Coos County

Coos County was created on December 22, 1853, from parts of Umpqua and Jackson Counties. It was named after a local Indian tribe, the Coos, which has been variously translated to mean "lake" or "place of pines."

Coos County is situated in the southwestern part of Oregon. It is bounded by Douglas County on the north and east, by Curry County on the south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Various boundary adjustments with Curry County in 1855 and 1872 and with Douglas County in 1882, 1951, and 1983 resulted in the present county which now has an area of 1,629 square miles.

In January 1854, the Territorial Legislature established Empire City as the county seat. In 1895 the legislature permitted the citizens of the county to choose a new county seat. The 1896 vote resulted in the designation of Coquille City as the new county seat.

The first county courthouse was built in Empire City. The first courthouse in Coquille was erected in 1898. An addition, referred to as the "hall of records," was built in 1916. In 1951 the old courthouse was torn down. The "hall of records" was left standing, and in 1951 and 1953 east and west wings were added at the cost of $180,00 and $260,00 for each wing.

The government of Coos County consisted originally of a county probate judge, two county commissioners, and a sheriff. The office of county clerk was first an appointive and later an elective office. The offices of county school superintendent, county treasurer, and county assessor had appeared by 1891. The county court was replaced by a board of commissioners in 1961.

The first census in 1860 showed a population of 445. The 2000 population of 62,779 represented a 4.16% increase over the 1990 population.

Although exploration and trapping in the area occurred as early as 1828, the first settlement was established at Empire City in 1853. The Territorial Legislature granted permission for the development of wagon roads from Coos Bay to Jacksonville in 1854 and to Roseburg in 1857. Although a mountainous county, it has considerable areas suitable for agriculture and dairy farming. Timber and fishing have been the foundation of the county's economy. The area also has produced large quantities of shellfish.

There are several port districts in the county: Port of Coos Bay founded in 1909, Port of Coquille River founded in 1912, and Port of Bandon founded in 1913. Coos Bay is considered the best natural harbor between San Francisco Bay and the Puget Sound and the Port of Coos Bay is the largest forest products shipper in world.

Gold mining was the magnet that drew people to explore and exploit the mineral resources of the county during the nineteenth century. Today there are rich deposits of iron ore, lead, and coal that await development. Vacation and recreational possibilities, such as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and many state parks, attract tourists to the area and provide an additional economic stimulus.

Did You Know?

A fire raged through the Coos County coastal town of Bandon in 1936, destroying most of the city. In the aftermath of the devastation, local authorities worked with the Oregon State Planning Board to devise a detailed comprehensive plan for a new Bandon. The Planning Board promoted the effort as an model of responsible and rational planning.

Oregon went on to lead the nation in land use planning. In 1973 Governor Tom McCall made his now famous speech criticizing "sagebrush subdivisions, coastal condomania, and the ravenous rampages of suburbia." That same year the Oregon Legislature passed the landmark Senate Bill 100, creating a state commission and department to develop goals for responsible planning and land use.