My favorite story of Cannon Beach is the journey, how did people get here, why did they come here, why do they continue to come here?
For some, the journey began with the long road from Portland (luckily now only a two-hour commute). Travelers would journey along the Columbia River in riverboats, then by train, buggy, and eventually by motorcar. Portland was a booming industrial city tied to small coastal communities by a loose transportation system. The journey to the coast began with riverboats that plowed the Columbia from Astoria to Portland, and back.
The Columbia River, especially the mouth of the Columbia was and is one of the most dangerous river mouths in the world. In fact the mouth of the Columbia was so dangerous that the first ship sent to map it, The Peacock, crashed upon a spit, now called the Peacock spit. Some 2,000 ships and over 700 lives have been lost at the mouth of the Columbia River. The famed U.S.S. Shark was one of the ships claimed by the Columbia River Mouth. In 1846 the U.S.S. Shark was torn asunder by the competing tides of the mouth and lost several cannons to the Pacific.
Despite the dangers of the mouth, many journeyed along the Columbia to Astoria, and along the shore by train. The train was extended to Seaside in 1890. Just a year later, in 1891 James P. Austin built the Austin House that was both a hotel and a post office. Austin named the post office after a rumor he’d heard of cannons washing ashore there. The cannon that Cannon Beach is named for was discovered in 1898, after Austin had spent his life at the beach searching for it. It was his wife who discovered the cannon and had it pulled from the shoreline.
The long road to Cannon Beach was lined with a 111 stomach-churning curves. In 1892 the Elk Creek Hotel was constructed to welcome visitors to Elk Creek, Ore., but the road was still a winding muddy mess. In 1904 a new road with fewer curves was constructed bringing even more people to the beautiful town of Elk Creek. The road underwent several reconstructions before it was finally straightened out, and rid of the 111 curves.
More visitors meant more hotels, and the Hotel Bill was constructed in 1904, the Warren Hotel in 1911, followed by the Ecola Inn in 1913.
Elk Creek was a beautiful place for folk to sojourn from city life. They spent hours lounging in front of the Warren Hotel fire, walking the beach, and enjoying the wildlife that wandered through the heart of town. The popularity of Elk Creek grew. In 1922 the citizens of Elk Creek voted for a new more historical name, Cannon Beach. In 1955 the town of Cannon Beach voted to become the City of Cannon Beach and March 6, 1957 marks the incorporation of Cannon Beach.
Though the name of our beloved town has shifted, the spirit of the town and the ever-thrumming sea has remained constant.