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Camas and the blue lily (1883)

Located on the Columbia River just east of Vancouver, the area now known as Camas was first settled in the mid-1840s. Sawmills established by Jacob Hunsaler in 1846 and H.J.G. Maxon in 1852 were the earliest industries, but both mills were destroyed by fire.

In 1883, Portlander Henry L. Pittock and his partners looked for a place to build a paper mill to supply his newspaper, The Oregonian. They selected the Maxon Donation Land Claim largely because Lacamas Creek ran above the proposed mill site and water power was essential to run the mill’s machinery.

A six- by 10-block town was laid out west of the planned paper mill. The town would house settlers who arrived to work at the mill and a another new sawmill. A dam built on Round Lake raised the water level 12 feet and created a log pond for the sawmill.

From La Camas to Camas
The La Camas Colony Company, which planned the town, took its name from a deep blue lily called Kamass, or Kamiss, by Native Americans who used the flower as food. Early French settlers called the town La Camas. In 1906, when the town was incorporated, residents dropped the “La” to avoid confusion with La Center and La Conner.

The paper company Pittock founded continued to flourish. Originally named the Columbia River Paper Company, it later was bought by Crown Zellerbach Corporation. In 1987, the mill was acquired by James River Corporation, which initiated a $34 million investment program to expand capacity and reduce pollution. It now is owned by Georgia-Pacific.

In recent years, the city has significantly expanded its boundaries through annexation, and now covers more than 15 square miles. The arrival of major high tech industries in the late 1980s added to the present economic diversity of the community.

For more about Camas, visit the city’s website at

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015

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