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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Fort Astoria, Oregon"
Includes ... Fort Astoria ... Fort Astor ... Fort Astoria Park ... National Register of Historic Places ... Astoria Centennial ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fort Astoria replica, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.


Fort Astoria ...
Astoria is Oregon's oldest city, being founded in March 1811 by the New York financier, John Jacob Aster and the Pacific Fur Company. Aster sent fur traders aboard the ship Tonquin to establish a trading post which they named Fort Astoria. Astor’s Pacific Fur Company was in a race with the British North West Company to reach the Columbia River and stake a claim to the fur trade in the region.

"... John Jacob Astor sent an expedition to establish a line of trading posts along the Columbia and Missouri Rivers that could rival the fur trade dominated by the British. Astoria was to be his chief trading house. A small party landed and began construction of a fort in April 1811. They were initially successful, but the War of 1812 intervened and the fort was turned over to the British and soon renamed Fort George, after the King. ..."
[Astoria Visual Arts website, 2006]

Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Original settlement of Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.


Fort Astoria in 1814 ...
William Henry Gray, in his writings about the history of Oregon (published in 1870) described the Fort Astoria of 1814.

"... On the 17th of April, 1814, the Canadian Northwest Fur Company's ship, Isaac Todd, reached Astoria, called Fort George. According to the description sent to Washington by Mr. Provost, it consisted of a stockade made of fir-logs, twenty feet high above the ground, inclosing a parallelogram of one hundred and fifty by two hundred and fifty feet, extending in its greatest length from northwest to southeast, and defended by bastions, or towers, at two opposite angles. Within this inclosure were all the buildings of the establishment, such as dwelling-houses, magaziens, storehouses, mechanics' shops, etc. The artillery were two heavy 18-pounders, six 6-pounders, four 4-pounders, two 6-pound coehorns, and seven swivels, all mounted. The number of persons attached to the place besides the few native women and childern, was sixty-five; of whom twenty-three were white, twenty-six Kanakas, and the remainder of mixed blood from Canada. ..." [Gray, 1870]

Fort Astoria in 1834 ...
John Kirk Townsend wrote about Fort Astoria in 1834, in his Across the Rockies to the Columbia:

"... [December 8, 1834] ... On the afternoon of the 8th, we anchored off Fort George, as it is called, although perhaps it scarcely deserves the name of a fort, being composed of but one principal house of hewn boards, and a number of small Indian huts surrounding it, presenting the appearance, from a distance, of an ordinary small farm house with its appropriate outbuildings. There is but one white man residing here, the superintendent of the fort; but there is probably no necessity for more, as the business done is not very considerable, most of the furs being taken by the Indians to Vancouver. The establishment is, however, of importance, independent of its utility as a trading post, as it is situated within view of the dangerous cape, and intelligence of the arrival of vessels can be communicated to the authorities at Vancouver in time for them to render adequate assistance to such vessels by supplying them with pilots, &c. This is the spot where once stood the fort established by the direction of our honored countryman, John Jacob Astor. One of the chimneys of old Fort Astoria is still standing, a melancholy monument of American enterprise and domestic misrule. The spot where once the fine parterre overlooked the river, and the bold stoccade enclosed the neat and substantial fort, is now overgrown with weeds and bushes, and can scarce be distinguished from the primeval forest which surrounds it on every side. ..." [John Kirk Townsend, December 8, 1834]

Fort Astoria in 1835 ...

The "History of Clarke County Washington Territory.", Published by The Washington Publishing Company, 1885, tells of "Fort Williams" in 1835:

"... Of Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbian but two log houses and a garden remained, where two white men dragged out a dull existence to maintain possession of the historic ground. Its ancient, romantic grandeur had departed from its walls, when dismantled to assist in the construction and defences of its rival, Fort Vancouver. ..."

Fort Astoria in 1839 ...
In 1840 F.A. Wislizenus, M.D., in "A Journey to the Rocky Mountains in 1839" wrote:

"... Fort George, the Astoria of the past, consists simply of a blockhouse occupied by only three or four men, whose duty it is to note the arrival of vessels and pilot them. ..."

Astoria Centennial and Fort Astor ...
In 1911 Astoria was 100 years old. Included in its centennial celebration was a re-construction of the old Fort Astoria, which they called "Fort Astor". It was located on the slopes of Coxcomb Hill. See "The Golden Age of Postcards" below.

Fort Astoria Park ...
Fort Astoria Park is located at the intersection of 15th and Exchange streets, Astoria, Oregon. In 1956 a re-creation of the blockhouse of the old Fort Astoria was built and a sign telling the history was erected nearby.

