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Indians had lived on or near this Lincoln Beach site for some time—possibly thousands of years—but little is known about their early occupancy. Because they had no metal and lived off the land, they left few lasting marks. Obsidian, transluscent chert, and red jasper arrowheads have been found along Lincoln Beach, but none were found on the Sullishak site itself.

Steve Sullivan wrote the following in an e-mail message to family members in 2011 after reading  The People Are Dancing Again: The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon by Charles F. Wilkinson (Oct 14, 2010) :

I have just finished reading a book about the Siletz Indians. I was interested in this topic because the beach cabin property once belonged to a Siletz Indian. A title search that Orma requested before purchasing the property shows that the first owner was Emma Taylor, being issued a trust patent for 84.94 acres granted by President Grover Cleveland.

A very quick story of the Siletz Indians might start with the California gold rush that worked its way into Northern California and Southern Oregon, especially along the Rogue River. At places where the miners and other white settlers interacted with local Indians there would be conflicts. This lead to Indian villages being burned and the inhabitance shot which lead to retaliation and a general war. The US Army was called in and eventually many Indians engaged in a 1855 treaty signed (under defeat) near Table Mountain near Medford, Oregon. This treaty granted the Indians a reservation (homeland without interference by whites) but also forced the Indians to relocate to this reservation. This treaty was sent to Washington DC with the expectation that it would be approved by Congress. However, probably because of bureaucratic error, it was never approved. Meanwhile, all of the Natives in the region from Shasta, thru the Rogue, Umpqua and along the coast were moved to the Siletz area. Other Indians were moved to the Grand Ronde area. A presidential decree granted the Siletz Indians a reservation that consisted of the Oregon coast from below the Sueslaw river to Cape Lookout, a stretch of more than 100 miles, and going half way to the Willamette Valley. In this area the former Southern Oregon (and Northern Californian) Indians would be able to continue their way of life, so the Indians thought.

The Indians that arrived at Siletz came from 10 or more different language groups and formerly lived in independent villages rather than in "tribes". Although the Siletz reservation was intended to protect the Native People from interference from whites (in some cases intent on exterminating the Indians) the white population pressure and resource envy eventually pushed into areas such as Yaquina Bay (oysters and transportation), Kerville (salmon canning), Newport (tourists) and the timber lands. A presidential decree in 1865 eliminated about 1/5 of the reservation including Newport. A presidential decree in 1875 then eliminated more than half of the remaining reservation cutting the reservation down to the stretch from near Road's End to near Yaquina Head. By 1894 pressure had mounted for removing the rest of the reservation. This was accomplished by giving each Indian a plot of 80 acres to be held in trust for at least 25 years. It appears that the Indians were allowed to pick the better parcels of land. Land that was given in the allotments consisted of most of the low land along the Siletz river, most of the land along the coast (except for the stretch between Siletz bay and D-lake), all of the land between D-lake, the coast and the Salmon river and considerable land around the town of Siletz and further up river. A few blocks of forest and some Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) land was also kept as joint reservation land. Although the Indians received good land they lost about 90% of their land in this process. At this point they retained fishing, hunting and gathering rights.

It looks to me that our Siletz property was one of the few areas along the Siletz that was not alloted to an Indian. This is probably due to the very steep bank along one section and the pasture that floods in another section. Or it might have been due to the unusual shape of the lot making it hard to get a nice 40 acre chunk. It is also possible that I am not reading the map correctly.

From 1856 on to 1954 the Bureau of Indian Affairs ran the Siletz reservation. Conditions ranged from prisoner of war camp to missionary-run reform camp to attempts to make the Siletz farmers on land that was not able to support farming for multiple reasons. People with good and bad intentions failed to get the Indian population out of poverty. The population was about 500 around 1900, a low point. European-introduced diseases had ravaged the Indians before going to the reservation and then continued to be a problem afterward.

Around 1920 the 25 year trust clause on the allotments expired and Indians started to ask for title to their trust lands. This turned out to be a disaster for most Indians. Upon obtaining the deed they then were required to pay taxes in order to hold the land. For a population mostly in deepest poverty some lost their land when the County auctioned it off for taxes not paid. Others sold their land and quickly lost the proceeds. Only a few Indians left their land in trust where they could use the land (sometimes as hunter-gathers like their ancestors) and not be required to pay taxes.

In 1954 Congress terminated the Siletz reservation, selling the remaining forest lands and giving the BIA land in Siletz to the city. The Siletz Indians lost their hunting and fishing rights and some minimal preferences given to Native Americans but received $792.50 from the sale of tribal land. In the 1970's some of the former Siletz Indians organized and started to work towards regaining national tribal recognition. With help from Mark Hatfield and others this group was able to get congress to reinstate the Siletz tribal status. The city of Siletz turned over the former BIA land to the tribe and some BLM land was also turned over so that the tribe had some token reservation land. This process was finalized by President Carter in 1980. With the success of other Indian casinos the Siletz made two attempts at getting Federal permission for a casino. The second attempt, at Lincoln City, succeeded with permission for Chinook Winds. Operating income from this casino along with Federal money (and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has helped the Siletz Indians open a charter school in Siletz, get computers for Indians and operate one of the better health clinics in Lincoln County. They operate a cultural center, have public and more private dances and engage in a 263 mile relay run/walk from Siletz to Oak Flat on the Rogue River each year.

The book shows a staged photo of Depoe Charlie with this caption: Depoe Charlie, in addition to being recognized as a headman and serving as a tribal judge, was a colorful and respected figure in both Indian and non-Indian communities. Born in the Yah-shu-eh village at the mouth of the Rogue River, he worked various jobs after removal and took his name from driving government teams between Siletz and the agency depot near what became the town of Toledo. After he and other family members received allotments on a small bay north of Newport, the area became known as Depoe Bay after this well-known tribal leader. In the 1870s, he was a dedicated practitioner and leader of the Warm House Dance, a traditional revival movement.

