Women of the Northwest

Liz Scott: History tales from the Cannon Beach Historical Society and Museum

February 15, 2024 Jan Johnson Episode 87
Liz Scott: History tales from the Cannon Beach Historical Society and Museum
Women of the Northwest
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Women of the Northwest
Liz Scott: History tales from the Cannon Beach Historical Society and Museum
Feb 15, 2024 Episode 87
Jan Johnson

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Liz Scott, director of the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum in Cannon Beach, Oregon shares about

  • the history of the museum
  •  how Cannon Beach got its name,
  • Mary Gerritse, first mail lady in Clatsop County traveling by horse over native trails of Neakhanie Mountain, Hug Point and Tillamook Head
  • Partnership with the Clatsop Nehalem Confederated Tribe to make sure their displays are accurate
  • the Cannon Beach Sand Castle contest 60 year anniversary coming up

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Find out more about the Clatsop Nehalem Confederated Tribe

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Liz Scott, director of the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum in Cannon Beach, Oregon shares about

  • the history of the museum
  •  how Cannon Beach got its name,
  • Mary Gerritse, first mail lady in Clatsop County traveling by horse over native trails of Neakhanie Mountain, Hug Point and Tillamook Head
  • Partnership with the Clatsop Nehalem Confederated Tribe to make sure their displays are accurate
  • the Cannon Beach Sand Castle contest 60 year anniversary coming up

Follow on facebook
Find out more about the Clatsop Nehalem Confederated Tribe

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

[00:02] Jan: Are you looking for an inspiring listen, something to motivate you? You've come to the right place. I'm Jan Johnson, your host. Welcome to Women of the Northwest, where we have conversations with ordinary women leading extraordinary lives, women telling their stories and sharing their passions. Motivating, inspiring, compelling. I love museums, especially small ones that are out of the way in rural towns. I've learned so much about local lore, who lived there, historical figures, and seen so many interesting items on display. Today's guest is Liz Scott, who manages the Cannon Beach History center and museum in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

[00:48] Jan: Welcome, Liz.

[00:50] Liz: Thanks for having me, Jan. I'm really excited to be here.

[00:53] Jan: Yeah, I just wanted to find out about this a, it's small, but it's so fun. Just like it's got so much information and stuff. I thought you could tell us a little bit about.

[01:04] Liz: No. So, yeah, the Cannon Beach Historical Society. We're also known as Cannon Beach History center and museum because they wanted a shorter name, when in fact, it's a longer name. So there's that. But some people also call us the Cannon beach museum. Go through. We have a multitude of names, if you will, but the Cannon Beach Museum has been in existence since 1969. A core group of enthusiasts were like, we need some sort of historical society. But they didn't have a physical location until probably about mid 2000. So, like, early to mid-two thousand’s, there was no physical location. So you can imagine that long of period of time, nothing going on. There was about, I would say from 1970 ish to the periods of inactivity where they didn't do anything. They were like, forget about it.

[01:59] Jan: It was a vision that might happen, and it's a good idea. Somebody needs to do that. Good idea. How am I going to do that?

[02:06] Liz: Yes. And so they reinvigorate, got reinvigorated in the early ninety s, and they finally were like, yes, let's do this. We're going to make this happen. They filed for nonprofit status and then decided, well, we need a location. And so some wonderful community members donated the spot that we're in now, the land and also the building materials to get it built. And the museum was officially built in 2000. And then 2005, we had two additions. We call it our John Williams classroom, and then our native American longhouse replica, which were added on Nice, which is really cool. And since then, we've just been continuing to go and go. We offer lots of really cool programs. We do a lecture series throughout the year that's free. We try to keep a lot of our stuff free, because we feel like we believe that history should be available to all, no matter your financial background. And that's really important to us because the museum itself is also free. We don't charge a formal admission. It's all by donation. So basically, pay what you can, and if you can't pay anything, we're not going to turn you away. Yeah, it's very important.

[03:28] Jan: So how are you funded?

[03:30] Liz: So we are funded by. Well, most of the money that we get is through our memberships. So people becoming members of the organization. We also apply for grants. Local, state, federal is a lot harder, but we do try to apply for federal funding if we can, and that's probably, like the core of it there. And then we do a couple of fundraisers throughout the year. The biggest fundraiser we do is a home tour in September that brings about 500 plus people to every year. So that's our main one. That we bring a lot of money. That brings a lot of money in. Yeah, but that's pretty much our main funding source is members, grants, and then private donors as well will donate. That's sponsorships.

