Railroad through Town.  Trails,
not Streets.

 The Long

 Boarding House, called a "Hotel"

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Voices from Beaver Hill

Beaver Hill Coal Mine and Company Town

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 copyright c  2006 by Marilee Miller.  This is a work in progress, a rough draft. 

                                  PART   1  

          Life in a Company Town

   1  -  2   The COMPANY TOWN

     Hugh Brown says he was not much impressed with his first view of the Beaver Hill company town. All his young life, he'd lived in company towns.  Others besides Brown stress that one coal mining camp pretty much looked like any other. 

     Railroad access to the town necessitated two elevated trestles spanning Caulfield Marsh, a swampy lowlands (fed by Beaver Slough and the winter overflow of the Coquille River).  

               [Arnot interview]
            Arnot, p 1.  >>? The railroad came right through the center of the town.  It was the bottom of the hill, more or less.  The store, and the hotel, was built up off of the marsh, so that the freight coming out of the boxcars could be put right on this platform.  It was unique in that respect.  The buildings were not set down on the ground.
     Lyman:  So all of the buildings that were there, then, actually were out on a pier, or a wharf ...arrangement...

     The tracks passed by an unloading platform in front of the general store, and also veered off to the coal tipple, where coal from the mine was dumped into railroad cars for passage to the company's coal bunkers at Bunker Hill, out on [Isthmus Slough,, near the bustling Coos Bay seaport of Marshfield. 

      The buildings in town rose in levels across an irregular hillside.   The
general store was on the first level, as was the hotel (which was really only a boarding house), and a "hospital," or infirmary.  [latter; McKelvie 22].  Other company buildings mingled with the miners' houses on their several levels. The theater on [level  ].  The schoolhouse on the highest level.   [latter, Chappell]

    The Beaver Hill Coal Company - at first owned by the Spreckels sugar interests, and later taken over by Southern Pacific railroad - owned everything.  Miners rented their houses from the company.  "You rented everything from them, paid your light bill to them, brought your groceries home [from their store], everything."  [Brown 10.] 

     Just as there was no driving road in, within the community there were no real streets.  But dirt trails wound here and there up the hill, such as one leading to the schoolhouse.  Each row of houses had its own dirt footpath,  wide enough to accommodate a small horse-drawn cart which serviced the houses, delivering coal and other items.  In winter, however, these paths from residences and to the miners' work, were mostly mud. 

     The buildings on the first level were all set on pilings above the swamp.  A high boardwalk ran in front of the general store and the boarding house (also called the hotel), as unloading platforms [Menegat2] for goods brought in by train  Except for this planked area, there weren't any sidewalks in the town. [Chappell.]
[M-note-- compare Menegat's accounts of number of levels [on his MSS], with McKelvie [in TBH?], and     Arnot,             Dow Beckham.]

     Menegat 1.  There's a kind of gully in between the town and the hill where the mine is built.  This would be kind of round, and the houses would be right in here. 

     M.  Do you know which one of these buildings was which?

     Menegat. Yeh.  This was a saloon, this was a warehouse, and this was a general store.  That was a saloon, and the second thing there was a saloon.  They were built right together.  Then there's a big warehouse in tghere.  And this general store was the last one [building].  And an office building up overhead.  [M. 2000 This doesn't tie with what Fern Chappell said about Madisons.  But I haven't really got comments about where the timekeeper and office personnel worked.]

     M.. Where was the theater? 
     Menegat: Right up in the center. 
     M.  Just part of the houses? 
     Menegat: ...stairway... right up the hill.   And on the first flight
[landing], here was the theater...  And there were about 4 different landings.  And on the top of the first landing was the theater. [barbershop.]  This was the first place I ever got a haircut.  And the hospital in there someplace.  This would be the mines.  And the track continued up in here, then it kind of went around up here where they had these coal bunkers, where they loaded [the RR train.]  ...And in here, now, kind of along here in this area, a baseball field.