The Oregon Historical Society Website (2006), describes the blockhouse in 1960:

"... re-creation of a Fort Astoria blockhouse in Clatsop County ... A wooden sign about Fort Astoria hangs from its frame near the blockhouse. The sign reads as follows: "FORT ASTORIA Desiring to dominate the areas explored by Lewis and Clark, John Jacob Astor sent expeditions overland and by sea to seize the mouth of the Columbia. The schooner Tonquin arrived first and work was begun at this site April 12, 1811. 'The foliage was budding. We imagined ourselves in the garden of Eden. Buildings were of boards tightly covered and roofed with cedar bark.' Later palisades were raised against the Indians. Here gathered adventurers from all the vast wilderness. Here, in 1814, lived the Oregon country's first white woman, the English barmaid, Jane Barnes. Here were the true beginnings of our stock raising, farming, and shipbuilding. The property was sold to the North West Company to avoid capture during the War of 1812 and was operated as 'Fort George' until its abandonment in 1825 (25 believed to be last two digits-sign has some distortion at that point) when the Hudson's Bay Company moved headquarters to Fort Vancouver. The buildings decayed and modern Astoria rose upon the site." A diagram of Fort George as of 1818 is on file at the Oregon Historical Society and shows it to be a substantial installation, more than 150 by 200 feet, with a stockade and other defenses. A note on the diagram shows that the original Astoria establishment was about 75 by 110 feet, apparently not fortified. In 1930, workmen excavating in Astoria found remains of the stockade, probably the north wall, running from Fifteenth to Sixteenth streets, between Duane and Exchange streets. A plan of the fort has been painted on the sidewalks and pavements in this vicinity. ..."

Fort Astoria was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 (Site #66000639).


Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fort Astoria National Historic Landmark, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.


Fort Astoria Mural ...
In 1956 a replica Fort Astoria's blockhouse was constructed on the site of the early fort. Since 1956 three murals depicting the fort of 1813 have been painted on the side of a building at the site of the blockhouse. The first mural was done by Arvid Wuonola. The second mural was removed in late 1980s when the wall was repaired. The last mural, painted in 2003 by local artists Roger McKay and Sally Lackaff, extends 100 feet around the 1956 recreation of the Fort's blockhouse.
[More]

Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fort Astoria replica, blockhouse and mural, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Fort Astoria replica, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Fort Astoria replica, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Fort Astoria, ca.1960s, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Fort Astoria, ca.1960s. Penny Postcard, ca.1960s, "Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon". Caption on back reads: "This famous fort was restored in 1956. A "must" for the visitor to this area." Image by Henry Lonberg. Distributed and Published by Smith's Scenic Views, Tacoma, Washington. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

"FORT ASTORIA Desiring to dominate the areas explored by Lewis and Clark, John Jacob Astor sent expeditions overland and by sea to seize the mouth of the Columbia. The schooner Tonquin arrived first and work was begun at this site April 12, 1811. 'The foliage was budding. We imagined ourselves in the garden of Eden. Buildings were of boards tightly covered and roofed with cedar bark.' Later palisades were raised against the Indians. Here gathered adventurers from all the vast wilderness. Here, in 1814, lived the Oregon country's first white woman, the English barmaid, Jane Barnes. Here were the true beginnings of our stock raising, farming, and shipbuilding. The property was sold to the North West Company to avoid capture during the War of 1812 and was operated as 'Fort George' until its abandonment in 1825 when the Hudson's Bay Company moved headquarters to Fort Vancouver. The buildings decayed and modern Astoria rose upon the site."

Penny Postcard, Fort Astoria, Astoria Centennial, ca.1912, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Fort Astor, Astoria Centennial, Astoria, Oregon, ca.1912. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1912, "Fort Astor, Astoria Centennial, Astoria, Oregon.". Published by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, Cal., for O.W. Whitman, Astoria, Oregon. Card #1641. Card is postmarked November 11, 1912. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, December 7, 1805, first draft ...
Some rain from 10 to 12 last night this morning fair, we Set out at 8 oClock down to the place Capt Lewis pitched on for winter quarters [Fort Clatsop], when he was down proceeded on against the tide at the point No. 2 we met our men Sent down after meet

