Information is provided by Curtis Hughey, President of Camas-Washougal Historical Society.
A History of the Camas – Washougal area
The first American town north of the Columbia River was founded by David C. Parker. He was one of the first settlers to the Camas – Washougal area, arriving in 1846 on a wagon train party which rafted down from The Dalles. The rest of the party left for the Puget Sound the following summer, but Parker remained behind and "squatted" on public land. After the Donation Land Claim was enacted in late 1850, he claimed the nearly 582 acres he occupied. Parker constructed a dock, called Parker’s Landing, to facilitate the transport of goods and people and in 1854 platted out the town of Parkersville. This town consisted of a couple stores, a hotel, bar and a house.
Squatting—when someone illegally builds a shack or tent on someone else’s land. A person who does this is called a squatter.
Another pioneer who claimed his land by "squatting" was Richard Ough, an English seaman from Fort Vancouver. He married Cascade Indian princess White Wing, the daughter of Cascade Chief Schluyhus (Slyhorse). When the Americans took over the Oregon Territory in 1846, Ough was advised by Dr. John McLaughlin to claim land in the area since the English were losing their influence. In April 1849 Richard Ough "squatted" on public land on the east side of David C. Parker’s land. When the Donation Land Claim was enacted, Ough claimed the 633.91 acres he occupied. On November 25, 1851 Richard Ough became a U.S. Citizen and was respected by the local community throughout his life.
Ough sold twenty acres to Joseph E.C. Durgan and steamship captain and owner Lewis Love in 1880. With this land the two men platted the town of Washougal. Durgan built his house at the northwest corner of what is now 17th and B Streets. In 1879 he had bought the fairly new Carpenter store at Parkersville which included a post-office. This store was moved to its new location in Washougal. Fritz Braun, who had started building a hotel and bar also in Parkersville, moved his building near Durgan’s store. This location eliminated the wet land problems in the Parkersville area and low water times for ship docking. A roadway, bridge and new dock at Washougal gave Captain Love year-round docking facilities and provided local farmers a new way in and out to the world.
In 1883 Henry L. Pittock built the Columbia River Paper Company and platted the town of LaCamas. To make the town accessible to the Columbia River at the mouth of the Washougal River, LaCamas was built a mile below LaCamas Lake. Pittock had earlier acquired the Oregonian Newspaper of Portland, Oregon and was outstripping the capacity of the paper mill on the Clackamas River nearby since the paper was published daily instead of weekly.
With a group of bankers, Pittock chose the area three miles west of Washougal because of the land availability and its location to Portland and LaCamas Lake. The nearby lake was a couple hundred feet above the proposed mill site and afforded 140 feet of water power to run the paper mill machinery. Approximately 3,000 acres of land was initially purchased for the mill and later another 2,000 were bought to control the water supply.
The new town LaCamas was platted with the mill site at its western end. One hundred Chinese laborers cleared the town site and another fifteen dug a tunnel 6 x 8 feet and nearly 2,300 feet long to connect the lower lake with a ditch along the face of the bluff above the town site. This ditch later supplied the town with water.
The Columbia River Paper Company was incorporated in March 1884 by Henry L. Pittock, William Lewthaite and J.K. Gill with a capital stock of $100,000. In May 1885 its first paper was produced.
But during the following year, the paper mill burned down on November 11, 1886. It was rebuilt with the fire resistant materials available during that time. Machinery from the old paper mill on the Clackamas River was moved into the new facility.
The new mill started production in November 1887, producing straw paper. With the purchase of new "State of the Art" machinery, white paper was produced in February 1888.
Other industries did not enjoy such success in the Camas – Washougal area. In the late 1880’s there were mining camps starting in the northern reaches – gold, silver and copper; however, they never really became a bonanza. Lumbers camps were scattered throughout the area but the Yacolt Fire Burn in 1902, destroyed most of the industry. The mines never recovered and the lumber camps survived by salvaging and moving to unburned lands.
Territorial Towns and Settlements
Parkersville — platted in 1854 and named for David C. Parker, an early settler in the area (This town was located where the Port of Camas-Washougal is now.)
