Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"McGowan, Washington, and St. Mary's Catholic Church"
Includes ... McGowan ... St. Mary's Catholic Church ... Chenookville ...
Image, 2005, St. Marys Catholic Church, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Mary's Catholic Church, McGowan, Washington. Image taken February 19, 2005.

McGowan ...
McGowan, Washington, is located at approximately Columbia River Mile (RM) _____, one mile upstream of Chinook Point and one and 1/4 miles downstream from Point Ellice. McGowan was the location of Lewis and Clark's "Station Camp", where the men spent 10 days in November 1805. McGowan was named after Patrick McGowan who took a donation land claim in the area and operated a salmon cannery.

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

"Mc Gowans ... a town on the Columbia River in the southwestern part of Pacific County, named in honor of P.J. Mc Gowan, a pioneer settler."

In 1848 Father Joseph Louis Lionnet established a Roman Catholic Mission in 1848 on the upstream side of Point Ellice.

In 1852, Patrick J. McGowan took a Donation Land Claim (DLC) and started a commercial salmon saltery. The town of McGowan was established in 1853. McGowan's cannery was located on pilings on the river. Today nothing remains of the cannery.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records database shows Jane M. McGowan and Patrick J. McGowan being granted title to 321.61 acres of T9N R10W Sections 21 and 22, on May 21, 1890, under the 1850 Oregon-Donation Act.

In 1901 the McGowan Post Office was established, remaining in operation until 1939.

In 1904 McGowan donated land for St. Mary's Catholic Church (commonly known as the McGowan Church) which lies just upstream of Lewis and Clark's Station Camp.

Today the St. Mary's Church remains on the north side of Washington State Highway 4, looking out across the Columbia. The original townsite of McGowan has several buildings remaining, including a 1970 residential duplex, a foundation of a milking shed, and the dilapidated remains of a Shell gas station, bait house, McGowan-era "bachelors' quarters," and smokehouse. Other remaining McGowan-era buildings are the 1911 Henry McGowan House and "the office" constructed in 1903.

In 1914 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "McGowan" the official spelling. Another variant was "McGowans".

McGowan and Chenookville ...
"MCGOWAN:   Early salmon cannery settlement between Chinook Point and Point Ellice on the Columbia River. The site is one of the camps used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. It was also a "mission grant" taken by Catholic missionary Father Louis Joseph Lionnet in 1848. Father Lionnet established the Stellam's (Star of the Sea) mission and baptized, buried and married Indian and white residents between 1848-1860. Patrick J. McGowan paid Father Lionnet for the land and then filed a Donation Land Claim for the site in 1853. The claim ad joined Washington Hall's newly created town of Chenookville. McGowan operated a business in Portland for many years before moving to his claim permanently around 1861. From the start McGowan engaged in salmon salting and established the earliest salmon packing company in the state. McGowan changed over to canning salmon around 1884 when he admitted his four sons as partners and changed the name of the business to McGowan and Sons. The settlement that grew up around company holdings was known as McGowan in honor of the owner. A post office was established on March 7, 1901, and continued in operation until April 15, 1939. In 1904 McGowan built and paid for a church near his cannery. The church was dedicated as St. Mary's Catholic Church on May 20, 1906, and is still a north shore Columbia River landmark."

"CHENOOK/CHENOOKVILLE:   Early settlement on the Columbia River between Fort Columbia and Point Ellice. The name is derived from the Chinook Indians who camped there before and after the appearance of white settlers. The Chinook villa at this site was one of the permanent campsites of the tribe. Captain Robert Gray (May 1792), Hudson Bay Company factors (around 1800), Lewis and Clark (November 1805), and Fathers DeSmet and Blanchette (1831), all made note of the village in their respective reports. Lewis and Clark labeled the site "Chinnook" on their map and estimated 400 members of the tribe lived along the Columbia River and interior. In 1840 the Hudson Bay Company built a store to enhance trade with the tribe. Washington Hall filed a Donation Land Claim on the site in 1849 and eventual surveyed a town September 1850. The plat was recorded as Chenookville in County Commissioner records October 5, 1852 (the alternative spelling "Chinookville" was also used). In December 1852 county records were transferred from Pacific City Chenookville. It remained the county seat from December 1852 to December 6, 1854. A post office was established October 19, 1852, but was discontinued December 1860. The first salmon cannery in Pacific County was established at Chenookville (Point Ellice) by Ellis, Jewett and Chambers in 1870. By the 1880's nearby McGowan overshadowed the older settlement and erosion was rapidly removing buildings from the shrinking river bank. Erosion finally vanquished the old town site during this century (the name disappeared from area maps decades before), but it wasn't until January 1965, that the plat of Chenookville was vacated at a County Commissioners meeting. For a time (1948 to the late 1950s) the high ground behind the eroding beach was call Derbyville. The name derived from the annual Salmon Derby held at the campground located there. ..."

