USGenWeb Project

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Wahkiakum County




In March and April, 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database. The idea was to provide a single entry point for all counties in Kentucky, where collected databases would be stored. In addition, the databases would be indexed and cross-linked, so that even if an individual were found in more than one county, they could be located in the index.
At the same time, volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the collection of databases and generally oversee the contents of the web page. The Washington (WAGenWeb) Project is an extension of the KYGenWeb Project.

Wahkiakum History

The original inhabitants of the southern Washington area including Wahkiakum County are the Puyallup, Chinook, Chehalis and Nisqually tribes. These peoples fished and gathered food for their survival. One of the first known visitors to the area was Captain George Vancouver who sailed up the Washington coast in 1792. Lewis and Clark arrived in 1805 exploring the area and telling the rest of the country about the area's beauty and natural wealth.

The Oregon Trail brought missionaries and settlers. The Columbia River was the main "road" through the county with Winter and Spring rains making road passage impossible. Fishing and lumber were important local industries. Sawmills and canneries were built and provided some employment. Dairy farming and truck farms on Puget Island were later sources of income.

CATHLAMET is the county seat of Wahkiakum County. In 1846 James and Charlot (Beaulieu) Birnie took out a donation land claim in what is now Cathlamet when James retired from the employment of Hudson Bay Company (HBC).  This was at the same time Fort Vancouver was transferred from British control to the United States.  James called the area Birnie's Retreat.  He built his family home and established a trading post buying merchandise for the trading post directly from the HBC.  In 1850 William Strong, Oregon Territorial Circuit Judge took out a claim with his wife Lucretia (Robinson) and what is now the site of the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum.  Cathlamet celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 1946 with a big 3-day celebration but the town was not incorporated until 1907. 

The Elochman Slough Marina was developed to provide a secure harbor. Summer sailors enjoy the facilities and walking the parks and streets of Cathlamet.

Historic buildings are: the Julia Butler Hansen House built by James Birnie for his sister Rose (first school teacher) and her husband George Roberts in 1857.  Doumit Law Office built in about 1870 by James Birnie for his daughter Charlotte (Birnie) Dorcy Ilsley.  The Bradley Inn built by logging company owner Henry Armstrong in 1907. Warren Cannery (1869) built by Frank Manley Warren who latter died in the Titanic to can Salmon.  John West built a home (1897) for daughter Christina and her husband ship's Captain David Ingram.  St. Catherine's Catholic Church (1908) and the Pioneer Church (1895).

PUGET ISLAND is an island in the Columbia River and has the last remaining car ferry operating on the lower Columbia runs from the island to Westport, Oregon. It leaves the island every hour on the hour from 5 AM to 10 PM each day and at quarter after the hour from Westport. The Native Americans used the island as their hunting and fishing grounds. The Ostervold's settled Puget Island in 1884 and when the dikes were built many more residents farmed the land.  The level and lightly traveled island roads with beautiful rural and river vistas are ideal site for bicycling, jogging, and walking.

SKAMOKAWA means 'smoke on the water' so called after the fog which drifts down the three valleys opening onto the town and the Columbia River.  It was once an Indian village long before the white settlers came to the region. In 1851 Chief Skamokawa sold the land of what is now Wahkiakum County to the United States Federal government.  The white settlers renamed the area "Skamokawa" after the last Chief of the Wahkiakum Indians. 

In 1844 Captain John Couch built a small trading post near Chief Skamokawa's home.  A permanent settlement began in the 1860's and 1870's with the development of logging and Salmon fishing.  By 1873 Skamokawa was large enough to have a post office.

Just southeast of Skamokawa is Columbian White-tailed Deer National Wildlife Refuge, which is the home of the endangered deer and a number of waterfowl species. There is a viewing area built where Roosevelt Elk often browse. In town, the Redman Hall is the home of the 'Columbia River Interpretive Life Center' and was originally the Skamokawa Central School built in 1894. There is also kayak rentals available next to the Skamokawa Post Office for kayaking though the areas many sloughs.  Skamokawa's Vista Park is located on the Columbia River and has a campground and picnic area. 

GRAYS RIVER, 1905 seems to be the year that this small river town's structures were built with the Grays River Covered Bridge, located on Loop Road and is well worth the extra five minutes off of State Route 4 to view and take photographs.  The Grays River Grange #124 which hosted the first "Grays River Grange Fair" that year.  The Lower Columbia Co-Operative Dairy Association building was built in 1916 and is now a private residence.  The newspaper "Wahkiakum Forum" and later the "Grays River Builder" began publication in Grays River.

ROSBURG was settled by German immigrant Christian and Maria (Brix) Rosburg in 1893 with Christian being the first postmaster. The Rosburg Store was originally located at the river's edge but is now located next to the highway and is a good example of a country store with the Rosburg Cemetery next door.   The Rosburg/Grays River School consolidated with Naselle and now the building is used as a community center.  

DEEP RIVER was originally named "Alimencut" by the Chinook Indians with the early settlers renaming the area "Deep River".  Historic structures are the Deep River Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1902 and up the hill is the Deep River Cemetery.

Wahkiakum Message Board - View & Post Queries, Obits, etc.

Towns & Events

Places in Wahkiakum



Neighboring Counties

Census Lookups Mailing Lists

Interesting Links



Personals & Newspaper Articles


LaFramboise & Souvigny

Wahkiakum County Historical Society & Museum

Boldt Cemetery

Meehan Family  

Wahkiakum Mystery Photographs 



Past Queries | Surnames | Lookup | Cemeteries | Adj Counties |Links |

To contribute information,
please contact Kari Kandoll
, Wahkiakum County Coordinator.

This page was last updated  March 9, 2008

Past Wahkiakum County Coordinators:
Ron Kimmel 1997-2000, Kelly Courtney-Blizzard 2000-2003 & 2006, Terria Baynor 2003-2005.