To point Adams [Point Adams] is West

To pt. Disapointment [Cape Disappointment] N 75 W

They informed me that they found the Elk after being lost in the woods for one Day and part of another, the most of the meat was Spoiled, they distance was So great and uncertain and the way bad, they brought only the Skins, york was left behind by Some accident which detained us Some time eer he Came up after passing round the pt. No. 2 in verry high swells, we Stopd & Dined in the commencement of a bay, [Youngs Bay] after which proceeded on around the bay to S E. & assended a Creek [Lewis and Clark River] 8 miles to a high pt. & Camped [near Fort Clatsop] haveing passed arm [Youngs River] makeing up to our left into the countrey

Mt. St. Helens [Mount St. Helens] is the mountain we mistook for Mt. Reeaneer [Mount Rainier, Clark mis-identified the peak on November 25, 1805, as viewed "from the mouth of this river"] ...



receved 2 Small Brooks on the East [Youngs River and the Lewis and Clark River], extencive marshes at this place of Encampment [Fort Clatsop] We propose to build & pass the winter, The situation is in the Center of as we conceve a hunting Countrey— This day is fair except about 12 oClock at which time Some rain and a hard wind imedeately after we passed the point [Smith Point, location of Astoria, Oregon] from the N. E which Continued for a about 2 hours and Cleared up. no meat ...


Clark, December 7, 1805 ...
Some rain from 10 to 12 last night, this morning fair, have every thing put on board the Canoes and Set out to the place Capt Lewis had viewed and thought well Situated for winter quarters [Fort Clatsop] - we proceeded on against the tide to a point [Smith Point, Astoria] about [blank] miles here we met Sergt Pryor and his party returning to the Camp we had left without any meat, the waves verry verry high, as much as our Canoes Could bear rendered it impossible to land for the party, we proceeded on around the point [Smith Point, Astoria] into the bay [Youngs Bay] and landed to take brackfast on 2 Deer which had been killed & hung up, one of which we found the other had been taken off by [s]ome wild animal probably Panthors or the Wild [cat?] of this Countrey ... I delayed about half an hour before York Came up, and then proceeded around this Bay which I have taken the liberty of calling Meriwethers Bay [Youngs Bay] the Cristian name of Capt. Lewis who no doubt was the 1st white man who ever Surveyed this Bay, we assended a river [Lewis and Clark River] which falls in on the South Side of this Bay [Youngs Bay] 3 miles to the first point of high land on the West Side, the place Capt. Lewis had viewed and formed in a thick groth of pine about 200 yards from the river [Fort Clatsop], this situation is on a rise about 30 feet higher than the high tides leavel and thickly Covered with lofty pine. this is certainly the most eligable Situation for our purposes of any in its neighbourhood.

Meriwethers Bay [Youngs Bay] is about 4 miles across deep & receves 2 rivers the Kil how-â-nah-kle [Youngs River] and the Ne tul [Lewis and Clark River] and Several Small Creeks - we had a hard wind from the N. E. and Some rain about 12 oClock to day which lasted 2 hours and Cleared away. From the Point above Meriwethers Bay [Smith Point, Astoria, above Youngs Bay] to Point Adams [Point Adams, Oregon] is West

to point Disapointment [Cape Disappointment] is N. 75° W."



Ordway, December 7, 1805 ...
the morning clear we put our canoes in the water loaded up and set out and proceeded on down the River. the Shore is covred thick with pine and under brush. passd. Several Spring runs. the waves ran verry high. we could not land untill we turned a point [Smith Point, location of Astoria, Oregon] in a bay [Youngs Bay] where we halted and cooked a young Deer which the hunters had killed the other day. ...     we proceed. on round a bay [Youngs Bay] then went up a River [Lewis and Clark River] abt. 3 miles and landed at the place appointed for winters quarters [Fort Clatsop]. this River [Lewis and Clark River] is about 100 yds wide at this place but the tide water extends further up. we unloaded the canoes and carried all our baggage about 2 hundred yards on a rise of ground and thicket of handsom tall Strait pine and balsom fir timber and Camped here we intend to build a fort and Stay if game is to be found thro. this winter Season.-


Whitehouse, December 7, 1805 ...
This morning clear & cold, We put our Canoes into the River & loaded them. We set off to go to the place appointed for our Winter Quarters [Fort Clatsop] & proceeded down along the Coast. We passed a number of fine Springs or Spring runs, which came in along the Shore. The Country was covered with pine Trees & under brush.- The wind rose, & the wind caused the Waves to rise also. We saw our 6 Men, who had been for the Elk meat, on the Shore. The Waves ran so high, that we could not land where they were, and had to turn a point of land [Smith Point, Astoria, Oregon], to make a harbour; the 6 Men joined us at this place. ...     We set off, the Waves running very high.- Captain Clarks negroe Man servant, not having come up, with the Men whom he had went out with, he waited with his Canoe for him. We proceeded on to a deep bay [Youngs Bay] about 8 Miles, & went up <the> a River, [Lewis and Clark River] which was about 100 yards wide. We then unloaded our Canoes & carried all our baggage, about 200 yards to piece a rising ground in a thicket of tall pine Trees; where we intend building Cabbins, & stay if Game is to be had through the Winter season





