Fantastic Final Forum!

May 3, 2024 | 2 comments

Steve Rogers, President Pacific County Historical Society

Wednesday’s History Forum, the last one for the Sept ’23-May’24 Season left us all wanting More! More! More!  Not a soul left early. Speakers were still answering questions long after the Oysterville School’s dismissal bell (if there were one) had rung!  It was one of those “Fun.! Fun!  Fun!” days and we didn’t even need the T-Bird!

The session was all about transportation in Pacific County beginning with a report by Steve Rogers about “The Great Canal Project” (my name for it) which began with a proposal by Jefferson Davis when he was Secretary of War during President Franklin Pierce’s Presidency from 1853 to1857.  The canal would join the Columbia River with Puget Sound by way of Willapa Bay, Gray’s Harbor, the Chehalis River (where locks would be needed), entering Puget Sound at Olympia.  This “Intracoastal Waterway” was promoted clear into the 1960s and 1970s as a way to save the expense of keeping the Jetties repaired and continuing to keep the Columbia River Bar passable.

Michael Lemeshko, Author and Historian

Michael Lemeshko gave a slide presentation on the evolution of the wharves and cannery buildings in Ilwaco beginning with a slide of  the Ilwaco Landing which burned last year just as crab season was beginning– the most recent of the Ilwaco wharf fires. The first Ilwaco wharf fire was a building on those very same pilings — Seaborg’s Aberdeen Packing Company Cannery that burned in 1898.  The remaining pilings and adjacent land was subsequently sold to the Columbia Packer’s Association but in 1900. Meanwhile, the Ilwaco waterfront was  the center of a great deal of wharf activitu — much of it at the instigation of L.A. Loomis who was beginning to set up the infrastructure for his Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Company.  He saw clearly that safe transportation for freight, mail, and passengers to and from the North Beach Peninsula was wholly dependent upon the wharves at Ilwaco.

Jerry Bowman of the Northwest Carriage Museum

Next up was Jerry Bowman of the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond whose talk centered on horses, the mainstay of transportation prior to the automobile.  While his talk was not specifically geared to Pacific County,  listeners could extrapolate from the many interesting facts he shared.  The one that stuck my mind was that in NYC in the 1880s, on any given day, there would have been about 170,000 horses to serve the transportation needs of the city’s 3.5 million inhabitants. Since the average 1,000 pound horse produces about 30 pounds of manure and 2.4 gallons of urine a day,  the promise of “new-fangled automobile-machines” were seen as an answer to a serious pollution problem!

Jim Sayce, Manager Port of Raymond

The final speaker was Jim Sayce who talked a bit about the proposed pedestrian/bike ferry which might run from Nahcotta to Tokeland, possibly with as many as five trips a day!   The feasibility study recently undertaken by Pacific County in conjunction with a University of Washington group makes it look like a distinct possibility!  Unlike the launches and steamers and mailboats of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ferries would be primarily for recreational purposes, at least as the project is envisioned at this point.  If anyone can inspire it happening, my vote is with Jim.  After all, he was one of the first promotors of the History Forum and… so far, so good!



Rubberneck Row


  1. Carole Reid

    As an “Outsider” having only lived in Washington for 38 years, I find so many answers to my questions and curiosities
    by reading you. It amazes me how many people I have met living as foreigners in different parts of the world that aren’t curious about anything aside from the basic facts. If I ever get over there on a 1st Wednesday, I’ll come to a forum.

    • Sydney Stevens

      Carole, we’d love to have you! But we won’t start up again until September, so you have time to think about it! As for curiosity — I guess all the answrers the new generations need are on their “screens” which makes for a scarey future to think about!


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