The first recorded history of the Sullishak site begins with the Homestead Act. This Act allowed single men to claim 160 acres and married couples to claim twice that amount. David D. Fagan describes the mood at the time (Illustrated History of Benton County, A. G. Walling, Printer. Portland 1885.)

Intense excitement prevailed throughout the entire Yaquina country. Every man appeared to be the possessor of a valuable secret. People were to be encountered moving up and down and across the river. A 'boom' raged. In a little while those from the Willamette Valley commenced to arrive; all became mad with excitement; claims changed hands rapidly; money was plentiful; speculators ran riot.

Since Lincoln Beach was part of the Siletz Indian Reservation, Indians were given the first opportunity to claim land. However, Indians were only allowed to file for roughly eighty acres—half a white man's allotment. On November 19, 1894 Emma Taylor, “an Indian of the Siletz Reservation,” was given a Trust Patent for eighty five acres that included the Sullishak site. “Trust Patents” were issued to Indians instead of deeds, because the government didn't trust Indians to hold onto the land. A “Trust Patent” couldn't be sold without government permission.

Sullishak Title Search

At this time the Sullishak site was QUITE isolated from modern transportation, as this story explains (Yaquina Bay, Lincoln County Historical Society, 1979)

In 1912, a publicity stunt was undertaken to “attract attention to this country and the condition of the roads with a view of having work done there.” Three men made a daring auto trip from Newport to Siletz Bay and back. The ground was covered in blazing speed—it took only 22 hours, 14 minutes ... and the help of a team of horses ... to make the 46-mile journey. The car was equipped with picks, shovels, axes and saws. The front bumper carried a windlass with hand spikes, long cable, and a block and tackle. All the equipment found a use before the trip was over.

Emma Taylor died and in March 1923 her heir, Edward Mecum, inherited the property. In October 1925 Edward and Margaret Mecum, husband and wife, sold the property to J. J. Scott.

Even at this time the Sullishak site remained inaccessible. For example, Earl B. Crane writes in Pioneer History of North Lincoln County, Oregon, Volume 1, November 1951

Lincoln county was formed on February 20, 1893, by the union of parts of Polk and Benton Counties. A map compiled in 1915, shows the following settlements along the coast in North Lincoln county. Beginning at the northern boundary: Otis, Devil's Lake, Taft, Parmele, Kernville, Sijota, now Gleneden [located 2 miles north of Sullishak], Depoe Bay [3 miles south of Sullishak] and Otter Rock.

... In 1924 the coast route, known as the Roosevelt Highway and now as “One Hundred and One,” was opened as far as Taft. By 1926 it was passable to Newport, but in certain places between Taft and Newport it was necessary to drive over long stretches of plank trestle, two planks wide for each front wheel. Although these structures were only four feet above the ground or mud it was considered high enough.

In December 1926, J. J. Scott and Mary E. Scott, husband and wife, sold the property to H. J. Bartman. He sold the property to George W. Betts in February 1927.

In August 1927, R. D. Cooper surveyed the boundaries of the property, and in September, George Betts filed this plat map of “Lincoln Beach Park.” Note that Roosevelt Highway is now Highway 101, Cedar Drive is now Willow Street, but Mina Street hasn't been renamed.

Earl Nelson writes about Lincoln Beach in Pioneer History of North Lincoln County, Oregon, Volume 1, November 1951

Lincoln Beach was so named by George Betts because it was in Lincoln County (our county was named for Abraham Lincoln). Mr. Betts has served continuously as postmaster since the establishment of the town's post office May 22, 1933.

Mr. Betts, who has been a careful observer since he and his family first came here in 1927 and started developing the town, states that the remains of a cedar forest (hundreds of cedar tree stumps, some three and four feet in diameter) appear on the beach every seven years. He believes that this “forest” was at one time protected by a sand ridge. Hundreds of years of erosion from wind and waves dissolved the protecting wall. Then the sea and the sand submerged the “forest.” He has seen the dead “forest” in 1927, 1934, 1941, and 1948.

The town of Lincoln Beach is beautifully situated in a “living” forest of cedar and rhododendron. Some of the latter measure as much as 10-1/2 inches in diameter. They grow as high as trees and are said to be the tallest in the county.

Mr. Betts can point out vestiges of an old Indian trail. This was a portion of a trail which used to extend from the south bank of the Siletz River to the Indian settlements on Yaquina Bay.

In October 1942 Orma Sullivan entered into an agreement to buy lots 11, 12, 13, and 14 of the Lincoln Beach Park from George Betts. The agreement called for $20 monthly payments to total $675 plus 6% interest. Each lot was 80 feet by 25 feet, making the total parcel 80 by 100. During most months Orma made the minimum $20 payment, but on January 1943 she paid $245, and on January 1944 she paid the balance on the contract.

The view from where Sullishak's living room windows would be

Orma's sister and brother-in-law, Vera and Jewell Lantz, bought the adjacent lots, 9 and 10. Because these lots lie to the north and look directly down the street to the beach, they have a better view of the ocean.

When Orma Sullivan died, ownership passed to her son, J. Wesley Sullivan, and his wife, Elsie Sullivan. Sometime in the 1980s, they gave ownership of the cabin to their four children, Steve, Nancy, Dave, and Bill. Elsie Sullivan died in 1993 from Alzheimer's disease, and Wes Sullivan died in November 2007.

Through gifts and purchases, Dave and Barb Sullivan acquired sole ownership of Sullishak, but they manage it as a shared resource available to friends and members of their extended Sullivan and Diviney families.