Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Ilwaco, Washington"
Includes ... Ilwaco ... Baker Bay ... Sand Island ... Pacific City ... Ilwaco Railroad ...
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. View from the boat dock looking back towards the town. Image taken March 8, 2012.


Ilwaco ...
Ilwaco, Washington, is located in Baker Bay, approximately three miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. Just upstream are the mouths of the Wallacut and Chinook Rivers, and further upstream is Chinook Point. Downstream the Baker Bay shoreline curves towards Cape Disappointment, and Sand Island is located in Baker Bay south from Ilwaco and Black Lake lies to the north.

Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fisherman, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken January 27, 2012.


Early Ilwaco ...
Ilwaco, Washington was a sawmill and salmon cannery town during its early years, and was the southern terminus of the Ilwaco railroad (1888-1908).

Ilwaco was named for El-wa-co Jim, an Indian who married a daughter of Chief Comcomly, of the Chinook tribe. Previously Ilwaco was known as "Pacific City" and then "Unity". (See more below).

Edmund S. Meany wrote in "Origins of Washington Geographic Names" (1923, University of Washington Press):

"Ilwaco ... a town in Pacific County, near the mouth of the Columbia River. The petty Indian chief for whom the town was named told Isaac Whealdon that his name was El-wah-ko Jim. He was more than ordinarily intelligent and was very proud of his wife, who was a chief's daughter. A former name of the place was Unity, founded by J.L. Stout."

Robert Hitchman wrote in "Place Names of Washington" (1985, Washington State Historical Society):

"Ilwaco (T10N R11W) ... Town on the northwest shore of Baker Bay, at the mouth of Columbia River, southwest Pacific County. At one time it was a southern terminus of a narrow-gauge railroad, which extended north to Nahcotta. The town was named for El-wa-co Jim, a very intelligent Indian, who married a daughter of Chief Comcomly of the Chinook Nation."

Early Images ...

Penny Postcard, Ilwaco, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco, Washington. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Undivided Back (1901-1907), "Ilwaco, Wash.". Postmarked August 21, 1905. "Made expressly for H.A. Vincent, Ilwaco & Long Beach, Wash.". Made in Germany. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Columbia River with TJ Potter, click to enlarge
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Penny Postcard: "On The Columbia River", with the T.J. Potter. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Undivided Back (1901-1907), "On The Columbia River". Postmarked September 10, 1906. H.A. Vincent, Ilwaco and Longbeach, Wash. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
(Unknown location, possibly near Ilwaco, Washington. Between 1901 and 1916 the T.J. Potter had the Astoria to Ilwaco run, connecting Astoria with the Ilwaco Railway.)
Penny Postcard, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Waterfront. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Waterfront, Ilwaco, Wash.". H.A. Vincent, Ilwaco and Longbeach, Wash. Card #78. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Salmon Cannery, Ilwaco, Washington. Penny Postcard, Undivided Back (1901-1907), "Salmon Cannery, Ilwaco, Wash.". Published by H.A. Vincent, Ilwaco and Long Beach, Wash., by M. Rieder, Los Angeles, Cal. Card No.8673. Made in Germany. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Cannery and Warehouse, Ilwaco, Washington. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Cannery & Ware House, on the Columbia River, Ilwaco, Wash.". Published by Wesley Andrews Co., Baker, Oregon. Card #10. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Cliff Cottage near Ilwaco, Washington. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Cliff Cottages at the Rocks, near Ilwaco, Wash.". Postmarked 1910. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Ilwaco in 1941 ...

From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State" (1941, Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration):

"On BAKER BAY, just inside the mouth of the Columbia River, is ILWACO, 71.6 m. (sea level, 656 pop.), named for Elowahka Jim, son-in-law of the powerful Chief Comcomly, who was the leader of many Indian tribes in this region. Captain James Johnson visited the harbor in 1848, took up a donation claim and built a house, but left shortly afterward. Actual settlement was begun by Henry Feister in 1851, when he opened an ox-team transportation system for hauling supplies to settlers on Shoalwater Bay (Willapa Harbor). By the late sixties the town was a stopping point on the expanding stagecoach and ferry route between Astoria, Oregon, and the Puget Sound country. Stagecoaches were displaced in 1889 by a narrow-gauge railroad, variously called the Ilwaco and Shoalwater Bay Railroad and the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company. The road came under the control of the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company in 1889 and served the North Peninsula until abandoned in 1930. Conneccting with a ferry to Astoria, trains ran on a schedule that varied with the tides -- it was only certain that no train would appear at the same hour two days in succession. Along the brief main thoroughfare, the trackage of the old railroad may still be seen.

