It was meant to be the “Atlantic City” of the Northwest Coast, a paradise playland for tourists and a great place to raise a family. Its planners – investors T.I. Potter and his son, T.B. Potter – named it Bayocean in 1906. They built it upon the spit of sand that shields Tillamook Bay on the Oregon coast. On this site they constructed a large oceanside hotel, along with grand dancehall and “natatorium.” This natatorium included a massive indoor pool – complete with a wave-making machine – and a 1,000-seat auditorium. They sold 1,600 home lots to future residents.
City Upon The Sea
Things were looking great for Bayocean. The new “city upon the sea” included four miles of cobblestone streets, a post office, public utilities, a gas station, numerous businesses, and – by 1914 – a population of 2,000. But within several decades, all its buildings had literally fallen into the ocean. Its investors lost everything, and all its residents were forced to move away. What happened?
Two things Bayocean lacked were a road or a rail line to carry traffic to and from the city. The only way to reach the town was by a ship specially built by the Potters. This ship ferried passengers from Portland, a three-day journey. But a sandbar at the mouth of Tillamook Bay made entering the inlet a frightening experience. The Potters petitioned the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the inlet and remove the sandbar.
But the Army Corps of Engineers explained that the remedy required two jetties to the north and south of the inlet. One of these would block the offshore current from the north. The other would prevent the erosion of sand from the beaches of Bayocean to the south. The price for these jetties $2.2 million! This was too much money for the Potters. So, they opted for only one jetty to the north of the inlet. This solution resulted in the erosion of the sandbar and a safer entrance into Tillamook Bay.
However, the single-jetty solution also had a devastating effect upon the city of Bayocean. The north jetty created a vortex current to its south. This vortex changed the direction of the offshore current from one out of the north, which had been offset by the Tillamook Bay outflow, to one out of the south, eroding the Bayocean beach. This erosion continued until it cut away the bluffs upon which most of the city and its houses were built. The dance hall and the natatorium were among the first to plunge into the ocean. Then, house after house began to fall to the waves’ relentless pounding.
Perhaps the most tragic figure of Bayocean’s story is Francis D. Mitchell. He and his wife purchased the very first lot and built the very first cottage in 1907. They were also the last to leave in 1952. Mitchell invested everything into his dream of what Bayocean might become. He built a store and a bayside hotel on its main street and worked tirelessly to get Oregon officials to build roads and rails to the town. But he was fighting a losing battle. The Pacific Ocean claimed more and more of the town’s coastline. Before his own store tumbled into the sea, vandals defaced a sign in one of its windows. The sign was changed from “Watch Bayocean Grow” to “Watch Bayocean Go.”
Tillamook residents say that in the end, Mitchell was so distraught about the erosion of his dream that he would tote wheel barrel after wheel barrel of sand to the beach, in order to save it. In 1952, his wife suffered a stroke and he was forced to leave what was left of the spit, then only an island. Within a year he suffered a complete mental breakdown and spent the remainder of his life in a state hospital for the insane.
As Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:24-27, sand is the worst foundation upon which to build. The same is true of every pursuit and goal which excludes Christ. They are all destined to perish. Everything we build upon a Christ-less foundation will collapse. Jesus alone – and His words – provide the only lasting foundation upon which to build. We should always build upon Christ by making Him the center of our existence and doing what pleases Him (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
Dear Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the futility of building my life’s dreams and goals upon the shifting sand of a Christ-less foundation. Help me to understand that this life will so shortly pass and only what’s done for You will last. Amen.
(Information from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtSB5IXAx8M; https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/bayocean/#.XupfLmhKhPY; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayocean,_Oregon)
The content of this article comes from “The Warrior’s Bible” (2014) and is copyrighted by Life Publishers International. Used with permission.