Our Field Trip to Cathlamet

Jul 19, 2023 | 0 comments

Tucker, Carol, Amelia, Sydney on the Olsons’ Deck in Cathlamet

Tucker, Carol, their almost-15-year-old granddaughter Amelia, and I set out a few minutes before 11:00 this morning on a Grand Adventure.  We had been invited to Dayle and David Olson’s place in Cathlamet for a picnic lunch to be followed by a tour of three important historic sites within a few blocks of their house.

We brought the lunch — build your own sandwiches; Dayle supplied beverages and blueberry cake!  It was a feast in all ways — including for the eyes!  Their lovely home on the hillside overlooks the Columbia River — a constantly changing vista that was the perfect accompaniment to our lively conversation  Talking with David (who is the Mayor of Cathlamet) and Dayle (who is a working poet and huge promoter of writers) was informative, entertaining, and somewhat mind-boggling.

Mrs. Dayle and Mayor David Olson

Since arriving in Cathlamet five years ago, the Olsons have spearheaded at least three gigantic projects.  First, they worked on the restoration of the Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1846 and perhaps the oldest cemetery in the state.  Though it looks absolutely pristine now, it was in a sad state of decrepitude when the Olsons arrived.

Pioneer Cathlamet Cemetery

David signed up for a CPHM Community Historian class to learn more about how to proceed with restoration and, eventually, with the help of grant monies, they had the gravestones repaired, cleaned and reset on their bases and had an appropriate fence installed to replace the old chainlink one.  A large “blank” grassy area denotes where they think early Indian buriels were made.  “I wish we could get a GPR (ground penetrating radar) device,” David said.  “I think we’d learn a lot.”

This sign tells about Queen Sally and the fresh water spring.

Next they worked with the Chinook Nation’s Cultural Council on signage for two important sites in Cathlamet.  One denotes Queen Sally’s Spring which they first noticed from their deck — a very green area just below their property. The sign tells the story of notable Chinook elder Queen Sally who, among other things, carried fresh spring water from the village to the Lewis and Clark expedition when they landed on the nearby shore in 1805 on their way West.

Sign honoring the Wahkiakum People of the Elochoman Village

The other sign at Elochoman Slough Marina highlights the Wahkiakum Band of Chinook who greeted and traded with the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery in 1805 near the site of the sign.  Like Queen Sally’s sign, the wording was developed by the  Chinook Cultural Council and the signs were paid for with grants from the Lewis & Clark Trail Stewardship Endowment.

It was a wonderfully enriching day, all the way around!  I couldn’t help wishing that we could clone the Olsons and spread them around a bit.  There are a lot of areas in Pacific County that could benefit from their vision and drive!  Lucky Cathlamet and Wahkiakum County!  And lucky us for their friendship and enthusiasm for all things historic!

 

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