[04:19] Jan: So tell me some about what are the displays that you have on.

[04:23] Liz: Yeah, so we do offer a permanent exhibit that showcases the general history of Cannon beach, that includes some native history, geological history of Haystack Rock, what it was like to live here in the early days, homesteading. And then we also focus on, of course, the cannon that cannon beach is named for. A lot of people don't know that Cannon beach was named after a real cannon that washed ashore in the mid 18 hundreds. They just think it's some random name that got picked. We get that almost every day.

[04:58] Jan: Well, tell us about the cannon.

[05:00] Liz: Yeah, so the cannon was named after, or cannon beach was obviously named after a cannon that washed ashore in the mid 18 hundreds from a naval ship that had foundered in the Columbia River when it was crossing the Columbia River bar. And that ship was called the USS Shark. And its mission was basically to find where was Oregon. Where was Oregon going to be? Because Oregon territory was in multiple what we would now consider states like Oregon, Washington, and a few other areas. And so that was what they were coming to do. But when they were trying to attempt to cross the Columbia River, they did not have an experienced person to do so. So the captain just decided, well, I'm just going to try. We'll try. And he did not do a very good job because the ship crashed and portions of the shipwreck, including three cannons, washed all the way down to the area known as arch cape. So just below kind of by the hug point area. And for years it played peekaboo. People were like, well, yeah, I think there's a cannon out there somewhere, but we're not sure. Oh, I see it. No. And then the sand would cover it up again. And then it wasn't until 1846 was the year that the shark crashed. And then it wasn't until 1898 that the first cannon was found by a mail carrier. And they brought other mail carriers in with their team of horses to pull this cannon out, which is crazy to me because the cannon itself weighs a ton and that's 2000 pounds. People were a lot hardier back then, don't you think?

[06:54] Jan: It's amazing that. How powerful are those weights to be able to have pushed it? Yes.

[07:00] Liz: Which is. Yeah, it's absolutely incredible to me because the rumor was that there was also two other cannons somewhere under there, but they were not found until over 100 years later in 2008. And if a lot of people remember, in 2007, we had a hurricane like storm known as the 2007 gale in December, which kind of the tides shifted because of that. And so the sands were shifting, and that exposed these two cannons. And it was a little girl, a young girl, and her dad found the first, the second one, and then another family found the third one. And it was quite a sight to see, had Oregon state parks. Everybody was out there trying to figure out, are these cannons? Because they did not look like cannons. They kind of almost looked like giant barnacles. They were encrusted in everything that you could imagine. So it was quite an amazing thing to see if you were on the beach that day. And so it's believed that there's more cannons out there somewhere, probably in the Columbia river, because there was around ten, roughly around ten cannons aboard the shark. So I would not recommend ever going down to look for that because you might not come out alive. Pretty sure you would not make it out. But just to be able to find three cannons aboard that ship and is just really cool. But some people also don't know that cannon beach, this cannon beach, was not always named cannon beach. And Arch Cape was not always arch Cape. In fact, Arch cape was originally called cannon beach because the cannon was found just below the hug point area. And it was a gentleman that he was the one that was like, I'm going to find this cannon. I'm going to make it my life mission to find this cannon. So he set up a post office in the arch cape area and named the post office cannon beach and called that area, cannon beach. But unfortunately, about three, I think it was like three years before he died, three years before the cannon was found, three to four years before the cannon was found, which is sad, but they were able to put the cannon in front of him and his wife's house as kind of like a commemorative thing, which was really cool. But the cannon beach area that we know today as cannon beach was in the very early days known as Elk Creek because of all the elk that roamed the area.

[09:38] Jan: Makes sense.

[09:39] Liz: Yes. And during the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Clark and twelve other members of the corps of Discovery came down to this area because of a whale that had washed ashore on the beach. And they had heard through other natives down in Seaside, at the salt tern that there's this whale. And they wanted to grab that because their food provisions were low and they wanted to use the whale oil and blubber for cooking. Well, by the time they got there, the whale was nothing but a skeleton. The natives had completely just taken it all. But they were able to trade 300 gallons of the whale oil and blubber, which was really cool. And when Clark got up to the area now known as Ecola State park, that viewpoint, he kind of dubbed that area e cola, which is the native word for whale. I guess you would call it chinook jargon, how I've seen it being used. But that's where the e cola name comes from, not E. Coli, which some people will think that, gosh, we get so many visitors.

[10:46] Jan: It's just a letter and a. or an I.

