Winema Beach is a strand adjacent to Winema Lake, originally the location of a townsite platted as Wi-Ne-Ma, near Oretown in southern Tillamook County, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Lincoln City and 4 miles (6 km) south of Pacific City, Oregon. The north coast of Oregon was inhabited by the Tillamook people for thousands of years prior to contact with Europeans. The Tillamook tribe consists of several divisions and dialects, including Siletz, Salmon River, Nestucca, Tillamook Bay, and Nehalem. In 1805, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition were wintering at Fort Clatsop, they estimated the entire Tillamook population at around 2200. In 1824 and 1829, the tribe suffered high mortality from smallpox epidemics introduced by Euro-Americans. The arrival of Oregon Trail settlers in 1841 and resulting conflicts over land and resources caused further population losses. By 1845, Charles Wilkes estimated there were 400 Tillamook remaining, and in 1849, the tribe was down to 200 surviving members. In 1850, the Donation Land Claim Act, which encouraged American homesteading in Oregon Territory, brought settlers onto traditional tribal lands and they quickly crowded the Tillamooks and many conflicts occurred. A treaty in 1855 relegated the Nestucca tribe to a reservation but by 1876 this agreement was annulled in favor of white settlement of the valley. During the spring of that year, a group of settlers from Oregon City traveled from Grand Ronde over the old Gauldy Trail, an early route to the Little Nestucca Valley, to make homestead claims on the coast. In June, under pressure from the United States government, the Nestucca vacated the valley. They departed by canoe, paddling downriver, over the ocean bar at the mouth of the Nestucca River, and went south to the Salmon River.
The early pioneers built a school by 1877 on the south bank of the Nestucca Bay, and James B. Upton and S.H. Rock petitioned Senator John H. Mitchell for a mail route to the pioneer community and a post office. Upton owned a seal marked ‘Oregon City’, and suggested the new post office be named ‘Ore City’. Mitchell suggested the name ‘Oretown’ to avoid confusion with Oregon City, and Oretown became the first official settlement on Nestucca Bay. A lake on the coast about 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Oretown became a favorite camping and picnic spot for early settlers and many local children learned to swim there. It was first called Shortridge Lake after Lewis Shortridge who owned the nearby homestead. By the late 1870s, it was called Daley Lake for pioneers who built a cabin on the south end of the lake. The lake attracted flocks of ducks and geese and a wooden flue provided spring water for campers on the beach. Salmon ran up the stream that drained the lake and could be caught with pitchforks, sometimes as many as 16-20 in a single tide. In 1886, the Linewebber and Brown Packing Company built a cannery at Oretown to process salmon caught in Nestucca Bay. The building of the cannery was part of a coastwide trend in the salmon canning industry in response to the demise of the fishery on the Columbia River from overfishing. In 1886, the British bark Carmarthen Castle of 1468 tons and 234 feet (71 m) long went aground on the beach below Daley Lake. The vessel was owned by Richards, Mills and Company of Liverpool and bound for Portland to load grain. In 1917, the beach served as an encampment used as a training base for the 3rd Battalion, 614th Infantry Regiment. In 1927, the property surrounding the lake was platted for a townsite called Wi-Ne-Ma. The townsite consisted of 0.5 miles (0.8 km) of beach, the lake, and surrounding residential lots. During World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard had a station at Wi-Ne-Ma with horse patrols and dogs walking the beach at night. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey maps from 1941, prepared by the U.S. Army, used the names Winema Lake and Winema Beach. In 1944, Bill Morse was the pastor of the Amity Church of Christ and took a youth group to the coast for a camping trip over Labor Day weekend. All the camping spots on the coast were full, but he found the beach at Wi-Ne-Ma and the Coast Guard told him that they could camp for the weekend with the owner’s permission. Morse later made a purchase offer and borrowed money until residential lots near the highway were sold to repay the loans and the property is now the Wi-Ne-Ma Christian Camp. The name is after a woman of the Modoc people, which was forcibly removed from northern California after the 1849 California Gold Rush and relocated onto reservation land in southern Oregon.
The Modoc people inhabited the sagebrush-covered lava plateaus and wooded mountains of northern California and southern Oregon. Their settlements were scattered along the shores of Tule Lake and the Lost River, where they lived on fish and waterfowl, wild game, and seeds and bulbs from the surrounding countryside. As Euro-Americans began to settle near the Lost River, they demanded that the Modoc be removed from their homes and placed on the Klamath Reservation with the Klamath and Yahooskin tribes. The Modoc and the Klamath were historic enemies, and the Modoc’s relationship with the Yahooskin was not much better. For the young Modoc leader Kintpuash, who was known to the settlers as Captain Jack, the Klamath Reservation would never be home. Kintpuash and other Modoc left the Klamath Reservation, demanding their own reservation on the Lost River. Oregon Indian Superintendent Alfred B. Meacham convinced Kintpuash to move back to the reservation at the end of 1869. Upon their arrival, the Modoc were harassed by the Klamath, and in April 1870, Kintpuash and 371 Modoc moved south once again to their Lost River home. In 1873, after two years of skirmishing with the U.S. Army, President Ulysses S. Grant organized a peace commission to meet unarmed with the Modoc leaders. Winema (Toby) Riddle was one of several Modoc who learned English and later married a settler named Frank Riddle who had learned the Modoc language. They both served as interpreters before and during negotiations related to the creation of the Klamath Reservation, and again to the peace commission to settle the Modoc War. During the 1873 negotiations, Winema carried messages between General Edward Canby and Kintpuash. She learned of a Modoc plot to assassinate Canby and she warned the peace commissioners, but they went on as planned with the meeting. General Canby and Reverend Eleazer Thomas were subsequently killed by Modoc, and Alfred Meacham, the third commissioner was wounded. Winema is credited with saving him from being scalped and killed. Afterward, the U.S. Army commanded by General Jefferson C. Davis captured Kintpuash, who along with three other Modoc were tried and convicted before a U.S. military court, and executed. Meacham went on to champion Native American rights and published a book about Winema in 1876. Read more here and here. Explore more of Winema Beach and Oretown here: