Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Lesser Known Forts (Blockhouses) of the Columbia River"
Fort Riggs (Washougal, Washington), Fort Sevastopool Blockhouse (Fourth Plain/Orchards, Washington), Lewis River Blockhouse (Washington), and Salmon Creek Stockade (Washington), White Salmon Blockhouse (Washington)"
Includes ... Fort Riggs (Washougal) ... Fort Sevastopool Blockhouse (Fourth Plain/Orchards) ... Lewis River Blockhouse ... Salmon Creek Stockade ...
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
View of the Columbia River, looking upstream, as seen from Gibbons Creek, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. View from approximate location of Fort Riggs. Image taken October 3, 2009.


Forts (Blockhouses) of the Columbia River ...
[More]

Lesser Known Blockhouses/Stockades along the Columbia River ...
In 1856, in response to the Indian Wars, four little-known blockhouses/stockades were built along the Columbia River in Washington Territory. They were Fort Riggs, located on the Columbia River at Washougal, Fort Sevastopool in the Fourth Plain area, a blockhouse along the Lewis River, and a stockade along Salmon Creek in Clark County. Mention of these blockhouses/stockades appear in 1856 correspondence and published together in 1867.

North of the Columbia:

  • Fort Riggs ...
  • Fourth Plain Blockhouse (Fort Sevastopool) ...
  • Lewis River Blockhouse ...
  • Salmon Creek Stockade ...

South of the Columbia:

  • Scappoose Blockhouse ...
  • St. Helens Blockhouse ...


Lesser Known Blockhouses/Stockades of the Columbia River

  • Fort Riggs ...
  • Fourth Plain Blockhouse (Fort Sevastopool) ...
  • Lewis River Blockhouse ...
  • Salmon Creek Stockade ...
  • Scappoose Blockhouse ...
  • St. Helens Blockhouse ...


Fort Riggs ...
In 1856 a Blockhouse was built along the Columbia River east of Washougal, Washington.

"Fort Riggs, 1856:   Washington Territorial Volunteers built a blockhouse on the Colonel Reuben Riggs property on the north bank of the Columbia River, Clark County. "


Source:    "Historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856.

From 1856 correspondence (see below):

  • [April 6, 1856] ... "Sir: -- Your company is accepted into the volunteer service of the United States as Mounted Rangers, to date from first organization. You will establish block-houses at Washoogal and Lewis rivers, to enable settlers to reside on their claims, and keep scouting parties ranging through the settlements for the protection of the citizens of Clarke county."

  • [April 10, 1856] ... "We, the farmers of Washoogal District, unanimously agree: That the block-house ordered to be built by His Excellency I.I. Stevens, Gov. &c., for the protection of the farmers, &c., in said district, be built on the land claim of Col. Ruben Riggs, near the bank of the Columbia river, in Clarke county, and that the same be known as "Fort Riggs." "

  • [April 14, 1856] ... "The site selected for Fort Riggs is a very good one and I have approved of it."

  • [April 30, 1856] ... "Fourteen detached at Washoogal district. The fort of block-house is built, and known as Fort Riggs ..."

Image, 1856 cadastral map, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
HISTORICAL ... 1856 Cadastral Map detail of T1N, R4E, Section 15, showing property of Reuben Riggs. Today a part of the Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washougal, Washington. Cadastral Map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management archives.
Image, 1863 cadastral map, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
HISTORICAL ... 1863 Cadastral Map detail of T1N, R4E, Section 15, showing property of Reuben Riggs. Today a part of the Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washougal, Washington. Cadastral Map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management archives.


Fourth Plain Blockhouse (Fort Sevastopool) ...
"... The Yakima Indian Wars were a complex series of events involving both volunteer and regular troops in numerous, sometimes bloody conflicts throughout eastern Washington and southern Oregon from 1853 to late 1858. During this period, a blockhouse was built on the Vancouver post and in 1856 while soldiers were away on Indian campaigns a group of Clarke County Rangers, commanded by Judge William Strong, guarded the post. On the Fourth Plain, the military appointed Richard Covington sergeant of the Clarke county Rangers who built "Fort Sevastopool," a blockhouse and stockade covering about three acres. ..."


Source:    Donna L. Sinclair, Center for Columbia River History, 2004, "Part I, Our Manifest Destiny Bids Fair for Fulfillment: An Historical Overview of Vancouver Barracks, 1846-1898, with suggestions for further research", funded by The National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in co-operation with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington.