[10:48] Liz: Yes. And it's funny in the journals, I think Clark references it as spelling almost like e coli, which I find really funny because spelling back then was not a thing. But naming the area e cola. And they decided after the corps of discovery was here to change the name to e cola to commemorate their journey here. But after that, there was another town in Oregon, in the Willamette valley, named Eola. So before the time of zip codes, mail was getting sent to Eola when it should be getting sent to this town and vice versa. So they petitioned to change the name to Cannon beach because the area now known as Arch Cape had already changed the name because of the archways down there. So it's a bit confusing. And people don't always realize, like, sometimes when you're referencing the early days of Cannon beach, they're talking about Arch Cape. So it's really cool to see how many name changes this cannon beach has gone through. And it's really cool. Part of history.

[12:04] Jan: Yeah. And so one of your exhibits is with the mail and the saddle. And tell us about that.

[12:12] Liz: Yeah, so we actually recently acquired on permanent loan a saddle of one of the former mail carriers from the early days, I would say from the mid to late 18 hundreds. And it was from a female mail carrier by the name of Mary Gerritse. And she's very well known in this area and down to Nehalem, actually, probably pretty much everywhere in Clatsop County, as she actually, her husband started mail carrying, and she decided that she wanted to do it, too. And so she started becoming a mail carrier and eventually took over for him. And she had a horse that she was. Her horse's name was Prince. And she would go over, I mean, she literally would just use the native trails over Neakhanie Mountain, Hug Point, you name it, Tillamook Head, every day to bring people their mail. And she was an incredible woman because her horse fell down one of the cliffs. And she was so brave to be able to rescue him. And she just did things that many women today probably would never even think to do. But my most favorite thing about her is that she was often criticized for not riding side saddle as a woman. And she said in better. I don't know if this is the exact quote, but she basically said, I'm doing a man's job. I'm not going to ride side saddle. And she was such, just a very strong person. She's just such an incredible heroine of this area.

[13:53] Jan: Wouldn't you have to be strong, though, too, to be out in elements even?

[13:57] Liz: Yeah. And she fought off bears, probably cougars, I'm assuming. All kinds of animal, wild animals that you wouldn't even think about just to be able to deliver the mail. Yeah, the mail makes you appreciate it.

[14:11] Jan: And then it was only a penny a letter. Yes, exactly.

[14:15] Liz: And her, and her husband, well, she was very instrumental in getting the library here started. And they started various other things. They had a meat market. They just did so much for the community in the very early days that she's just someone that should always be remembered as just this strong, courageous, brave woman that we just appreciate her very much.

[14:44] Jan: Tell me her name again.

[14:46] Liz: Mary Gerritse. But she was definitely incredible. And to be able to have the saddle that she used, that she had on her horse prints is just really cool. We're very excited to be able to have that. We had it on a temporary loan, but the Clatsop County historical society, we came to an agreement that they said we would rather much have you have it on display than it be in storage, which those kind of things should definitely be showcased. And it's very important to tell that history because we don't want it to die. People need to know that.

[15:29] Jan: That's why you have a museum, and.

[15:31] Liz: That's exactly why we're here, to continue to share the history, the rich history of this area that people don't even realize that there is. Because when you think of a small town, you think there's probably not much there. And I've been involved here at the historical society for ten years, and I'm still learning things that I'm like, I did not know that happened here, or I can't believe that this happened here, and I am just learning about this. So that's how vast the history is here, and it's just really cool.

[16:05] Jan: Tell me about. So you have the long house, and how do you determine the accuracy of the things that you're doing?

[16:13] Jan: Yes.

[16:14] Liz: So we do have a native American longhouse replica, and it got installed in 2005. And at the time, they did work with the Clatsop Nehalem Confederated tribe. But we have decided this year that we want to expand on their history because we're also going to be redesigning the permanent exhibit. It's very important to expand on that. And times are changing, and museums have to know, have to go along with that change. And so after meeting with the Clatsop Nehalem confederated tribe, they said, oh, there's a couple things that aren't as accurate as we once thought. So they were actually working very closely with them, meeting with them on a regular basis and having them pretty much being in control of the project to design it and create it so that way it can be as exact as it possibly can be, even though, of course, there was no pictures back then. It represents as much as it possibly can, as accurate as it possibly can be. So we can't tell their story. So we give them full control to tell that story. And they decided that they would like to have their part be about relationships in the exhibit, talk about who these people were and have it be within the whole entire permanent exhibit, not just their portion, because the natives were. They were very important throughout, and they still are. And so having it, focusing on those people, those relationships is very exciting, and people tend to relate to that.

