Unable to find a captain willing to risk his ship on the Tillamook Bay bar in the 1850s, the denizens of Tillamook County faced a dilemma. They had plenty of milk, butter, and cheese, but no sugar, flour, or coffee – they had to laboriously grind wheat kernels in their coffee grinders to bake bread, and they resorted to drinking a toasted-wheat beverage instead of coffee or tea.
So they decided to build a boat.
Instead of seeing their products go to waste, the settlers set to work. With no lumber mills nearby, they started with standing timber. From native Douglas fir, they shaped a 37-foot keel and built a 6-foot hold using 6-foot by 8-foot timbers spaced 10 inches apart. These were then covered with a 2-inch thick planking of Douglas fir, sawed by hand into 40-foot lengths.
Metal needed for spikes and fittings was hand-forged from materials left by the wreck of the Shark, a 12-gun U.S. sloop of war, which broke up on the Columbia River Bar and drifted south to the beach at Arch Cape in 1846. It took six trips with four horses to pack it on the trail over Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain, across the Nehalem River and south to Kilchis Point in Tillamook Bay — a total of 289 miles by today’s roads.
The rigging and sails were made from bolts of canvas, rope and blocks bought for $10 from the Tillamook Indians, who salvalged them from an 1851 wreck that drifted to Netarts Bay west of Tillamook. [Source: The Morning Star of Tillamook (pdf)]
The Morning Star was completed on December 29, 1854, and launched soon after.
- Tiny home-built schooner saved Tillamook settlers at Offbeat Oregon History
- Morning Star (ship) at Oregon Encyclopedia
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