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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cowlitz Prairie, Cowlitz Farm, Cowlitz Landing, and the Cowlitz Mission"
Includes ... Cowlitz Prairie ... Cowlitz Farm ... Cowlitz Landing ... Cowlitz Mission ... Cowlitz River ... Toledo ... Hudson's Bay Company ...
Image, 2018, Cowlitz Mission information sign, Toledo, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Cowlitz Mission, Toledo, Washington. Image taken March 29, 2018.


Cowlitz Prairie ...
"The Cowlitz Portage was the termination point of river travel from the Columbia, and the embarkation stage for the overland route to Puget Sound. The farm was established on Cowlitz Prairie, one of many prairies alternating with forests, located between the landing and Fort Nisqually to the north. The prairie was about a mile from the landing. Its size varied, according to who did the estimating: William Tolmie thought it was about four miles long and one mile wide; Duflot de Mofras thought it was six by two miles, James Douglas said the plain "... contains a surface of about 3000 acres of clear land." The site, Douglas said in 1839, had the disadvantage of "... being separated from the River by a steep, rugged hill impracticable in its present state, to wheeled carriages: and the excavation of a convenient road, will be an enterprise attended with great labour and expense." Lietuenant Charles Wilkes, who arrived overland from the north in 1841 noted the farm was located on "an extensive prairie on the banks of that river [the Cowlitz]." ... "


Source:    Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, U.S. National Park Service.

Cowlitz River ...
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Image, 2018, Cowlitz River at Toledo, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cowlitz River at Toledo, Washington. View looking upstream, taken from the Highway 505 bridge. Image taken March 29, 2018.


Hudson's Bay Company ...
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Image, 2006, Fort Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Flag, Hudson's Bay Company, Fort Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 27, 2006.


Early Maps ...

1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1841, Cowlitz Farm to Fort Vancouver, by Charles Wilkes, U.S. Exploring Expedition. Map shows location of the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2006.
1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1856, Cowlitz River including Warbass (Cowlitz Landing, today's Toledo), the Catholic Mission, and the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map "Preston's Sectional and County Map of Oregon and Washington ..." courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2007.


Cowlitz Prairie, etc.

  • Cowlitz Farm ...
  • Cowlitz Farm ... (1829-1846)
  • Cowlitz Farm ... (1846-1860)
  • Cowlitz Farm in 1846 ...
  • Cowlitz Landing ...
  • Cowlitz Mission/St. Francis Xavier Mission ...
  • St. Francis Xavier Mission ...
  • St. Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Cemetery ...
  • Toledo, Washington ...


Cowlitz Farm ...
According to Edmund S. Meany in "Origin of Washington Geographic Names" (1923, University of Washington Press):

"COWLITZ FARM, one of the early homes of white men in Lewis County. Retired employes of the Hudson's Bay Company settled there. It is indicated on the maps of the Wilkes Expedition, 1841, and also on Preston's Map of Oregon and Washington West of the Cascade Mountains, 1856. In 1858 the Legislature passed an act to located the proposed Territorial University of Washington at that place."

1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1841, Cowlitz Farm to Fort Vancouver, by Charles Wilkes, U.S. Exploring Expedition. Map shows location of the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2006.
1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1856, Cowlitz River including Warbass (Cowlitz Landing, today's Toledo), the Catholic Mission, and the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map "Preston's Sectional and County Map of Oregon and Washington ..." courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2007.


Cowlitz Farm ... (1829-1846)
1829-1846:

"A number of new posts were established during this period, including Fort Boise ... and Fort Nisqually and Cowlitz Farm, the latter two principally as agricultural centers. ...

Cowlitz portage was the termination point of river travel from the Columbia, and the embarkation stage for the overland route north to Puget Sound. A large prairie was located about a mile from the landing, and from the mid-1830s on, cattle from Fort Vancouver were driven to the site to graze. In the summer of 1838, while Chief Factor McLoughlin was on furlough, James Douglas sent a herd of cattle to the Cowlitz from Fort Vancouver, with "Mr. Ross & eight men with a number of agricultural implements." Farming at the new establishment was already underway when Chief Factor McLoughlin returned to the Columbia from England in 1839, with the instructions to begin intensive farming operations at the Cowlitz, which the Hudson's Bay Company sold to the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company. ...

The soil at Cowlitz was rich, and far better suited than that of Nisqually's for crop production. Over the years, the Cowlitz farm became the chief grain producer for the P.S.A.C. Land was rapidly put into production: by the spring of 1840, six hundred acres had been ploughed, and by the fall of 1841 one thousand acres were under cultivation. At the time of the 1846-47 inventory, 1,432 1/2 acres were under cultivation. Crops included wheat, oats, barley, peas, turnips, beans, cole seed and potatoes. ..."

