Named by local Indians, Washougal River means “rushing water.” Fur traders called the land nearby Washoughally Camp. Later it would be named Parker’s Landing, the town of Parkersville and last, the city of Washougal.
The first European to settle in the area was a British seaman named Richard Howe (also spelled Ough) who arrived in 1838 and later married a local chief's daughter.
Welcome to Parkersville
A natural boat landing played an important role on the Oregon Trail about a mile downstream from Cottonwood Beach, next to the Port of Camas-Washougal marina in present-day Washougal.
Many pioneers arrived near the Dalles, Oregon, and made rafts to float down the Columbia River. A natural eddy at the landing washed barges and rafts up against the north bank. From there, settlers could avoid the British at Fort Vancouver by traveling to the interior of what would become Washington state or cross the river to the Oregon bank.
Two men came on a wagon train, floated down the river, and arrived at the landing in 1845. One was George Washington Bush, the first free African American man to settle in Washington. He would found a community near Tumwater.
The other man, David Clark Parker, decided to stay at the landing. In 1846, he took a Donation Land Claim that became Parker’s Landing, a thriving little community in its day. Other settlers included Joseph Gibbons in 1847, J. Duncan in 1850, and J.E.C. Durgan in 1854.
In 1852, Parker applied to have the young town incorporated as Parkersville, which is now thought to be the oldest incorporated community in the state. But Parkersville would disappear almost completely when the city of Washougal was founded one mile to the east. Today, all that remains is Parkersville Landing Historical Park at 24 S. A St. in Washougal.
Moving to Washougal
In 1880, the owner and operator of the steamship Calliope built a deep water dock for year-round use just a mile upriver from Parkersville, closer to the lowlands for dairy farming and logging.
This resource enticed business men to move from Parkersville to what would become Washougal. Durgan moved his store and post office there in 1880, and Fritz Braun, who had started building a hotel in Parkersville, moved it to Washougal, too. The thriving town soon had two blacksmith shops, a butcher shop and a saddle and harness shop.
Durgan and his wife donated the land for the town site of Washougal, which was mapped and platted by Alexander McAndrew on April 2, 1880 and recorded May 6, 1880.
Steamboats and woolen mills
Washougal became a regular stopping place for steamboats plying the Columbia River. In 1910, the area’s woolen mills merged to become United Woolen Mills, and the only remaining woolen mill in the state is in Washougal. Once owned locally, it merged with Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1953.
The Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park, located within the city boundaries, has been a major source of area employment through the past few decades.
For more on the city of Washougal, go to the Web site at: www.ci.washougal.wa.us/.