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

McGowan, etc.

  • Ferry to Astoria ...
  • McGowans Cannery ...
  • St. Mary's Catholic Church ...

Ferry to Astoria ...
In the 1920s, McGowan was once the Washington landing of a ferry which crossed the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon. Eventually the Washington landing was moved to Megler, until replaced by the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

McGowans Cannery ...
Patrick J. McGowan began to engage in salmon salting business. He established the earliest salmon packing company in the state. Around 1884 McGowan changed over to canning salmon when he admitted his four sons as partners and changed the name of the business to McGowan and Sons. McGowan operated a large cannery along the Columbia River located at McGowan, and a second cannery upstream on the Oregon side of the Columbia at the community of Dodson.
[More Columbia River Canneries]

Penny Postcard, McGowans Salmon
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: McGowans Salmon, McGowans Cannery.
Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Sepia, Un-divided Back (1907-1915), "Two Million Cans of Columbia River Salmon". Postmarked 1908. Published for Olds, Wortman and King, Portland, Ore. Printed in Germany. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, McGowan Shad Label, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
LABEL: Columbia River Shad, McGowan, Washington. P.M. McGowan & Sons, Distributors, 15 1/2 oz. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

St. Mary's Catholic Church ...
At Milepost 2 (Hwy 101), on the inland side, is the historic St. Mary's Catholic Church, which marks the site of McGowan, a community which used to thrive along the Columbia River. St. Mary's Church was built in 1904 and faces the water and storms of the Pacific Ocean. It is maintained in its original condition and has no utilities. Services are held by kerosene lanterns in the summer and on other special occasions. Immediately downstream of St. Mary's Catholic Church is Station Camp, where Lewis and Clark spent 10 days in 1805.

"St. Mary's Catholic Church at McGowan is located on the old Stella Maris, "Star of the Sea," mission grant given to Father Lionnet. P.J. McGowan purchased a large portion of this land grant for $1,200 and built his home and cannery on this site. During the summer months, St. Mary's Catholic Church still conducts services."

Source:    Nancy L. Hobbs and Donella J. Lucero, 2005, "The Long Beach Peninsula", Arcadia Publishing.

Image, 2005, St. Marys Church, front, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Mary's Catholic Church, McGowan, Washington. Image taken February 19, 2005.
Image, 2005, St. Marys Church, detail, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Mary's Catholic Church, McGowan, Washington. Image taken February 19, 2005.
Image, 2005, Stain glass windown, St. Marys Church, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Stain glass window, St. Mary's Catholic Church, McGowan, Washington. Image taken February 19, 2005.
Image, 2004, McGowan Church from Station Camp, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Mary's Catholic Church as seen from Station Camp, McGowan, Washington. View from downstream. Image taken April 9, 2004.

"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 15, 1805 ...

Journey to the PacificReturn to

*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

  • Hay, K.G., 2004, "The Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail", Timber Press, Portland;
  • Hobbs, N.L., and Lucero, D.J., 2005, "The Long Beach Peninsula", Arcadia Publishing;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press, Seattle;
  • Pacific County Historical Society website, 2005, 2011, "Place Names of Pacific County" by Larry J. Weathers, IN: "The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition 1989", Vol.XXIV, No.1-4;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records database, 2006;
  • U.S. National Park Service website, 2004, Fort Clatsop National Memorial;
  • "Welcome to Wakiakum County" website, 2004;

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.
November 2013