Chronology of Clatsop County History


The First 400 Years From the 1500s to 1900

The following are some of the major events that have occurred in Clatsop County's history from the 1850s to 1900. Please let us know if you spot any errors or think of items that should be added. Send email to the Clatsop County Historical Society at or write to us at 1618 Exchange Street, Astoria, Oregon 97103.

Spanish explorers visited the coast sometime in the mid 1500s, leaving among their spilt cargo, beeswax that washed to shore and stories of buried treasure.

About 1760, an English ship was believed to have been wrecked on the beaches. The son of one of the survivors, tattooed with the name, "Jack Ramsey" met the Astor fur-trading party.

In 1775, was the first recorded sighting of the mouth of the Columbia by Spaniard Bruno de Heceta.

On May 11, 1792, Capt. Robert Gray sailed into the mouth of the Columbia, naming the river and giving the U.S. its first claim to the region.

In 1793, Alexander MacKenzie was the first explorer to reach the Pacific overland from Canada.

Jennie Michel, descendant of the Clatsop Tribe. Ca. 1900

The first garden was planted on an island in the Columbia River near Astoria, in 1795.

1803 was the year the Louisiana Purchase added this territory to the U.S.

Lewis & Clark's overland party reached the Pacific in the fall of 1805 and wintered over on the river named for them.

In 1811, John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company established a trading post at the site they named "Astoria." Fortifications were added a few weeks later.

The U.S. declared war on Great Britain in 1812.

In 1813, Astoria was sold under duress to the British Northwest Company which renamed it Fort George for the King of England. The post continued to be known as Fort George for more than two decades and was also known as Astoria.

The British surrendered Fort George to the Americans in 1818, but remained on scene.

In 1821, the British Northwest and Hudson's Bay Companies merged to become "the Company," known as the Hudson Bay Company.

In 1825, Dr. John McLoughlin moved the center of operations of the Hudson Bay Company to Fort Vancouver, in Washington.

In 1830, Chief Concomly died and "intermittent fever" raged through the Native American population.

The first steamboat to enter the Columbia, the Beaver, arrived at Fort George in 1836.

By 1840, the number of Clatsop Indians was 200. In 1850, the number was down by half. The first white settlement of Clatsop Plains was by Solomon H. Smith who with Rev. J.H. Frost established a Methodist mission there.

In 1843, the civil provisional government was formed at Champoeg with the Lower Columbia area being incorporated into the Tuality district. That year, the Perry and Trask families moved to Clatsop Plains. Others followed: The Owens's, the Hobson's and several single men.

In 1844, the District of Clatsop was formed out of the original Tuality district. The first Oregon taxes were assessed. John M. Shively claimed land including the old Fort George (Astoria). The James Welch family moved to Astoria, the first permanent all white family there. Disturbances took place between the English and Americans over property ownership, forcing Shively to leave, but Welch remained. The first sawmill was set up by H.H. Hunt near present-day Bradwood on the Columbia.

The first grist mill for grinding flour in Clatsop County was built near present-day Seaside in 1845 by Thomas Owens, Elbridge Trask, W.T. Perry and Calvin Tibbets.

In 1846, there were 95 people on the census list for Clatsop County.

In 1847, John Shively returned to Astoria from the East Coast with the commission of Post Master at Astoria.

In 1848, gold was discovered in California. Immediately, a large number of new immigrants to the area headed south. The first steam saw mill was built by James Welch about 9th and Commercial.

In 1849, General John Adair arrived with his commission of Customs Collector, the first on the West Coast. U.S. District Court met in Clatsop County for the first time. The first shipwreck (Silvia de Grasse) of major consequence took place just west of Tongue Point.

In 1850, there were 462 people on the census. The Donation Land Claim Act was passed attracting settlers with 320 acres for single men and 640 acres for married couples. Captain George Flavel arrived in Clatsop County. Within a few years, he had a monopoly on the bar pilotage business.

Portland train arrives at Gearhart Park. Ca. 1900

In 1851, the Tansy Point treaty negotiations were held with the Clatsop Indians, but never ratified by Congress. In spite of this, the land was taken from them and distributed by the U.S. government to American residents.

In 1852, Seaside's hospitality business began operation by the children of Alexander Latty and his Clatsop wife Sikus.

In 1854, the first public school system in Astoria was established.

In 1856, the town of Astoria was incorporated. It had already gained the reputation of being one of the wildest towns on the West Coast.

In 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state in the Union. Capt Hiram Brown built a house which survives today mid-block on Franklin between 12th and 14th streets. Three years later, it was moved from Upper Astoria to this location.

In 1860, there were 498 people in Clatsop County.

In 1861, the Civil War began. Little effect was felt in the county. The sympathies of most lay with the North.

In 1863, work on building Fort Stevens began.

In 1865, the first newspaper was published in Astoria, lasting for two years: the Astoria Marine Gazette. The last days of the Civil War are recorded in it.

In 1866, the first cannery on the Columbia River was built at Eagle Cliff, Washington Territory by the Hume Brothers. Hans Anderson was the first settler in the Nehalem Valley.

In 1869, the first cannery was built in Clatsop County by John West at Westport.

In 1870, the population of the county was 1,255 (765 males and 490 females).

In 1871, the Pioneer & Historical Society was organized. Their original book is on display at the Heritage Museum.

In 1873, the first mayor of Astoria was elected, W.F. Kippen. The Tri-Weekly Astorian newspaper began operation. From that time on, newspapers have been published in Astoria. The Post Office and Custom House was built in its present site at 8th and Commercial. The Astoria Chamber of Commerce was incorporated, the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The 2nd cannery in Clatsop County was built by the Cook brothers in Clifton. The first cannery in Astoria was incorporated in 1873 and built in January of 1874.

In 1875, there were 17 salmon canneries in operation in the vicinity of Astoria on both sides of the river. Booth & Co. was the 2nd in Astoria.

In 1876, the Western Union completed a telegraph line to Astoria. The Fishermen's Beneficial organization was started. Astoria had 27 licensed saloons.

In 1877, the first fire of consequence took place in Astoria, burning the blocks around 5th and Astor streets. Members of the Oregon & Washington Fish Propagation Company held their first meeting in Astoria for the purpose of buildi