By the spring of 1840, some houses had been built, and by the spring of 1841, when Charles Wilkes visited the site, a dairy was in operation, and both a gristmill and sawmill were under construction. In 1845-46 a dwelling, granaries and outbuildings were erected at the mouth of the Cowlitz River to store the farm's produce until Company vessels could pick it up. ..."


Source:    Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, U.S. National Park Service.



Cowlitz Farm ... (1846-1860)
1847-1860:

"In December of 1846, George Roberts, who had served as a Hudson's Bay Company clerk for a number of years at Fort Vancouver, was placed in charge of Cowlitz Farm by Chief Factor Peter Skene Ogden, succeeding Charles Forrest. At that time, production at the Cowlitz Farm was near its peak, with over fourteen hundred acres of land under cultivation, piggeries, stables, two large granaries, several store buildings, houses for the superintendent and employees, over a dozen barns, and an incomplete sawmill. The Puget's Sound Agricultural Company later claimed the Cowlitz Farm included 3,572 acres in total. As at Fort Vancouver, the 1849 gold rush took its toll on the labor force; by 1850-51, the number of employees at Cowlitz had been reduced from nineteen in 1847-48 to six. In 1851 Roberts resigned from the Company and was replaced by Henry Peers, another alumnus of Fort Vancouver. By this time, the bulk of the Cowlitz livestock had been transferred to Forts Nisqually and Victoria, and agricultural operations at the farm had been sharply reduced. ...

Until 1856, minor operations of the company continued to be conducted at the farm, although encroachments by Americans had significantly reduced its holdings. In 1859, Roberts made arrangements to occupy the reamining Cowlitz Farm lands and buildings for the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company to maintain its claim to the property until settlement of the company's claim with the United States; his obligation was to keep the buildings in good repair. From that time until 1871, when Roberts left for Cathlamet, Washington, he was embroiled in a number of disputes with Americans who refused to recognize the company's claims to the land.

The granaries built at the mouth of the Cowlitz were, by 1854 in poor condition. In 1857, according to Dugald Mactavish, the buildings - but not the land - were sold to an American."


Source:    Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, U.S. National Park Service.


Cowlitz Farm in 1846 ...
"The farm establishment is situated on a large plain about 500 yards from the river, and about one mile from the landing place; there is a small settlement of about 19 families, and a Roman Catholic church in the immediate neighborhood. There are large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, and bands of horses at this point."


Source:    "Lieut. Vavasour's [Engineering] Report", March 1st, 1846, IN: Joseph Schafer (editor), 1909, "Documents Relative to Warre and Vavasour's Military Reconnoissance in Oregon, 1845-6", The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, March 1909, Vol.X, No.1.


Cowlitz Landing ...
According to Edmund S. Meany in "Origin of Washington Geographic Names" (1923, University of Washington Press):

"COWLITZ LANDING, near the present location of Toledo in Lewis County. Boats were used on the Cowlitz River up to this point, from which passengers would proceed overland to Puget Sound. The name appears on early Territorial maps."

According to Robert Hitchman in "Place Names of Washington" (1985, Washington Historical Society):

Cowlitz Landing:   "A very important early settlement, 15 miles south of Chehalis, southwest Lewis County. Founded in 1837, it was a River landing, a trading post, the site of a Roman Catholic Mission, and headquarters for a very large farm operated by Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a subsidiary of Hudson's Bay Company. The first name was Plonondon's Landing, for the owner of a Donation Land Claim at this place. Later the accepted name was Cowlitz Landing. A later name was Warbassport, and the present name is Toledo."

1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1856, Cowlitz River including Warbass (Cowlitz Landing, today's Toledo), the Catholic Mission, and the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map "Preston's Sectional and County Map of Oregon and Washington ..." courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2007.


Cowlitz Mission/St. Francis Xavier Mission ...
The Story of the Historic Cowlitz Mission

"Just east of the historic Pacific Highway north of Toledo lies one of the most important pieces of cultural history in the Pacific Northwest.

St. Francis Xavier Mission, more commonly known locally as the Cowlitz Mission, is the oldest operating Catholic church in Washington. Constructed in 1838, the mission was built more than a half-century before Washington became a state and 15 years before the formation of Washington Territory.

An article in the Chehalis Bee-Nugget in the 1910s describes the importance of Simon Plamondon, a retired employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, to the Cowlitz region. Plamondon is locally regarded as a pioneer of the area as he took a land claim on the prairie; he would later set aside a room in his home for a ceremony to establish the St. Francis Xavier Mission, according to the Catholic Parishes of Lewis & East Pacific Counties.

