Seal Rock, Oregon
1900's Seal Rock

In 1905, word must have reached lumbermen in the once flourishing forests of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin that men were needed to work in Pacific Northwest. This opportunity piqued the interest of a young family man from Park Rapids, Minnesota. Frederick H. Orton. He and his wife decided to pack up their children and belongings and made the nearly 1,700 mile trek to the Oregon coast to make a new life.

Adelia Orton with her
Adelia (Holt) Orton seated right (c. 1888) with her Sisters.
(Courtesy of Barb Day - Distant Relative)


1906 was the year Edmund Creffield and his followers, the "Holy Rollers" walked nearly 70 miles through the mountains and wilderness. From the Yaquina Bay, Creffield and his flock walked to South Beach, going inland over sand and a corduroy road – a "road" made of fallen trees laid side by side. The fourteen-mile journey from South Beach to Waldport was an arduous trek that took most travelers at least a day, and sometimes two.

The Coast magazine

There were places where during a high tide, travelers had to wait before going on. Hidden sink holes that acted much like quicksand sometimes swallowed horses unfamiliar with the coastal routes. In the summer, wagons had a tough time moving through the soft beach sand, and in the winter, folks didn't travel unless they had to. Still, the beach was easier to walk on than most inland trails, which were heavily overgrown. From South Beach, the group walked past SEAL ROCKS and down to the Alsea Bay.  The only way to cross the Alsea Bay to Waldport was by ferry. To notify the ferryman that a foot party was waiting to cross, travelers raised a signal flat to half mast. They were at the mercy of the tide. If it was coming in, the crossing took about fifteen minutes. If the tide was going out, travelers had to wait six or more hours until it began coming in again. (1)

It would be nearly 20 years before roadways would connect these small coastal towns and almost 50 years before bridges would bring these small communities together. This may be why the neighboring towns feel so closely connected and remain friendly to this day.

Seal Rock mail man Squire Farrar

1911 - Driver Kit Williamson delivers the mail on his way taking passengers along from Waldport to Newport.(2) This photo was taken just outside of Squire F. Farrier's (pictured right) house in SEAL ROCK and was noted as still standing in 1961. Mail along this route had been delivered for 21 years at this point.

The Vegetable Lady
The Vegetable Lady"

1915 - This popular photograph of Mrs. Mary Addie (Hanlon) Ryan (aka "Mollie") was taken in front of "Elephant Rock" at the SEAL ROCK viewpoint.(2) Mollie and her husband, Mr. George Ryan were pioneers from Missouri.

William Browns Porch View, 1915
View of Seal Rock from William Brown's Cottage (c. 1915)

William Brown's cottage, 1915
William Brown's cottage (c. 1915)

1918 - Still undeveloped, this jagged stretch of coastline began to lose its luster to vacationers due to the rerouting of the Oregon-Pacific Railroad toward nearby Toledo. This photo shows the few homes and businesses that dotted the SEAL ROCK area. At the front, far left, you can see Squire F. Farrier's home as referenced in a previous 1911 photo. In the center of the photo are private residences, some of which still stand, and in front of which now exists Seal Rocks RV Resort. Just right of center at the shore stands the SEAL ROCK RESORT built in 1887. Further south are a few of the storefronts of the town.

1919 saw the construction of a motor road along the coast, first called the Roosevelt Military Highway and later named the Oregon Coast Highway (Hwy 101). This was approved by Oregon voters after being championed by Benjamin F. Jones. Until its completion, visitors would have had to traveled to SEAL ROCK from Newport or Waldport by ferry boat across the Yaquina and Alsea Bays.

Helen Virginia Smith Lewis Hanson (1917-2004) recalled as she rode across the bay on the farewell voyage of the old ferry. “It was a picturesque but sturdy old craft with its weather beaten cabin and its ample decks secured on all sides by protective guard rails. Once a vital link in the Coast Highway system, it had piled its course faithfully across the Bay day after day, year after year, except on those rare but tempestuous days when the stormy Pacific would fling its wild breakers far into the river's mouth. The bridge overhead shadowed its path. The green waves lapped against its sides, and the white wake trailed lazily behind until we docked on the opposite side of the Bay. Like the other old ferries, it had been outmoded and would soon fade into obscurity, for progress cannot be thwarted by sentiment.”(3)

A Minnesota lumber baron, Charles Axel Smith also came out west to pursue his business interests. With his Oregon partner, Albert Powers, he operated seven logging camps along the wooded tributaries down to Coos Bay. By 1920, about half the loggers and sawmill workers worked for Smith.


