History of Myrtle Point
Myrtle Point, located above the forks of the Coquille River, was a gathering place for Coquille Indians long before the white man arrived in the 1850s. Ephraim Catching filed a donation claim here in 1853. In 1861 a village was platted and laid out by Henry Meyers and was named Meyersville. This was the first town platted on the Coquille River. The great flood of 1861-62 washed away many of those cabins and growth of the little town stopped. In 1866 Christian Lehnherr bought the land and built a home and grist mill. In 1879 he named the town Ott in honor of a friend. The name didn’t stick, but Lehnherr is honored as the founder of Myrtle Point, named for the many beautiful myrtle trees that grow here.
Local historian Robyn Greenlund has compiled an extensive website on Coquille Valley history. Visit her site at www.coquillevalley.org.
ABOUT THE MYRTLEWOOD TREE
The botanical name for the Oregon myrtle tree is Umbellularia Californica, for its small and numerous greenish-yellow blossoms which are arranged in umbelles, and because it was first discovered in California. It grows natively only in southwestern Oregon and western California. The branches of myrtle trees growing singly develop into round or oval forms as if shaped by an expert gardener. If a tree is cut down or falls over, numerous sprouts start from the stump and form a dense cluster of vigorous, young trees that will, in time, self-graft together and make a large base for several stems that together make a symmetrical clump of myrtle. The ripened fruit is an inedible nut inside a purple or yellow husk. The leaves are sometimes used in place of a bay leaf in cooking, although their flavor is much stronger.
While myrtle trees have been found more than 8 feet in diameter and six feet through, most are under four feet in diameter. Few trees are more than 150 years old although the ring count in one tree showed its age to be 750 years. Most myrtles are less than 100 feet tall. The hardwood myrtle lumber, when sawed and cured for two or more years, is used for a variety of items including cutting boards, salad bowls, gunstocks and tables. Many locals use the wood as a heating source in their fireplaces or wood stoves and it burns beautifully in a campfire.
While many myrtlewood groves can be seen in the surrounding countryside, some of the largest myrtlewood trees can be viewed within the city. Myrtle Point’s walking Tree Tour (click here for more details) highlights the wide variety of trees that grow in the area.
St. Ann’s Catholic Church has the unique distinction of being the only known building whose walls are paneled with myrtlewood. It is a worthwhile stop on the Heritage Tour of historic homes and buildings. Click here for more information on the tour.