[18:00] Jan: Sure. It's about, you want to know about people, not just things. The things aren't life in themselves. They're interesting, but it's the stories of the people that really.

[18:12] Liz: Yes. So I'm very excited to see what stories will be told with these native people. I think it's definitely long overdue, but that's how we get. Our accuracy is working very closely with the descendants that have these stories that have it. Have everything. We make sure, we fact check. We have multiple sources. We make sure to have at least three sources that can verify that before we put it out there. Because as a museum, you have to be historically accurate. That's not good. If you're not accurate.

[18:48] Jan: Well, you don't want to pass down information.

[18:49] Liz: That's not exactly. And so at the time when they put up the original exhibit, basically the exhibit company took over and they kind of just did their own thing and they didn't really consult with the tribe, which we definitely are not doing at all and we don't ever intend to do. They are basically side by side, and they've even asked us questions like, well, what do you think? And I'm like, it's not what I think. It's what you think matters. If you decide that you want to change something, we're going to do that. Honestly, I told them it doesn't matter what I think because this isn't my exhibit. Obviously, it's your history and it's your culture. Yes. So that's kind of how we're going moving forward. Make sure that everything's 100% accurate, as accurate as possible.

[19:37] Jan: And do you interview people?

[19:40] Liz: Yes. So we do have an oral history program, which we aren't as active because there's only two staff here besides myself. I have one other staff member. We would love to get that back on a more consistent basis because we found that a lot of people that we've had on schedule to interview have either passed or something happened and it just didn't work out.

[20:08] Jan: I get that.

[20:09] Liz: Yes. And so we want to bring that back, and we're always looking for volunteers. So if somebody's interested in taking on the oral history program, that would be incredible because we have a long list of people that we want to bring in, but we just don't have the time, the resources to take that on because we already have a long load of list of stuff to do.

[20:33] Jan: Right, basically.

[20:34] Liz: But yes, we already have a pretty extensive oral history collection that goes as far back as the 60s when the historical society was founded. We need to have more. Definitely. There's always.

[20:48] Jan: That might be something to write a grant for, too.

[20:50] Liz: Yes. That is excellent.

[20:54] Jan: Yeah. Because it wouldn't take a huge grant to do, but it would be something or even to put out in a newsletter. Hey, would you like to donate to this to make this happen?

[21:08] Liz: Absolutely, yes. And it's something we want to keep going on because it's very important. Those oral histories are very important to keep going. And even just talking to people that come in here randomly, I'm like, I need to record you because you just said something very important. I need this on audio. Please repeat that so I can record that. Or even if somebody wants to even just write their history, take all of it, because that all goes in an archive that we save all that stuff. We have a cloud that we backup everything to. All documents are in cabinets that are safe, fire safe. Unfortunately, they're not water safe. So if a tsunami comes, then that's not the best.

[22:04] Jan: What's your vision?

[22:06] Liz: So our vision, I would say for this year, the big vision is to just increase visibility, to bring people in here so that way they can really understand the history here. I think that's been a goal of ours. And a vision is to just increase the visibility so people know that we're here and that they know that we have resources available, our archives are available. They can come dig through our archives for whatever they're looking for. That's kind of what we've been trying to really focus on is increasing that visibility, but also letting people know that history should be available to all people, no matter your financial background.

[22:48] Jan: Yeah. What other exhibits could you.

[22:52] Liz: Yeah. So we have an exhibit that's going to be opening in March that's going to celebrate 60 years of Sandcastle content, which will be really exciting. It'll be back in our event space that we have, and it'll focus first and foremost on the tsunami that happened in 64. The Sandcastle contest had to start from somewhere. So focusing on that and then showcasing the Sandcastle history throughout the years. And that's going to be really fun. Coming up.

[23:22] Jan: So what kind of exhibits will you have?

[23:26] Liz: We'll have photos, we'll have documents. Back in the early days, kids used to get little silly prizes for being in the contest. So we have all those prizes and they used to give out trophies. So we've got some of the early trophies, the early shirts that they used to give out, that kind of stuff. And then, of course, the iconic posters that they do every year. We have a collection of those that we'll be putting up for visitors to see and kind of just understand how important an event this is for the town. And how it brings people together. 60 years later, it still brings people together in community. And we're really excited. We're really excited about that.

[24:08] Jan: Yeah, that's, like, a lot of fun. And your event space, people could rent that?