Washougal — platted in 1880, located on the Columbia River, and named after the Indian name for Rushing Water
LaCamas — platted in 1883 and named for the LaCamass Lilly, a bulb still prevalent in the area. The current name is Camas.
The Oldest Pioneer Gone
On September 18, 1884 the Vancouver Independent newspaper had this to say upon Richard’s death. "The Oldest Pioneer Gone. About the last part of August there died at Washougal, Richard Ough, about 90 years of age. He came to this coast with the late Judge Roberts of Cathlamet, in 1836, in the employ of the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and has remained on the Columbia river since. Coming here at a time when there was only fur stations at Astoria and Vancouver, and no settlers, he has seen the country grow into a vast empire, rich and prosperous. Uncle Dick joined in the spirit of improvement prevailing, and after the departure of the fur company, settled down, raised a family, and made one of the finest farms on the Columbia river."
Joseph E.C. Durgan
On June 30, 1879 the Vancouver Independent newspaper reported "The boys at Paker’s Landing gave J.E.C. Durgan a left-handed serenade a few nights ago, but they made the unfortunate mistake of waiting until he had been married three weeks."
On June 8, 1888 the Vancouver Independent reported that "John Asher, brother-in-law of L.E. Tidland, arrived in town yesterday with his family from Minnesota. He will move out on the G.B. Gillihan’s place, which he has purchased."
Prohibition and the LaCamas Brewery
The struggle between prohibition and drinking had been going on for some time in the Camas-Washougal area. One notable event in the area’s history was the 1888 whiskey scow on LaCamas slough in order to circumvent the town ban on the "slimy serpent that is attempting to poison our life’s blood by its sting . . ." The Vancouver Independent reported on May 20th 1886 "Fritz Braun, of Washougal, says that if prohibition carries in his precinct, all he will need to turn his bar into a drug store will be a new sign. He already has a stock of drugs on hand."
The following articles from the Vancouver Independent and the LaCamas Newspaper document the history of tension between whiskey and temperance during the years of 1884-1888.
From the Vancouver Independent newspaper
Nov. 14, 1884 - Monday, D.H. Stearns had surveyed one square acre and one lot 50ft. by 100, and lying on LaCamas creek. This property is purchased by a gentleman from San Francisco for the purpose of erecting a brewery, which will be in operation by March 1st.
Jan. 15, 1885 – (Listed among LaCamas businesses) One-fourth mile north of LaCamas townsite lies the property of John Nagar, who is engaged in the building of a brewery, which will be in good working order by the 1st of March next.
Dec. 24, 1885 – A Band of Hope was organized on Sunday with forty members. Allen Duffin was elected president, with J.W. Whann assistant and Mrs. W.S. Spaulding as secretary. Meetings will be held at 2:30 o’clock Sunday afternoons, at the Good Templer’s hall. Col. Hawkins delivered another temperance lecture Saturday night in Pioneer hall. After the lecture a collection was taken up and very generously donated by the speaker to the Christmas tree. C.H. Hodges moved that Col. Hawkins retain at least one-half the proceeds but the Colonel would not hear the proposition.
Jan. 28, 1886 – Band of Hope is prosperous, Mrs. Ellen Turner has been selected Assistant Superintendent with J.W. Whann.
Feb. 11, 1886 – Col. Hawkins, the veteran temperance lecturer, departed for The Dalles Thursday last. He was accompanied, to the landing by a large number of people, to whom he had endeared himself during his short stay here.
Feb. 25, 1886 – Prohibition is gradually working its own salvation in LaCamas. Once we had three saloons, now we have only one. It requires but little local option to work out the liquor problem here.
July 1, 1886 – The Local option election went 108 for prohibition, 36 against.
From the LaCamas Newspaper
Feb. 10, 1888 – Not Wanted: As soon as it was ascertained that the supreme court had decided the Local option law unconstitutional, parties came here from Vancouver with a view of starting a saloon in LaCamas. On Monday morning some of the good ladies started out with a petition praying the county commissioners not grant a license to anyone to open a salon in this precinct, and in a very short time secured the names of at least three-fourths of the voters of the precinct. From the almost unanimous manner in which this petition was signed, it seems the people are fully as much in favor of temperance as when they voted on the question a year ago last June.