Tall headlands on the west protect Ilwaco from blasts that seasonally rake the Pacific. The harbor, a haven for fishing vessels, has several salmon canneries; most of these have been closed since 1935, however, as a consequence of the removal of fixed gear, popularly known as fish traps, from Columbia River waters."


Views ...

Image, 2005, Ilwaco, Washington, from Cape Disappointment, click to enlarge
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Ilwaco and Baker Bay, Washington, from Cape Disappointment. View from road to Cape Disappointment. Image taken November 9, 2005.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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Jessie's Fish Market, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Jessie's Fish Market, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken January 27, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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"Old Depot" sign, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken January 27, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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Fishing buoys, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.


Ilwaco, etc.

  • Baker Bay ...
  • Ilwaco Life Saving Station ...
  • Ilwaco Railroad ...
  • Pacific City and Ilwaco ...


Baker Bay ...
The Washington fishing community of Ilwaco is located on Baker Bay.

Image, 2004, Baker Bay from Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Baker Bay from Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken April 9, 2004.
Image, 2005, House, Baker Bay, from Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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House on Baker Bay, from Ilwaco, Washington. View from the Ilwaco Marina. Image taken April 19, 2005.


Ilwaco Life Saving Station ...
(to come)

Penny Postcard, Ilwaco Life Saving Crew, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Life Saving Crew, Ilwaco, Washington. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1907-1915), "U.S. Life Saving Crew, Ilwaco Beach". Published for H.A. Vincent, Ilwaco and Long Beach, Wash. Made in Germany. Postmarked, date unreadable. Card No.7036. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Ilwaco Railroad ...
In 1888, the Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Company laid the first five miles of narrow-gauge track from Ilwaco towards Long Beach and Nahcotta. In 1906 the Ilwaco Railroad was purchased by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company who bought the deep-water site upstream at Megler, which they named "Cook's Station". In 1907 construction of a railroad between Cook's Station and Ilwaco was underway, and in October of 1907 construction began at Cook's Station on a wharf that measured 900 feet long and 120 feet wide. By the time this train and ferry freight dock began operating in 1908, the name of the site was changed again to Megler Station.
[More]

Penny Postcard, Ilwaco Railroad, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Railroad Wharf, Megler, Washington. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Ilwaco R.R. Wharf, opposite Astoria, Wash.". Made in Germany. Card #A18. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Ilwaco Railroad, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Ilwaco Railroad Tunnel, Megler, Washington. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Tunnel on the Ilwaco R.R.". Postmarked August 1911. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Pacific City and Ilwaco ...
"PACIFIC CITY:   Abandoned settlement and former county seat within Cape Disappointment military reservation on Baker's Bay / Columbia River. In the fall of 1849 missionary Elijah White (who styled himself "Dr.") took a Donation Land Claim on Baker's Bay, subdivided his holdings, and advertised the availability of lots in the settlement he called Pacific City. About the same time, White was also trying to convince the federal government that his property should be part of the military reservation on the Cape. White was ultimately successful in both promotions. He sold most of his subdivided property to unsuspecting settlers and was undoubtedly compensated for the loss of his DLC when the government announced the land was government property in 1852. During the intervening years Pacific City developed into a busy town with a sawmill, hotel, store, and dozens of houses. A post office was established December 26, 1850, and shortly afterwards residents successfully petitioned the Oregon Territorial legislature to create Pacific County on February 3, 1851. Pacific City was named the county seat. Commissioner's meetings were held in any available building because there was no courthouse. Residents moved away from Pacific City after the government announced their property was within the boundaries of the military reservation in 1852. The last County Commissioner Journal entry was made at Pacific City December 7, 1852. The county seat was moved to Chenook / Chenookville. The post office was finally closed November 3, 1856. By 1858, a Coast Survey report showed there were only two or three houses and a sawmill left standing in the settlement. In 1860 a new post office was established at Whealdon's home on Baker's Bay (outside the government reservation) and the name Pacific City was retained at Whealdon's home for sentimental reasons until 1865."