Clark, March 23, 1806 ...
This morning proved So raney and uncertain that we were undeturmined for Some time whether we had best Set out & risque the [river?] which appeared to be riseing or not. ...     at 1 P. M. left Fort Clatsop [Fort Clatsop, Oregon, location where the men wintered over] on our homeward bound journey. at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day and have lived as well as we had any right to expect, and we can Say that we were never one day without 3 meals of Some kind a day either pore Elk meat or roots, not withstanding the repeeted fall of rain which has fallen almost Constantly Since we passed the long narrows on the [blank] of Novr. last indeed w[e] have had only [blank] days fair weather since that time. Soon after we had Set out from Fort Clatsop we were met by De lash el wilt & 8 men of the Chinnooks ...     proceeded on, thro' Meriwethers Bay [Youngs Bay], there was a Stiff breese from the S. W. which raised Considerable Swells around Meriwethers point [Smith Point, Astoria, Oregon] which was as much as our Canoes Could ride. above point William [Tongue Point] we came too at the Camp of Drewyer & the 2 Field's. they had killed 2 Elk which was about 1½ miles distant. here we Encampd. for the night [near Mill Creek, just downstream of the John Day River] having made 16 miles.



Ordway, March 23, 1806 ...
the one hunter stayed out last night rained hard the greater part of last night.     this morning proved so rainy and uncertain that our officers were undetermined for Some time whether they had best Set out & risque the [wind?] which appeared to be riseing or not. ... at 1 P. M. left Fort Clatsop [Fort Clatsop, Oregon, where the men spent the winter] on our homeward bound journey. at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day, and have lived as well as we had any right to expect, and we can Say that we were never one day without 3 meals of Some kind a day, either poor Elk meat or roots, notwithstanding the reputed fall of rain which has fallen almost continualy Since we passed the long narrows on the [blank] of Novr last, indeed we have had only [blank] days fair weather Since that time. Soon after we had set out from fort Clatsop we were met by a party of the Chinooks ...     proceeded on thro Meriwethers Bay [Youngs Bay]. their was a stiff breeze from the S. W. which raised considerable Swells around Merewethers Point [today the location of Astoria, Oregon], which was as much as our canoes could ride above point william [Tongue Point] we came too at the Camp of G. Drewyer & the 2 Fields they had killed 2 Elk which was about 1½ mile distant. here we Encamped for the night, having made 16 miles.


Whitehouse, March 23, 1806 ...
At 1 o'Clock P. M. we embarked, on board our Canoes from Fort Clatsop [Fort Clatsop on the Lewis and Clark River, the winter home of Lewis and Clark], on our homeward bound Voyage. We proceeded on up the South side of the Columbia River, when we were met by a party of the Chinnock tribe of Indians, who belong to the Flatt head nation. ... We then continued on our Voyage, and went round a point of land called by our officers Merryweather point (the Sirname of Captain Lewis) [today the location of Astoria, Oregon] when the wind rose & blew hard from the South West, & the waves ran very high. We proceeded on, & passed another point of land called point William [Tongue Point] by our officers the Sirname of Captain Clark. We halted a short distance above this last point, at a Camp where the two hunters that were sent on ahead of us were. These two hunters had killed 2 Elk, which they informed us lay 1½ Miles from this place. We encamped at that place having come 16 Miles this day.




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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources for Astoria and Fort Astoria: Astoria Visual Arts website, 2006; Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce website, 2004; Clatsop County Historical Society website, 2004; Columbia River Maritime Museum website, 2004; Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2005, 2006; National Register of Historic Places website, 2004, 2005; NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2005; Oregon Historical Society website, 2006, "Oregon History Project"; Oregon State Archives website, 2005; Oregon State Department of Transportation website, 2004; Ross, A., 1849, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River; U.S. Coast Guard website, 2004; U.S. National Park Service website, 2004, "Marine Heritage Program"; Washington State's Secretary of State website, 2007, "History of Clarke County Washington Territory.", Published by The Washington Publishing Company, 1885; Washington State University website, 2005, "Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection".

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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August 2009