An era homestead behind the Seal Rock Store (courtesy Seal Rock Store).

In 1923 the Seal Rock Store began its long legacy of serving the community as a general store. It has seen many owners and patrons in it day and is rumored to be the oldest continuously running grocery store in the state of Oregon. The store celebrated 89 years in business in 2012!


"A letter from Kenneth King, whose parents ran the Seal Rock Store at one time tells of his early life here, growing up and going to the small school (one room, one teacher, 6-8 pupils, all grades). He said Seal Rock was a poor place for a child to be because playmates were so few and there was nothing to do in the winter. But in summer, when the visitors came, life was not too bad through he was happy to leave. [This was before the bridges and highway brought the outside world in]."(4)

During 1936 as the Art Deco period was gaining popularity, Conde B. McCullough's career in Oregon reached it's pinnacle with the completion of five major bridges along the Oregon Coast Highway - the Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport which opened September 6, 1936 (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Alsea Bay Bridge at Waldport, the Suislaw River Bridge at Florence, the Umpqua River Bridge at Reedsport and the Coos Bay Bridge at Marshfield/North Bend.

Alsea Bay Bridge, Waldport   Alsea Bay Bridge, Waldport
The original Alsea Bay Bridge was the longest cement-poured bridge in the world,
but was torn down in 1992 and reconstructed. "Pillars of the Community" (right) by B. Goody

These major accomplishments finally connected Seal Rock to its neighbors and the time for change began. At this stage Frank York owned several hundred acres on all sides of Highway 101. Mr. York and his wife, Gladys, developed their property into a large plant nursery called York Gardens by the Sea where they hybridized their own Fuchsias and grew and sold begonias and geraniums.(5)

red purple fuschia
"Johnny Marine" by B. Goody

1940 visitors to the coast would find that the section of now accessible U.S. 101 near SEAL ROCK even more closely hugged the sea than does the section to the north near Newport. Villages here are fewer because the coastal mountain range presses closer to the sea.

Summer cottages here and there along the coast were trim and brightly painted, but the majority of the houses had a haphazard look. Each had been placed where its owner thought he could gain the most protection from wind and waves. Most of the weatherboarding (locally called shiplap) and shingles were a uniform silver gray. Formerly, shingle "seconds" could be had at the mills without cost, or for very little, and many coast homes were covered with them. Shingles over shiplap were considered the best walling though discouraged coasters insist that a weatherproof house simply cannot be built – the wind will whip rain through the most cleverly joined and mortised walls. The same wind tears loose both clapboards and shingles, so every house more than a few years old is bound to show the marks of repeated repairs, unless the owner has given up the struggle.(6)

1941 had a new focus and during WWII all efforts went toward the conflicts happening abroad. It was at this time that the Seal Rock Garden Club held meetings in the "Russell Cottages" at SEAL ROCK.  They also used the club as a shelter and storage facility.

1945 Frederick Henry Orton and his wife Adelia ("Delia") made their way to purchase land in SEAL ROCK. Like many other logging families, the Ortons had traveled from Minnesota where the family were primarily farmers in spring and summer and worked the lumber industry in winter. Now aged 71, Fred purchased several acres of land owned by Frank York and began to build their home.

Caledonia House 1970s
Caledonia House, 1970s

In 1946, the Orton's completed their cottage style bungalow with help from their sons who felled trees from the property and milled them to order in their own sawmill behind the house. This historic home still stands as a shining example of pioneer dreams come true and has found new life as Caledonia House Bed & Breakfast.


Seal Rock's Richfield Service Station
"Bill" and Florence Viola Boone (Duley)

1947 - Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Richfield Oil Company (now Atlantic Richfield or ARCO) began making their way up the coastline. For their time, they were an environmentally friendly company developing method making high octane fuel which eliminated the use of acid in the process, which in turn reduced the corrosive properties of the fuels. The SEAL ROCK store and its service station were one such stop along the way.(7)

1948 - The Seal Rock Community Club was formed with Connie Balram as President. Their club motto was "Harmony - Peace - Unity". According to an account penned by member Nell McDuffie, who prepared a summarized history of the club from it's inception through 1988. Annual dues would be at the rate of $1.00 per member. The name of the club was suggested by Mrs. Gladys York, a member of the Garden Club and remains the name to this day.(8)

1951 -, Fred and Adelia Orton sold their home and land to their son Ralph and his wife Irene for a grand total of $10.00. Ralph lived out the remainder of this life until his passing in 1977 in Grants Pass, Oregon.