From 1856 correspondence (see below):

  • [April 10, 1856] ... "A detachment of Clarke Co. Rangers, consisting of members residing in the nighborhood of 4th Plain, is hereby detached for duty in that direction. Mr. Richard Covington being duly elected a Sergeant of the detachment, will be obeyed and respected accordingly. Sergeant Covington will proceed with his command as soon as apossible to the 4th Plain, and cause a site to be selected by the members of his command for the erection of a block-house, for the defence of the settlement in that vicinity. The site should be at a respectable distance from the woods or thickets, and at a point where water can be easily procured, and which will afford the greatest security to the men while tending their farms."

  • [April 30, 1856] ... Fifteen men at 4th Plain, commanding by Sergeant Covington. They have built a fort with a block-house bastion, and with a small piece of ordnance could defy a very strong force. They scout on the trail leading from Cha-la-che prairie, which is the principal trail to Vancouver from the Indian country.

Lewis River Blockhouse ...
From 1856 correspondence (see below):

  • [April 6, 1856] ... "Sir: -- Your company is accepted into the volunteer service of the United States as Mounted Rangers, to date from first organization. You will establish block-houses at Washoogal and Lewis rivers, to enable settlers to reside on their claims, and keep scouting parties ranging through the settlements for the protection of the citizens of Clarke county.

  • [April 14, 1856] ... "Sir: -- You are directed to proceed as soon as convenient to the Lewis River District, for the purpose of locating a block-house, (to be built by order of the Gov. and Commander-in-chief.)"

  • [April ___, 1856] ... "To-day I selected a point for the location of the block-house."

  • [April 30, 1856] ... "To-morrow morning a detachment of fifteen men under Lieut. Biles, leaves for Lewis river to build a block-house at that place."


Salmon Creek Stockade ...
From 1856 correspondence (see below):

  • [April 30, 1856] ... "Seven men at Salmon creek. They have built a stockade and scout on an old trail leading from the east fork of Lewis river."


Scappoose Blockhouse ...
From City of Scappoose Newsletter (May 2015):

  • "1855 ... The last recorded Indian uprising in the area. The Settlers hastily built a block house on West Lane Road."


St. Helens Blockhouse ...
From Washington State Secretary of State website, "Legacy Washington" (2017):

  • "Early settlers took claims along the East Fork of the Lewis River near the current site of LaCenter. John Timmen, Aurelius Wilkins and John Pollock all arrived in 1852. As the settlers were arriving, they began coexisted peacefully with the Native Americans in the northern Clark County area in spite of false alarms. In 1855 word reached the people in isolated homesteads that renegade Native Americans would attack the settlements. Women and children were rowed across the Columbia River to the St. Helens blockhouse in Oregon. This false alarm resulted in the formation of the Lewis River Rangers, 44 volunteers representing the valley homesteaders. The Rangers did a great deal of drilling and marching for four winter months. The regular army in Vancouver did not like "farmers marching around playing soldier." Fortunately there was no fighting because the local Native Americans got along well with the settlers. When spring came, tensions subsided and the Lewis River defenders went back to plowing and stump clearing."


1856 Correspondence

Source:   Message of the governor of Washington Territory: Also; the correspondence with the secretary of war, Major Gen. Wool, the officers of regular army, and of the volunteer service of Washington Territory, 1867, E. Furste, Public Printer, Olympia.



[No. 335]
Vancouver, W.T., April 6th, 1856.

Capt. Wm. Kelly, Com'g. Co. Clarke County Rangers:

Sir: -- Your company is accepted into the volunteer service of the United States as Mounted Rangers, to date from first organization.

You will establish block-houses at Washoogal and Lewis rivers, to enable settlers to reside on their claims, and keep scouting parties ranging through the settlements for the protection of the citizens of Clarke county.

You will keep at least one-half of your men employed, whilst the rest are putting in crops.

Make requsitions on the Quartermaster and Commissary at this point for such horses and supplies you may need.

Send a master and description roll to the Adjutant General's office, and report your progress from time to time to head quarters.

Respectfully, sir,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed,) EUSTIS HUGER,
Adj't. 2d Regiment W.T. Volunteers.
By order of the Gov. and Commander-in-chief.




[No. 337.]
Vancouver, W.T., April 14th, 1856.
James Tilton, Adjutant General, Olympia, W.T.:

Sir: -- Enlcosed I send you copies of correspondence between Capt. Kelly and Lieut. Biles, in regard to the erection of the block-houses at the Washoogal and Lewis rivers; also a copy of instructions to Capt. Kelly.