[24:13] Jan: Yes.

[24:13] Liz: So we do have the event space. It's not a large space, but it's enough to hold 50 chairs. There's less, obviously, with tables, but we do rent it out. If your local nonprofit, whether it's the county, Cannon beach, we don't charge for that because we believe that we love working with the other nonprofits in the area. It's not a very expensive fee. It's like $30 an hour, which most people use it for a couple of hours. And that's another vision of ours this year, is to continue to work with the community, with other nonprofits, do more collaborative stuff, and just letting the community know that we are a resource for them to come in. And we have an open door policy where just people come in. You don't need to make an appointment. Just come, and we'll make the time for you. And that's very important, too.

[25:02] Jan: And you do field trips?

[25:03] Liz: We do. So we have a field trip program that we do every year, and that's also free. We get a grant for that from the Clark foundation, the Clark Family foundation, to be able to have the kids come here, and we do, like, a little guided tour. They get to have a little fun. We do a craft, which is really cool, and, of course, snack time. And that's very successful. The kids really love that. So we're booking schools out to come out and visit us, and even our local church that I go to where I'm working with them, to have them come and do a field trip, and then also for us to go and visit as well, to be hands on, on site, whether it's at the school, at the church, wherever. We're not limited in that capacity at all. Yeah, we're very excited.

[25:54] Jan: And you were saying that you wanted to make the museum more interactive. What kind of things would you include?

[26:00] Jan: Yeah.

[26:00] Liz: So when we redesign the permanent exhibit, our hope and vision is that we can have more videos, things for kids to do, whether it be like we've talked about doing, like, a wave simulator, even a tsunami simulator, stuff like that. I know it's challenging in a small space to be able to offer interactive stuff. So obviously, we're not going to be like the maritime museum, as much as I would love to be the maritime museum. And they're larger than us. That's kind of what we would like to do, even if it's a tablet, where they do like, trivia, that sort of stuff that engages them and isn't like, this is boring. Because when I was young, I did not care for history that much. So I always find it funny that I'm in the history setting now and I love history.

[26:50] Jan: And how do you get your love of history?

[26:55] Liz: Honestly, I cannot pinpoint where it came from because I started out, I got this position by volunteering, and I was helping out a friend at the time, and I was able to just go into the archives and be like, this is really cool. I didn't even know. Why am I not paying attention to this history? This is incredible. And I think it just started from there, volunteering and realizing, wow, I really do like history. I just didn't take the time to notice it until I started volunteering, which volunteering is so important in any small community because you never know where it's going to lead. Lead you to a job that you end up loving, and it could be your career.

[27:40] Jan: I'll put some links in the show notes to your museum and anything else think of that we can.

[27:46] Liz: I guess one thing I could add, too. What's very important to being a member of a museum or any organization, being a member is very important because not only does it show your support both monetarily and you're visibly out there showing support, it keeps a place running and going on the day to day. One of the things that was really important for us is to be able to offer more perks for our members, because being free, you already get free admission. Yeah, that's not really necessarily a perk. So one of the cool things that we were able to offer this year is a reciprocal admission to 16 organizations in Oregon. So if you're a member and days.

[28:27] Jan: That you're open your time.

[28:28] Liz: Yes. So the museum is open right now four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. To 04:00 p.m. And so you can come in anytime during those hours, and either myself or my colleague will greet you or a lovely volunteer, and we'll be able to help you and hopefully answer any questions that you have. Our knowledge is pretty good when it comes to Canyon beach, but if you ask us anything about Lincoln City, we probably know it. And believe it or not, it's down that way. Yes. Somebody's asked me about the history there, and I'm like, I could probably tell you about close to Tillamook. And that's as far as it.

[29:06] Jan: Yeah. Well, thank you, Liz. It's been a delight.

[29:09] Liz: Thank you, Jan. I appreciate you talking with me and spreading the word about the museum and everybody. Come and visit. We would love to see you and help you share more of the history here.

[29:21] Jan: Okay, thank you.

[29:24] Jan: Thanks for listening to this episode of Women of the Northwest. Be sure to check out the show notes for links to the Cannon Beach History center and museum. It's also found on Facebook and Instagram and those links are included as well. And I hope you'll join me again next week. That's all for today. Did you know it's easy to share an episode with your friends when the podcast is open? Look for three dots, click on them, and you'll see various options. You can download the episode, play it next or last, go to the show, save the episode, or copy the link. Isn't technology amazing? Hey, I'm looking forward to you joining me next time. I hope you have a great week.