18 miles inland from the Oregon Coast is the official Ghost Town of Scottsburg, Oregon, with its long and rich history. Originally the home of the Penutian-speaking Lower Umpqua native people in the present-day Scottsburg/Wells Creek area, it was named for pioneer and politician Levi Scott who’s birthday is still celebrated every year at the Community Center. Levi, from Illinois, homesteaded here and founded the town in 1850.
And then more “Scottsburgs” were established creating an Upper Scottsburg, Middle Scottsburg and Lower Scottsburg. Whew! Upper Scottsburg became a shipping and distribution port for the mining regions and communities of southern Oregon and northern California. Hundreds of pack animals loaded here at one time.
And it was news! The Umpqua Weekly Gazette was the first southern Oregon newpaper to be published out of Scottsburg.
Scottsburg declined as ports opened up closer to the market points in both Oregon and California. In 1861 a great flood wiped out Lower Scottsburg which caused further decline. A bit of a revial came during the 1940’s and 50’s as Scottsburg had a boom when the timber industry ramped up production in this area.
On the south side of the river and up river a bit from the town (on Lutsinger Creek Rd) was a settlement known still as “Family Camp.” Housing there held 350 people who worked in the timber or as staff in the timber camp on the north side of the river at Scottsburg.
I was hiking Lake Marie on the coast one day when I stopped to ask a fisherman if he was catching anything. In the course of our chat, he revealed that he had grown up during this period of time as his dad was the camp cook. He was well acquainted with one of our long time residents at Umpqua River Haven. He described growing up in the timber camp and being around kind of rough men who worked the timber. A bit frightening for a small boy.
Eventually timber in an area “plays out”. The timber is re-planted to grow again over the course of 15 or more years. But, the people move on which is what happened here. All of the houses at “Family Camp” were moved out and only a large, flat, treeless area remains. But everyone around knows about “Family Camp.” Scottsburg declined rapidly after that.
A few old timers remained in the area and “Bob’s Market” opened in 1950. Owned by Bob House the market eventually was taken over by his two sons, Tom and Bob and their wives.
In recent times, young Bob who lived across the highway from Umpqua River Haven, owned a Llama named Larry. Larry liked to wander and came meandering up our road one day at a fast walk with Bob chasing after him. The residents went out to help Bob round up Larry and get him back home inside the fence again. No easy task. Much as everyone wanted Larry back home, it was also some interesting entertainment during a quiet afternoon.
Llamas are raised in the Umpqua River Valley but also you will find them pastured with flocks of sheep as they are superior guard “dogs” against predators. Larry was just a member of the House Family.
The market is actually at Wells Creek which is 2 miles from Scottsburg and was recently sold by the brothers. But it is still there providing groceries to the locals and tourists. The market is often a destination for people who love Taylor Sausage which has been a staple item here for many years.
Scottsburg is on the Registry of Historic Ghost Towns but is very much alive. Walking distance east of the market is the Wells Creek Inn Restaurant and Lounge.
Two doors west of us at Umpqua River Haven is the volunteer fire department with a staff of well trained fire-fighting and EMT personnel. When the whistle blows, they come quickly and are very professional in fire-fighting and emergency services. The fire chief lives next door to us and we consider him and his family to be good friends.
Present day Scottsburg boasts a Community Church and US Post Office. Several residents live within the town including the Mayor, Henry Fryer and his wife, Patty, who was a long term US Post Master. Many of the buildings in Scottsburg are designated as Historic Sites.
The Scottsburg Post Office is much like a coffee shop where people meet, greet and visit as they pick up mail and do PO business. Patty, and subsequent postal employees, was always very helpful and could relay about any information you might need or want. I walked into the post office one day and asked Patty if she knew of anyone who played a string instrument. She was immediately able to give me the name of a cello musician who lived across the river on Lutsinger Creek Rd. I was able to contact the cellist and we played together as a duo, in a trio (The Glissandoes) and in the Southwestern Oregon Community College Orchestra in Coos Bay for many years.
The advantages of moving to a small town!
The population surrounding Scottsburg increase the number of residents by many. Lutsinger Creek Rd runs east from the bridge and contains houses up and down the road. There is also a Friesian horse farm. Traveling due west of Scottsburg before crossing the bridge is the Scottsburg West Rd with many very nice homes taking in their river views.
On the north side of the river heading east out of the Wells Creek Area (remember Bob’s Market) are streets leading to river property on the south with a variety of unique housing. There are also streets on the north leading to more housing and to the Historic Scottsburg Cemetary.
Boating and fishing, which we will discuss more in a bit, are year around activities on the Umpqua River. Two miles west of the town of Scottsburg is the Scottsburg Park which contains a boat ramp/dock, big parking lot, restroom facility and picnic areas. Quite a nice park for such a small community.
A bit further west is the Umpqua Wayside State Park which has a nice picnic area. Oregon has beautiful, well kept state parks. And the beauty of Oregon never ends. She is a scenic paradise!