"ILWACO:   Resort and fishing city on Baker's Bay / Columbia River. The Chinook Indian name for the site was "No'skwalakuthl". James Johnson, former Hudson Company bar pilot, moved his family to the site in 1849 and filed a Donation Land Claim. J.D. Holman took a Donation Land Claim on Johnson's western border in 1851. ... In 1855 the Holman's moved to Portland and the Johnson's both died. Guardians for the Johnson children sold the claim to Isaac Whealdon and family in 1858. The Whealdon's were the only white settlers on the site for several years and the homestead was known to travelers as "Whealdonsburg". On November 26, 1860, the Pacific City post office, which had been closed in May 1856, was reestablished at Whealdon's home. The name Pacific City was retained for sentimental reasons until October 21, 1865, when it was changed by the post office department to Unity. The name Unity was applied to the growing community by soldiers at Fort Canby during the Civil War years when there was a great deal of talk of the Union. On March 19, 1873, James D. Holman, who was living in Portland but vacationing yearly on his claim next to Whealdon, subdivided his land and filed the plat of the Town of Ilwaco at the courthouse in Oysterville. The name honored "Elowahka" Jim, an Indian neighbor of Holman and Whealdon. Jim was married to Elowahka, a daughter of one of Chief Concomally's wives, and was generally known by her name. The post office department made the name official July 18, 1876, when Holman was appointed Postmaster of Ilwaco. In June 1892, Whealdon subdivided his land and filed a plat for the Town of Whealdonsburg but by then the name Ilwaco was the acknowledged name of the town. Whealdon's street names, which included references to his Quaker faith, local tree types, and the first names of his wife Mary Ann and three daughters, Elizabeth, Eliza, and Adelia, were retained by Ilwaco city fathers, however. Ilwaco was a sawmill and salmon cannery town during its early years, and was the southern terminus of the Ilwaco railroad (1888-1908). Ilwaco was incorporated as a town December 8, 1890. Today, Ilwaco is a charter boat resort with a large commercial fishing fleet."



Source:    Larry J. Weathers in The Sou'wester, 1989, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 18, 1805 ...


Ordway, November 18, 1805 ...
Cloudy. Capt. Clark myself and 10 more of the party Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] in order to go down and see the passiffic ocean [Pacific Ocean]. we proceeded on round Hailys bay [Bakers Bay] crossed two Rivers [Chinook River and Wallacut River] in Sd. bay [Bakers Bay] . ...     we proceeded on round high clifts of rocks where we had much trouble to pass.- towards evening we arived at the Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] on the Sea Shore. went over a bald hill [McKenzie Head] where we had a handsom view of the ocean. we went on a Short distance on the coast and Camped for the night.





Clark, November 19, 1805 ...
after takeing a Sumptious brackfast of venison which was rosted on Stiks exposed to the fire, I proceeded on through ruged Country of high hills and Steep hollers [including today's North Head, Deadmans Hollow, and Beards Hollow] on a course from the Cape [Cape Disappointment] N 20° W. 5 miles on a Direct line to the Commencement of a Sandy Coast [Long Beach Peninsula] which extended N. 10° W. from the top of the hill above the Sand Shore to a Point of high land distant near 20 miles [Leadbetter Point]. this point I have taken the Liberty of Calling after my particular friend Lewis— at the commencement of this Sand beech the high lands leave the Sea coast in a Direction to Chinnook river [Chinook or Wallacut River] , and does not touch the Sea Coast again <untill> below point Lewis [Leadbetter Point] leaveing a low pondey countrey, maney places open with small ponds in which there is great numbr. of fowl     I am informed that the Chinnook Nation inhabit this low countrey and live in large wood houses on a river which passes through this bottom Parrilal to the Sea coast and falls into the Bay



I proceeded on the Sandy Coast 4 miles, and marked my name on a Small pine, the Day of the month & year, &c. [near the location of present day Long Beach] and returned to the foot of the hill, from which place I intended to Strike across to The Bay [Baker Bay], ...     after Dineing on the remains of our Small Deer I proceeded through over a land S E with Some Ponds [possibly one being Black Lake] to the bay [Baker Bay] distance about 2 miles, thence up to the mouth of Chinnook river [mistake, the Wallacut River, west of the Chinook River] 2 miles, crossed this little river in the Canoe we left at its mouth and Encamped [Wallacut River] on the upper Side in an open Sandy bottom— The hills [Ilwaco, Washington area] next to the bay [Baker Bay] Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] to a Short distance up the Chinnook river [Wallacut River] is not verry high thickly Coverd. with different Species of pine &c. maney of which are large, I observed in maney places pine of 3 or 4 feet through growing on the bodies of large trees which had fallen down, and covered with moss and yet part Sound. ...





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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:
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington State Historical Society;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origins of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press, Seattle;
  • Pacific County Historical Society website, 2005, "Place Names of Pacific County" by Larry J. Weathers, IN: The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition 1989, Vol.XXIV, No.1-4;
  • U.S. National Park Service, Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks website, 2006;
  • Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration (WPA), 1941, "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State", sponsored by the Washington State Historical Society;


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.
/Regions/Places/ilwaco.html
May 2012