     Menegat 8.  Across from it [M. what? Theater?] was kind of a double set of tracks.  Then there was flights of steps that went clear to the top of the hill, for the people to walk up to go to their homes.  It was sort of in the center of town.  And that was the first movie theater that I had seen in my life.

     A long, long wooden stairway marched stiffly up the hill, connecting the several levels.

     Fern Chappell:   Just past the hotel, where the Post Office was [not an official government p.o. but a place in town where people picked up their mail],  steps went up the hill.  It was 26 steps up and then a platform,  And then [another] 26 steps and a platform at that level.  ...I know...there were were 3 or 4 of those sections.

     ...Because...[once]  I started running down there one night, and I...was going too fast and [accidentally] stepped off----  And I...just flew through the air...just went headlong clear down...[straight down the stairs]..., landing with my feet up, and my head...and my hands down... on the...platform. 

     And I opened my eyes, and it was dark as pitch.  My coat----     I had on a heavy brown coat.  And it had just got over my head [so I couldn't see].  Every place where I hit on the corner of those steps, I just about skinned myself and black and blued myself.  I really had a terrible fall.

     But there was a...schoolteacher that lived [in a house] right [near] the
steps.  She didn't teach there;  I...think she was retired.  But she  was a friend of mine.  I went over there.  She helped me recover.  [Chappell 6.  [she continues:]  Was that Vernon Carey?  Mrs. Carey?  [M: note.  But I suspect she may have meant Mrs. Rayer.]

  NEEDED?  Arnot: xxxl...  And there was a ...showhouse.  And you went up steps to that.  There was so many steps and then a landing, so many more steps and a landing.  I think there was 6 flights of stairs, with the landings.  That took you up on to the hill.

[Any other abt stairway.]

[caption on historic photo which accompanied Chan Beebe article, The World, September 21, 1974]
     A shift of workers leaves one of the first of several tunnels at the Beaver Hill coal mine at quitting time carrying lunch pails which were packed with three course lunches and coffee .  Chef Dhin Wing was a respected house chef for the miners.

[M. note.   Didn't Beebe or someone mention a cookhouse in early times?  This would have been separate from boarding house?  Insert Lapp abt  Chinese cook.]

Hotel-1-2  Chappell 12.  M. In other words, you took your meals there?

     Fern:  They had a dining room there. 

     Lyle:  Oh yes, Mr. & Mrs. Nelson were the operators [1919].  He was a cook, and a good one. 

     M.  All of the guests in the hotel ate there? 

     Lyle: Oh yes.  There must have been close to a dozen eating there.  I don't think there was that many staying there, but I know at the table, at mealtime, there'd be about a dozen around the tables.  They had set up 2 tables.  One of them was full and the other was partially filled, so it would be at least a dozen that ate there.  Now, whether they all lived at the hotel, I don't know. 

     M. Was it pretty much the same people that ate there every day?

      Lyle: Oh yes, they were all men who worked in the mines. 

     M. Some of the people could have been single but lived in houses?

     Lyle; They might have boarded there, very likely.

Chappell 11.  Lyle: All they had was the company hotel.  I don't know how many rooms there were.  I lived upstairs.  Had a coal stove to heat the room. 

     M.  The individual rooms had a stove?  It wasn't central heating?

     Lyle: Oh, no.  I imagine that every room in the hotel -- there are only 3 or 4 single men that stayed at the hotel.  Most of the men who worked in the mine were all family men and had families there. 

     M. How big were the rooms?  Did you just have a single room?

     Lyle: Yes, I had a room to myself.  As far as I know, the other men did too.  There were a number of Slavic men, elderly, working in the mine, and single.  [M. 2000 this sentence should also go under

[Chappell 10.]    M:  [looking at photos,] The hotel doesn't look like it was very big.  It just looks like a large house. 

