Bandon's Irish Roots

The presence of ethnic populations in communities adds richness to their cultural heritage.

 Scandinavians made up the majority of foreign-born in Coos County's early history. However, immigrants arrived from many other countries including Canada, England, China, Germany, and Ireland. Among the most influential was George Bennett.

 George Bennett was born in Bandon, Cork County, Ireland, in 1827. Among his classmates and fellow Bandonites was Henry H. Baldwin, who would later figure prominently in Coos history as a pioneer homesteader and survivor of the 1852 wreck of the Captain Lincoln.

Bennett, and his wife, whom he had married in 1853, had three sons and a daughter. He attended Devonshire Academy and earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from Trinity College in Dublin.  In May 1873 Bennett, his sons Joseph W. and George A., and a friend named George Sealy sailed on the schooner City of Baltimore for New York.   Mrs. Bennett and their daughter remained in Ireland, never joining the rest of the family in far-off Oregon.

 The foursome crossed the United States railroad, arriving in San Francisco.  From there they boarded the steamship Eastport for the Coos region. After a brief stay in Empire City, they made the difficult journey overland at Isthmus Slough, eventually reaching the mouth of the Coquille River.

 Here they found a sparsely populated, densely vegetated site known as "The Ferry".  No stores, hotels, or businesses were nearby. Bennett viewed it as an ideal location for future economic development, close to vast stands of timber, the ocean, and the mouth of a navigable river.

 Rich soil was suitable for agricultural endeavors. He bought Thompson "Tommy" Lowe's donation land claim as well as property to the north and south and on the beach. Here in 1874 he established Bandon, named after his hometown. (He gives the origin of the name as deriving from an English Puritan settlement in the south of Ireland, dating from the late 1500s).

 He served as Justice of the Peace, participated in community affairs, and served as official observer for the United States Weather Bureau. He may be almost as well remembered as the person who introduced gorse, also known as furze, to Oregon's South Coast.

 The yellow-flowered, spiny, European shrub is highly flammable and nearly impossible to eradicate. Growing thick and wild, this oily evergreen fueled Bandon's devastating fire in 1936.

 In addition to writing histories of both Bandons, his literary efforts extended to poetry praising the splendors of Coos County and condemning the hazards of Beaver Slough. In a two-part poem written in 1876, he expressed his deep displeasure about the nearly insurmountable difficulties of traversing Beaver Slough. Two verses follow:

If you wish to go from Coaled, to ‘our beautiful Coquille, ‘tis much easier far, without a car, to go straight through Hell...

And the rushes and sedge, they make a hedge that cannot be pierced by man. And the bears and cats, the beavers and rats, will devour you if they can.

In its completion is the six-stanza poem he wrote in 1887 entitled, The Bandon Beach:

O, we love to stroll where the billows roll on a cheerful and cloudless day; and roam o’re the strands, with their jeweled sands and watch the wild waves at play.

The water it raves in the sounding caves, in the gloomy and dark defiles-Rushing and dashing, seething and splashing; through the echoing, somber isles. Or, rippling in ripples, smiles and dimples, they steal up so softly and slow, to start some pet, whom there often met on their fair shores long ago. Sitting on rock, beyond the shock of the incoming angry wave,

We think of this life, its sorrows and strife and the life that’s beyond the grave. There, with shining band, in summer land, in the land of ancient story, We hope we will be, through eternity, in happiness, peace and glory.

Then cheer up, sad one! Come, take courage, man! The heavens are brilliant with light! And the glad’ning ray of the coming day peeps through,-you’ve passed the night!