The mission essentially played a huge role in merging the two cultures, as Father Francois Norbert Blanchet used a device known as the “Catholic Ladder” to relay the stories of the Bible and modern history to members of tribes who wished to hear of the Great Spirit. That ladder was copied and replicated by many other missions throughout Washington, Oregon and even British Columbia.

A replica of that ladder exists on the property today, with a guide that explains the symbols on the ladder from the account of the crucifixion to the establishment of the church. The ladder that exists on site today was carved by Fred Echenberg, a member of the Cowlitz Tribe and master woodworker.

As for the history of the early days of the church, not much exists as its early records were destroyed in a fire in 1901. Another fire in later years resulted in needing to rebuild the church into the structure that stands today.

A cemetery on the property is about 7 years older than the actual church itself, having been maintained at first by the Hudsons Bay Company in the early 1830s. Early records of the cemetery don’t exist, but several early settlers in the area are buried there in a beautiful piece of land that overlooks the prairie below and Mount St. Helens in the distance.

Several important names in Lewis County history are buried here, including Simon Plamondon himself. Church members take care of the grounds and maintain the cemetery and its headstones very well.

Today the church’s name still reflects its origins as the St. Francis Xavier Mission, and its congregation proudly celebrates its 177th year of operation."


Source:    "DiscoverLewisCounty.com" website, 2018.



Cowlitz Mission

"With an elaborate program, a beautiful tablet was erected on Cowlitz Prairie on May 11, 1926, to mark the site of the Cowlitz Mission of 1838 and the first Catholic Church in what is now the State of Washington. The tablet was erected by the Washington State Historical Society and the Knights of Columbus."


Source:    Washington Historical Quarterly, July 1926, Vol.17, No.3.



COWLITZ MISSION

"Venturesome frontiersmen, lured from civilization to the Oregon Country by the lucrative fur trade, so strongly besought leadership in religious worship for themselves and their families that Father Blanchet and Father Demers made the perilous westward journey and in 1838 founded here the Cowlitz Mission. This oldest Mission in the northwest now stands where then, in rude dwellings, the beneficent Fathers held service for the pioneers and with simple picture writings, no unlike their own, taught the Indians religious history and the blessings of devotion to the Great Spirit."


Source:    Information sign, Toledo, Washington, visited March 26, 2018.


1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1856, Cowlitz River including Warbass (Cowlitz Landing, today's Toledo), the Catholic Mission, and the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm. Original Map "Preston's Sectional and County Map of Oregon and Washington ..." courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2007.
Image, 2018, Cowlitz Mission information sign, Toledo, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Cowlitz Mission, Toledo, Washington. Image taken March 29, 2018.


St. Francis Xavier Mission ...
"The church that stands presently on this site has been in place since 1932, but the history of St. Francis Xavier Mission dates back to 1838.

The first mass on the Cowlitz Prairie was held at the home of pioneer Simon Plamondon, and the mission was assigned a priest in 1839. There has been a Catholic congregation at this spot ever since!

A replica of the Catholic Ladder, which served as a visual teaching aid for Native Americans in the area, stands on the southeast side of the church. A cemetery that is the final resting place for many of the area's pioneers, including some who emigrated from Ireland and Scotland, adjoins the church."


Source:    "DiscoverLewisCounty.com" website, 2018.


Image, 2018, St. Francis Xavier Mission, Toledo, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Francis Xavier Mission, Toledo, Washington. Image taken March 29, 2018.


St. Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Cemetery ...
The St. Francis Xavier Mission Cemetery, also known as the Cowlitz Mission Cemetery and the Calvary Cemetery, is believed to be the second oldest continuously operating cemetery in Washington State. The cemetery originally was associated with the Hudson Bay Company's "Cowlitz Farm" (established in 1832) before becoming a part of the Catholic Church ("Cowlitz Mission") in 1838.