     Fern: Well, it was pretty good sized.  It didn't look like a hotel that you think about now, because it was just a great big square building.  Looks like [looking at pix] it was built in a couple of sections.  That's the back end, of course.  The railroad ran along in front of it.  And there were boardwalks in front of the hotel and store so you could get to

[Chappell 13.]  M.  What did this room look like, where you ate?

     Lyle: Twice as big as this.  ["this" may have been 12' x 17'.  M.]  A big dining room.  Apparently in the heydays they had lots of patronage.  But at that time they just set up 2 tables.  It was a big room.  They had a piano in one end... 

     Fern: Oh, they did have dances there, didn't they?  I hadn't thought of that. 

     M.  Was it just rough boards, or plaster, or? 

     Lyle: Oh no, it was a well-built building.  Nelsons sure kept it spotless and clean.  Real nice.  He had a very nice kitchen, an elaborate hotel kitchen, things that were necessary for a hotel operation.  Those are before the days of stainless steel.  But they kept things polished and clean, shiny.  As I recall, it was just boards, sheathing, siding.  Of course, it wasn't plywood because they didn't have that yet. I can't recall whether it was painted.

[M. where is hotel 3?]  hotel 4.
[McKelvie 11].  M. They didn't own it, it belonged to the company.  They just hired them. 

     McKelvie: They were contracted.  The  last one I remember was Nelson.  I don't remember his first name.  And they had a couple of them before that.

[M. Part of this is McK, verify whether might all be instead of partly M.]   P.O. in hotel at BH.  [M. ie, where they picked up their mail; wasn't a US PO, that was down at Preuss, the "Junction".]   [M note: but in one place I thought it said mail was at company store.]

     M:  When you say hotel and boarding house, you use the terms

     McK:  Yes.  Some called it a hotel, but it was a big boarding house for the miners, is what it was.  But if people come up there and wanted to stay all night, of course they could stay there.

     Mrs. McK:  They just had the bedrooms and they ate downstairs.  In the big room.

McKelvie 10.   Once in a while people would come in there [main room of boarding house] and throw a party.  They had that piano in there , because once in a while the Mexican railroad guys, the guys that come in to work on the railroad, get one of them in there, and he could play like mad. Man, we'd go down and sit and listen to them.  And they're supposed to be out there working on the gandy dancing.  [ M. note. Gandy dancer, laborer who repairs or lays tracks for RR.]  While the boss was gone they'd be in there playing music; they were dancing like mad.

[M. poss. Alt. Location for Holm-meat, hogs-deer, cooler; which is now under houses]


The Company

(Bhy??) (RR-phy) CCH Feb 6, 1900.  The store at Beaver Hill has been rrenovated; the bunkers put in first-class shape; the mining plant has been overhauled; gear changed and everything is being put in readiness for the resumption of work in the near future.  A new sidetrack has also been laid tothe store, for convenience of passengers and freight.  +

(bhw5)   #People (106) CCH Feb. 20, 1900. 
Marshfield Sun: The steamer Alice Blanchard on her last trip brought up a large stock of groceries for the Beaver Hill Coal Company.  This looks like business.  +  [M.  After the mine had been closed some time in the aftermath of an explosion.  also in Mine. Transport]

Coq B Oct 9, 1903.  (b 557) (C.B. News)
Work has been commenced on the new store building at Beaver Hill, which will be finished as soon as possible.  A force of carpenters has [print] also been secured to begin work on the new buildings at the Marshfield depot, and other improvements in connection with the railroad and mine will be commenced by Manager Chandler in the near future. +  [also in Chandler.  Rrco]
(Coq B) suppl. Prob Oct 23, 1903. (b570)  
Rev Horsfall, at the Episcopal church in this place, yesterday morning at ten o'clock, united in marriage Fritz C. Getty, of Beaver Hill, and Miss Mabel Cootey, of San Francisco.  Mr. Otto Schetter acted as best man and Miss Fannie Gettie as bridesmaid.  The couple left immediately after the ceremony for their home at Beaver Hill where Mr. Getty has a position in the company's store.
     Mr. Getty is a very popular young man with all who bear his acquaintance. 
We have not the pleasure of the bride's acquaintance, but the fact that she has been chosen by Fritz as a life companion is enough to assure us that she is in every respect worthy.
     The Bulletin extends congratulations.  +

CB Times Apr 21, 1919. (LP-13) 
      E.W. Madison, store keeper at Beaver Hill [1919&], was in the city on his regular week-end visit and returned home this morning.

