Named by the local Indians, the Washougal River means “rushing water.” The land nearby was called Washoughally Camp by the fur traders. Later it would be named Parker’s Landing, the town of Parkersville, and finally the city of Washougal.
The first European to settle in this area was a British seaman named Richard Howe (also spelled Ough) who arrived in 1838 and later married the daughter of a local chief.
Welcome to Parkersville
There’s a natural boat landing that played an important role in the Oregon Trail about a mile downstream from Cottonwood Beach, next to the Port of Camas-Washougal marina in present-day Washougal.
Many pioneers coming out west would arrive near the Dalles, Oregon, and make rafts to float down the Columbia River. A natural eddy at the landing would wash 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 out 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 make a home in Washington. He would found a community near Tumwater.
The second man, David Clark Parker, decided to stay put at the landing and took a Donation Land Claim in 1846 that became Parker’s Landing, a thriving little community in its day. Other settlers who followed Parker included Joseph Gibbons in 1847, J. Duncan in 1850, and J.E.C. Durgan in 1854.
In 1852 Parker applied to have his young town incorporated as Parkersville, thought to be the oldest incorporated community in the state of Washington. 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 Street 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 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. A merging of the surrounding area’s woolen mills led to the formation of the United Woolen Mills in 1910. The only woolen mill in the state of Washington is presently located 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/.