Feb. 17, 1888 – Why is it that saloons manufacture anarchists and murders? Why? Because intoxicating liquors make savages of men, and the system is calculated to reduce men to Barbarians, and nothing else. Be sure and attend the mass meeting and raise your voice in favor of Moral reform and against going back to heathenism. Don’t forget Monday evening at the church.
No Saloon: The remonstrance, which was so numerously signed last week, against a saloon being opened in this town had the desired effect and there will be no saloon started here. News was received on Saturday that a license has been granted, but on Monday the commissioners reversed their decision.
We believe the people generally throughout the county will endorse the action of the commissioners in thus giving a large majority of the people of LaCamas a right to rule in this matter.
This is the most decided temperance precinct in Washington Territory and the new license law passed by the late legislature is on trial here more than anywhere else. The eyes of temperance reformers on the Pacific Coast are turned to LaCamas to watch the struggle now going on and to admire the skill and faithfulness by which the people of Columbia precinct are crushing the slimy serpent that is attempting to poison our life’s blood by its sting. Rally to the mass meeting at the church on Monday evening and who your colors.
Feb. 24, 1888 – Mass Meeting: There was a meeting of a large number of citizens of the town at St. John’s Presbyterian church Monday evening and a considerable enthusiasm in the cause of temperance was manifested. Speeches were made by Rev.’s J.R. Thompson, W.H. Drake, P.H. Harper, I.C. Pratt, Messrs. Wade, Long, Jas. Anderson, Bartlett, Robertson and several others. A series of resolutions were adopted denouncing the late attempt to force a saloon upon the town in opposition to a large proportion of its best citizens. A copy of the resolutions were sent us for publication, but as they contained a severe personal attack upon a an who has heretofore been a friend to LaCamas, except in this instance, as they savored somewhat of a shout of victory over a fallen foe, we thought perhaps it would be better not to publish them. We have gained a victory greater in many respects than we have gained before over the same enemy, but we cannot afford to shout.
March 16, 1888 – Ward & Hughes, the great temperance lectures, will be in LaCamas some time next week, probably Monday night.
March 23, 1888 – Temperance Revival: Ward and Hughes, the great temperance revivalists, have been holding a series of temperance meetings in LaCamas this week which have been well attended and highly appreciated by our people. A good deal of interest has been manifested and a large number never having done so before.
March 30, 1888 – The Blue Ribbon League will meet Monday evening at Pioneer Hall and organize by electing officers and adopting a constitution. Ward and Hughes completed their Temperance work here Friday evening and departed Saturday, 273 persons having signed the pledge and donned the blue ribbon.
April 6, 1888 – The grand jury is after the men who have been dispensing the ardent on the scow in the slough behind Lady Island. As they have no license expect for government license it will probably go a little tough with them.
The Blue Ribbon Association: On Monday evening the temperance people met at Pioneer hall and organized the above named association and elected the following to serve for six months….The organization starts off with a large membership and promises to do good temperance work in the future.
April 13, 1888 – The whiskey scow is closed up and the sheriff has been looking in vain for the proprietors thereof.
Note of Dissolution: Notice is hereby given that the partnership theretofore existing under the firm of Nagar and Cain, doing business at LaCamas, Clarke county, W.T. is dissolved from this date, April 7, 1888.---John Nagar
April 20, 1888 – Mr. Editor: In the last issue of the News there appeared a notice of dissolution of the firm of Nagar & Cain signed by John Nagar, and stating that the firm were doing business at LaCamas which statement I desire to inform the people is altogether false, having no foundation in fact, no such firm having existed in LaCamas. Two men bearing the above names built a scow and started a "Gill mill" out in the Columbia river, but as they located the cesspool beyond the town limit, John Nagar could with just as much truth and with far greater chance of sympathy for scattering of the "firm" by sheriff, claim Washougal or Vancouver as his center of operations. LaCamas does not opine to any but firms engaged in honest pursuits. Ben F. Wade