     [Store 1-2]    The only store on the hill was owned by the Beaver Hill Coal Company, which of course was linked with the CBR &E Railroad and Navigation Co., or later, Southern Pacific.  Located in the "business district," the store was nevertheless very similar to all the houses of the community.

     And what could one buy at the company store?  Just about everything -- for if miners didn't purchase all their supplies there, they would have had to pay train fare and take extra time to shop in Marshfield or Coquille. 

     Candy and nuts were sold through Mr. Rayer's pool and card room.  The coal train had no refrigeration to preserve perishables, so the company store didn't offer to stock meat and milk.  Nearby ranchers could supply those items.
     It was a general store, with everything from the proverbial cracker barrel to coal oil (kerosene) for lanterns, and work overalls.  As for women's clothing, a difference of opinion has been noted.  Some say the garments were just as good as those at Penny's or other stores in towns, but cost less money.  Others say the store didn't carry good-quality clothing.  Many ladies - especially the wives of neighboring ranchers - preferred to shop in Coquille, at the Lorenz store, or at Robinson's.

     Until about the time the mine activity was winding down, it is stated that almost all women in the mine district made their own dresses.  Finally some of them began eyeing an occasional ready-made blouse.  Finally, even skirts and housedresses could be bought off the racks, if the lady of the house had too many other duties to find time for sewing.

[store 3-4]   In the early days of the mine, pay for a month's work was all by scrip. [M  note. But see Beebe, [article in World].   The scrip could only be redeemed at the company store.  Later, when there would have been a way to shop elsewhere, the company store still offered the greatest convenience.  A purchaser signed a bill tallied by the store-
keeper.  At the end of the month the amount owed was deducted from the paycheck.  Rent, utilities, and coal (fuel for cooking and heating) fees were all handled in the same way.

     [M.  also put this under "working conditions"??.   The song made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford, "I owe my soul to the company store," was not just a myth. 

     "That was it," declares Alex McKelvie. "That song, that just about hits it!"  [Mck 18]

     Hugh Brown agrees.  "You owed the company doctor for coming in to this world, and you owed somebody for burying you, and there was never a chance to get off the hook in between.  What you owed the company often came out more than the pay they said you had earned."

     Some miners never did earn as much as their debts.  In that case, the
company store continued to sell on credit -- for years, if need be.  (If this
sounds like a blessing in disguise for the poor, well, at times it might be -- IF the mine kept running at full production, IF there were no cave ins or explosions or worked-out veins, IF neither  general economy nor company politics interfered, IF miners had the continued good health to work, IF the boss didn't fire them for real or imagined infractions. 

     Many miners had had to borrow money from the Beaver Hill Coal Company to pay stage or boat fare to come to the mine in the first place.  Some other coal operation might have closed down without paying off its laborers -- or, if times were hard, joblessness might have gone on for a long time. 
     And so they came to this mine, "hoping".  But if the "ifs" fizzled out at
Beaver Hill,  who would pay moving expenses to leave the hill? 

     Even in the best of times, coal mining was an employment for the
physically hardy and strongly determined.   Persons with less robust health or will-power, just couldn't "make it."  The reality of not being able to break even, the knowledge that mine companies cared only for profits, not broken hearts or lives, probably  steered many a defeated miner to the saloon for moments of  "escape".  But even that tab would be added to the company bill!

