one of the "Coolest Small Towns in America" by BudgetTravel.
On September 26, 1936, a fire burned several miles of forest east of town. But a sudden shift in the wind drove the flames swiftly westward. Ignited by the forest fire, the town's abundant gorse became engulfed in flames, Bandon resident D.H. Woomer told The Coos Bay Times. Bandon's entire commercial district was destroyed. The total loss stated at the time was $3 million USD, with 11 fatalities.
Ironically, the gorse was first introduced to the Oregon Coast by the founder of Bandon, Lord George Bennett, from his native Ireland.
Firefighters found that burning gorse reacted to having water squirted on it like a kitchen grease fire—it simply spread burning gobs of gorse everywhere. Stewart Holbrook described this conflagration in his essay "The Gorse of Bandon."
Part of the commercial district had been erected on wooden pilings jutting out over the Coquille River not far from the South Jetty, accommodating river traffic at the merchants' doors. After the 1936 fire, when Bandon began to be rebuilt, the new perimeter of the business district did not extend beyond the available land.
There is still gorse in Bandon today, but municipal codes strictly regulate how high and thick it may be allowed to get.
Like many communities on the Oregon coast, Bandon had significant fishing and timber industries, which were greatly diminished by the 1980s, though some remnants still exist. Bandon's current economy revolves around wood products, fishing, tourism, and agriculture. The five largest employers in the area include Bandon Dunes Golf Course, Southern Coos Health District, School District #54C, Oregon Overseas Timber, and Hardin Optical.
In tourism literature, the city is often referred to as Bandon-by-the-Sea.
Surf enthusiasts come to Bandon for surfing & kite surfing Bandon beaches offer a wide variety of surf opportunities for novice, intermediate, and expert surfers of both disciplines. Crowds are nonexistent and locals are friendly and accommodating.
Mountain bikers enjoy the newly opened Whiskey Run Mountain Bike Trails just north of town mountain biking.
One popular tourist activity is storm watching.
West Coast Game Park Safari is located just south of Bandon.
Bandon is a center of cranberry production. More than 100 growers harvest about 1,600 acres around Bandon, raising 95 percent of Oregon's cranberries, and about 5 percent of the national crop. Production averages about 30 million pounds of berries. Harvest is in the fall. In 1994, 304,000 barrels were harvested—a record for Bandon. Some berries are trucked to Eugene and Albany. Others are taken to an Ocean Spray facility in Prosser, Washington, to be concentrated. This crop was introduced in 1855 by Charles McFarlin, for whom the McFarlin hybrid is named.
The Annual Cranberry Festival takes place in the second weekend of September to celebrate the Cranberry harvest. The event draws tourists and participants from all areas of the Oregon coast, Washington and California. Begun in 1946, to honor the cranberry industry, 2016 marked the 70th year of the event. Bandon has long been known as the "Cranberry Capital of Oregon".
Between 1928 and 2000, dairy production and cheesemaking were an integral part of Bandon's economy. The Bandon facility was damaged by fire in 1936, and rebuilt as the Surfside Dairy in 1937. In 2000, Tillamook County Creamery Association bought the Bandon Cheese brand and promptly dismantled the factory; on October 4, 2005, the last of the staff was released and the Bandon factory closed. The Bandon Cheese name lives on as a brand of Tillamook Cheese.
In 2013, Face Rock Creamery opened on the former Bandon Cheese property with participation of the city government. Cheesemakers handcraft gourmet cheeses from beginning to end with viewing, sampling, and products available to visitors. There is a selection of flavored cheese curds which one cheese critic received favorably. The lead cheese maker for Face Rock Creamery is the son of the lead cheese maker from Bandon Cheese Factory.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a complex of six golf courses located just north of the city of Bandon. Five of the six golf courses are regulation length and the other is a short 13 hole par 3 course. The championship courses, Bandon Dunes, Old Macdonald, Pacific Dunes, and Bandon Trails are the top four courses in Oregon, (Passov, J., Golf Magazine, "Top 100 Courses You Can Play", Sept., 2016, p. 62).
Points of interest
Bandon is known for its beaches and rock formations, including Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint.
The Coquille River Lighthouse is on Coquille River's north jetty at Bullards Beach State Park.
The Bandon Cranberry Festival is celebrated every fall as the cranberry harvest begins.
Bandon State Airport
Bullards Bridge on U.S. Highway 101 leading into Bandon from the north
Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Jules Verne book
It is noteworthy that French writer Jules Verne, in his science fiction novel The Begum's Fortune, placed on virtually the precise site of Bandon his fictional Utopian community "Ville-France". The fictional community was given the foundation date of 1872—one year before the foundation of the actual Bandon. Ville-France was depicted as being founded by Doctor Sarrasin, a visionary French doctor; reaching a population of 100,000 within a few years of its creation and becoming world-famous as a model community; being granted by the US government the status of a virtually independent city state; and being involved in a vicious war with a rival city state on the other side of the Cascades, founded by an evil German scientist.