1952 - A news article of the day reports "Mrs. Gladys York, Seal Rock fuchsia hybridizer, and The Oregonian namesake of Portland's morning paper, which she developed for 1952 introduction. It's white, pink tinted."56 years later, this same verity still blooms at Caledonia House Bed & Breakfast which used to be a part of York Gardens By the Sea.

The Oregonian fuschia
"The Oregonian" by B. Goody

Other varieties released in 1952 were called "Johnny Marine" a semi-double, outspread, white corolla with sepals of red, "Skinny" and "Edith Russell" touts double pink and purple corolla with sepals of pink. "Nina" was a medium sized violet pink creation introduced in 1953.

In June 1960, her widower, Frank York, accepted a posthumous award presented to Gladys from the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs for Distinguished Achievement in Horticulture for her work in Fuchsia Development and Hybridization. Evidence of their efforts remain ever-present in Seal Rock.

In 1965, this photograph was taken of Bill Maythorn's Agate Shop by R.L. Grigsby

Bill Maythorn's Agate Shop
Bill Maythorn's Agate Shop

The Pacific Northwest has always been a home for loggers, lumberjacks and lumbermen. In later years, some began to create artistic pieces from what was once their full time occupation.

Wood Carvers
An era post card from "Dry Gulch" and "Sea Gulch" Trading Company in Seal Rock.
(Courtesy of Waldport Historical Society)

The reverse offers the following information: "Sea Gulch Gift Shop - Home of the World Famous Chainsaw Wood Sculptor, Ray Kowalski". It was published by Smith Western, Inc. of Portland. These tourist attractions were quite popular during their time.

Sea Gulch pennant
Sea Gulch pennant

Mr. Kowalski lived out the remainder of his years in SEAL ROCK. Sadly, Ray Kowalski passed away in February 2008. His son still runs the "Carvers Workshop" carrying on the family tradition today.

1977 - Deb and Ray Pedrick purchased the Orton's family home and property from Ralph and Irene Orton, the son and daughter-in-law of the original owners. The Pedrick's maintained a nature preserve including friendly squirrels, peacocks and their own pet dogs. They worked tirelessly planting many native trees, bushes and plants, including the rhododendrons that still grace the front yard. They also weathered a terrific storm in 1982 that blew down many of the large pine trees that bordered the highway.

Caledonia House, mid 1970s
Caledonia House, mid 1070s

1985 - Deb and Ray Pedrick sold their home to the Tartar Family who opened "The Blackberry Inn" which was a popular lodging destination for visitors to SEAL ROCK and revived the resort feel for the village.

Blackberry Inn Bed and Breakfast
"The Blackberry Inn" courtesy of The Pedricks

In 1991 - Quirina Kryger purchased Bill's Agate Shop and had it remodeled. She re-opened it as "Art on the Rocks", which was a combination of gemstones, rocks, jewelry and art.

In 1995 - Quirina had "Art on the Rocks" redesigned by world famous Architect Glen Small. The design was Small's interpretation of the coastal landscape, waves and dunes. Quirina also built on a new addition, which is called the Triad Gallery, hosting fine art and wine tastings!

Triad Gallery
The Triad Gallery by B. Goody; design built by Architect Glen Small

In 2006 - The Traid Art Gallery was sold to Michael Smith who has co-located the gallery with his Windermere Real Estate Office.

Caledonia House Bed and Breakfast
Caledonia House Bed & Breakfast

In 2007 - The Orton Family home changed owners once again. This time to Belinda Goody and Dee Brodie who refurbished and returned the home to a Seal Rock icon - Caledonia House Bed & Breakfast (inspired by Dee's native Scotland). Each year they host a free open house where interested parties can stop by and take a step into the past and to enjoy their 2.4 acre Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Today there are a few relics that still stand which represent the pioneering spirit of early settlers to this area. The small stretch of storefronts offer a glimpse into its remarkable past and it is surprising to note that SEAL ROCK remains the County's oldest summer resort south of Yaquina Bay.


Credits and Contributions:

1) http://www.pioneer.net/~mchumor/hollyrollers_Waldpo3_bframe.html - Retrieved 02.26.08
2) Courtesy of Lincoln County Historical Society
3) http://ftp.wi.net/~census/lesson37.html - Retrieved 02.24.08
4) Courtesy of Seal Rock Garden Club
5) Courtesy of Waldport Historical Society
6) State of Oregon Archives
7) http://www.vineyardpress.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76:gas-station&catid=36:latest-news&Itemid=84
8) Courtesy of Seal Rock Garden Club


Our special thanks to the Lincoln County and Waldport Historical Societies
for their contributions of photographs and information.


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Seal Rock, Oregon