[McKelvie 13a].  [M.   this repeats 2 short sentences from "store".]  Everything was charge.  You could get clothing and everything there... 

     M.  It didn't make it possible for the miners to leave and go to some other job, did it?
     McKelvie.  Oh, there was a lot of them that did it.  They just had to scrimp and save.

[store 5-6]  Fowl, Fowler, Foster.
     Varney.  (I think it was Fowl; I'm not a good speller) had the store.  She was awfully hard of hearing when she got older.  They had a couple of daughters, and were older people.  He was an older man.  Yes, the company hired him to stay afterwards to watch the property.

     [McKelvie 7].  The storekeeper's name was Foster.  I don't know his first name.  He was some kind of a relative of Corey [a mine manager].  See, when Corey came in, he cleaned out all of Whereat's [a former manager] men... and put his own men in, like the storekeeper and the mine foreman - the guys who had decent jobs.

[Chappell16.]  Lyle:  Madison [in 1916] was a friendly individual and apparently was a good storekeeper.  I don't know how long they had been there... They had a boy, a son.  I know he came and visited us here at North Bend later.  {        }.  He  was grown by then. 

Fern.  He wasn't at home in Beaver Hill.

What kind of people were the storekeepers?
[Chappell15.]  Fern:  They were real nice to me.  When I got ready to come home, she had a whole bunch of cut glass and she asked me -- I don't remember if this was when I got there, or after I'd stayed there the next year -- but she asked me if I wanted a piece of this cut glass, and told me to pick out what I wanted...  She gave me a little rose jar full of rose petals from their wedding in it.  And I still have it. 

Lyle: I dropped it on the hearth and broke it.  But I patched it, glued it back together again. 

[store 7-8[  [Chappell3]  0looking at photos.]  Fern-Lyle.This is where the storekeeper lived, right here.  It was kind of a nice house right up there above that little corner of the store.  That's a corner of the store building there across the RR tracks.  This man here ran the store.  [pointing to a photo.]   

Fern.  I lived there for 3 months.   

[McKelvie 13a]  Everything was charge.  You could get clothing and
everything there.  Oh, if you happened to get enough money ahead you could come down to the J.C. Penney's.  But I don't see how you could save much money anyhow, 'cause then you had to pay the train ride and everything else. 

[McKelvie 12]  And I remember the [storekeeper] was a real nice fellow. [speaking of storekeeper before Corey came.]  He was there, and then he left.  And then we had another man come in and run the grocery store, and then he quit for some reason.  I think they [may even have] caught him with his hand in the till.  ...The first one, I can't remember his name.  I didn't like him.  He kicked me out of the store all the time.  Probably figured I was going to do a little shoplifting, which I probably would if he hadn't watched me.

[McKelvie 15.]  Everything else [except perishables such as milk  or meat] was through the store.  See, they had the freight train.  They'd get, like, Pacific Fruit to get all the vegetables and stuff.  Canned goods and all that.

     Kingsley:  ...He [Foster;  1921] ran the store. 

     M:  What were they like?  Did they have a family? 

     K:  They had two boys.   

     M.  Are they still alive?

     K:  They've been gone from [this area] about 35 years [as of 1979-80].     I imagine they are.

     M:  What would they be in relation to your age?  

     K:  The oldest would probably be a couple of years younger than I was.   

     M:  What kind of  people were these storekeepers?   

     K:  Very good.

[Article-Beebe]  [The World, September 21, 1974] 
     When they built the company store, [M. early date] ...my father was hired as storekeeper, bookkeeper, and paymaster.  It was a good
sized store, selling everybody's needs from mining equipment to clothing and food.
     In these days of crime, it is something to record that once every week, my father went to Marshfield on the train and brought back large sums of money in a satchel to pay the weekly wages.  He was never molested..

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 copyright c  2006 by Marilee Miller.  This is a work in progress, a rough draft. 

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