Toledo, Washington ...
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From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 4, 1805 ...
A cloudy cool morning wind from the West we Set out at 1/2 past 8 oClock [from their camp on the north side of Government Island, approximately across from Fisher's Landing], one man Shannon Set out early to walk on the Island [Government Island] to kill Something, he joined us at the lower point with a Buck. This island is 6 miles long and near 3 miles wide thinly timbered     (Tide rose last night 18 inches perpndicular at Camp) near the lower point of this diamond Island [Government Island] is The head of a large Island Seperated from a Small one by a narrow chanel [Lewis and Clark show two large islands on their maps, both in today's Government Island area], and both Situated nearest the Lard Side, those Islands [even today the Government Island reach is a complex of many islands] as also the bottoms are thickly Covered with Pine &c. river wide, Country low on both Sides; [since 1983 the Interstate 205 bridge crosses Government Island connecting Oregon to Washington]     on the Main Lard Shore a Short distance below the last Island we landed at a village of 25 Houses: [near Portland International Airport]; ...     This village contains about 200 men of the Skil-loot nation ...

at 7 miles below this village passed the upper point of a large Island [Hayden Island] nearest the Lard Side, a Small Prarie [Jolie Prairie, today the location of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airpark. Lewis and Clark camp on this prairie on their return] in which there is a pond [one of the many ponds which use to dot this area] opposit on the Stard. here I landed and walked on Shore, about 3 miles a fine open Prarie for about 1 mile, back of which the countrey rises gradually and wood land comencies Such as white oake, pine of different kinds, wild crabs with the taste and flavour of the common crab and Several Species of undergroth of which I am not acquainted, a few Cottonwood trees & the Ash of this countrey grow Scattered on the river bank, ...     joined Capt. Lewis at a place he had landed with the party for Diner. ...

dureing the time we were at dinner those fellows Stold my pipe Tomahawk which They were Smoking with [Tomahawk pipe, thus giving rise to the name Tomahawk Island] ...    we proceeded on

[The men have passed through the area which, 20 years later, Dr. John McLoughlin would choose for a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, later to become Fort Vancouver and eventually the city of Vancouver, Washington.]

met a large & a Small Canoe from below, with 12 men the large Canoe was ornimented with Images carved in wood the figures of <man &> a Bear in front & a man in Stern, Painted & fixed verry netely on the <bow & Stern> of the Canoe, rising to near the hight of a man [Lewis and Clark then named Hayden Island "Image Canoe Island"]     two Indians verry finely Dressed & with hats on was in this canoe passed the lower point of the Island [Hayden Island] which is nine miles in length haveing passed 2 Islands on the Stard Side of this large Island [the location of Vancouver Landing and since 1917 the Interstate 5 Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington State], three Small Islands at its lower point [The downstream end of Hayden Island was at one time composed of small islands. One of these, Pearcy Island, would become today's Kelley Point.]. the Indians make Signs that a village is Situated back of those Islands on the Lard. Side and I believe that a Chanel is Still on the Lrd. Side [it wasn't until Lewis and Clark's return trip they would discover the mouth of the Willamette River] as a Canoe passed in between the Small Islands, and made Signs that way, probably to traffick with Some of the nativs liveing on another Chanel, at 3 miles lower [Sauvie Island is located at this stretch, but it is not until the return that Lewis and Clark recognize it as a separate island], and 12 Leagues below quick Sand river [Sandy River] passed a village of four large houses on The Lard. Side [on Sauvie Island], near which we had a full view of Mt. Helien [Mount St. Helens, Washington] which is perhaps the highest pinical in America from their base it bears N. 25° E about 90 miles- This is the mountain I Saw from the Muscle Shell rapid [Umatilla Rapids, Captain Clark actually saw Mount Adams] on the 19th of October last Covered with Snow, it rises Something in the form of a Sugar lofe- about a mile lower passed a Single house on the Lard. Side, and one on the Stard. Side, passed a village on each Side and Camped near a house on the Stard. Side [Post Office Lake vicinity, today within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] we proceeded on untill one hour after dark with a view to get clear of the nativs who was constantly about us, and troublesom, finding that we could not get Shut of those people for one night, we landed and Encamped on the Stard. Side ...

This evening we Saw vines much resembling the raspberry which is verry thick in the bottoms. A range of high hills at about 5 miles on the Lard Side [Portland's West Hills'] which runs S. E. & N W. Covered with tall timber the bottoms below in this range of hills and the river is rich and leavel, Saw White geese with a part of their wings black. The river here is 1˝ miles wide, and current jentle. opposite to our camp on a Small Sandy Island [one of the small sandy islands prevelent in this stretch of the Columbia. Today the Willow Bar Islands on the east side of Sauvie Island lie across from Post Office Lake.] the brant & geese make Such a noise that it will be impossible for me to Sleap. we made 29 miles to day





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:
  • "DiscoverLewisCounty.com" website, 2018;
  • Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, U.S. National Park Service;
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington State Historical Society;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press;
  • Schafer, J., (editor), 1909, "Documents Relative to Warre and Vavasour's Military Reconnoissance in Oregon, 1845-6", The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, March 1909, Vol.X, No.1.;
  • "usgwarchives.net" website, 2018;
  • Washington State Digital Archives, 2018;


All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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© 2017, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
November 2018