Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Hudson's Bay Company ... Cowlitz Farm"
Includes ... Hudson's Bay Company ... Cowlitz Farm ... Cowlitz Prairie ... Cowlitz Landing ... Toledo ...
Image, 2006, Fort Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Flag, Hudson's Bay Company, Fort Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 27, 2006.

Hudson's Bay Company ...

U.S. Exploring Expedition Maps, 1841 ...

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. Original Map courtesy Washington State University Libraries, 2006.
1841, map detail, Charles Wilkes, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Map detail, 1841, Deer Island to Fort Vancouver, by Charles Wilkes, U.S. Exploring Expedition. Original Map courtesy NOAA Office of Coast Surveys, 2013.

Cowlitz Farm ...
"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. ...

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]." ...

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. ..."

"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.

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

  • Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, U.S. National Park Service;
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;
  • 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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March 2018