As soon as the company at this place was organized, I called upon the commanding officer at Fort Vancouver, and in the name of the Governor of this Territory, offered to co-operate with the regular forces in protecting the citizens. This was done in writing. As yet my communication has not been answered officially.

Col. Morris told me he would answer it after he talked with Col. Wright. As soon as it is done copies will be sent to your office. ...   The site selected for Fort Riggs is a very good one and I have approved of it.

Very respectfully,
Your obedience servant,
(Signed,) EUSTIS HUGER,
Adjutant 2d Reg't.




[No. 339.]
Fort Riggs, Washoogal District,
Clarke County, W.T., April 10th, 1856.

Capt. Wm. Kelly, Com'g. Clarke Co. Rangers, &c., Vancouver:

Sir: -- In pursuance of your orders dated April 9th, 1856, I proceeded to this place without delay and have complied with the instructions therein.

The detachment at this place, now consisting of eleven mean, are engaged in scouting the neighborhood and examining the Indian trails or passes through Cape Horn Mountain. ...

I find that every member is more or less engaged in farming, consequently, I deemed it justice to them that they should have the election of the point for the erection of the block-house, (ordered to be built by the Commander-in-chief,) and requested a report of their action thereon. The following is their verbal report:

We, the farmers of Washoogal District, unanimously agree: That the block-house ordered to be built by His Excellency I.I. Stevens, Gov. &c., for the protection of the farmers, &c., in said district, be built on the land claim of Col. Ruben Riggs, near the bank of the Columbia river, in Clarke county, and that the same be known as "Fort Riggs."

I have to say that the point selected fully merits my approbation. -- Near this point the main road leading from Cascades to Vancouver comes down on the bottom or pasture land, and the many trails or passes strike this road within a mile of this point. It is generally conceded here that should the Indians contemplate an attack in the neighborhood, that this point would be the first place; it is also the most convenient place for the farmers to concentrate in case of an attack, and can have their stock so concentrated that with a howitzer, could protect them from the Indians. ...

All of which is respectfully submitted.
(Signed,) J.D. Biles,
1st Lieut. Clarke Co. Rangers, W.T.V.




[No. 340.]
Head Quarters, Clarke Co. Rangers, W.T.V.,
Vancouver, April 10th, 1856.

ORDERS NO. 5

1st.    A detachment of Clarke Co. Rangers, consisting of members residing in the neighborhood of 4th Plain, is hereby detached for duty in that direction.

2d.    Mr. Richard Covington being duly elected a Sergeant of the detachment, will be obeyed and respected accordingly.

3d.    Sergeant Covington will proceed with his command as soon as possible to the 4th Plain, and cause a site to be selected by the members of his command for the erection of a block-house, for the defence of the settlement in that vicinity. The site should be at a respectable distance from the woods or thickets, and at a point where water can be easily procured, and which will afford the greatest security to the men while tending their farms.

4th.    The person granting the site should be requested to give his consent in writing, that the settlers may hold the building as long as the safety of the settlements require it.

5th.    Until the house is built, a scouting party from the detachment, of one third of the men, will be sent out daily, to reconnoitre the country and Indian trails in the direction of the 5th Plain, or in any other direction that may be deemed necessary by Sergeant Covington; and for the safety of the settlements, as well as that of the detachment, a guard will be kept up during the night.

6th.    All Indians found in, or passing through the settlements will be apprehended (except those on government express,) and sent in under an escort to these head quarters; should any India attempt to escape, he will be fired on.

7th.    Should the enemy appear in force, or there be appearances of his being in your vicinity, you will immediately despatch one or more of your trustiest men that the necessary assistance may be afforded you as soon as possible.

(Signed,) WM. KELLY,
Capt. Clark Co. Ranger, 2d Reg't. W.T.V.
To Sergeant Richard Covington,
Clark Co. Rangers, W.T.V., Vancouver, W.T.




[No. 341]
Head Quarters, Clarke Co. Rangers,
Vancouver, April 14, 1856.

Lieut. J.D. Biles, Clarke County Rangers, 2d Reg't. W.T.V.:

Sir: -- You are directed to proceed as soon as convenient to the Lewis River District, for the purpose of locating a block-house, (to be built by order of the Gov. and Commander-in-chief.)

You will consult the settlers in that vicinity as to the most suitable point for its erection; one that would secure the most protection to the farming community of said district.

you will also use your influence to have the settlers there join the company, on terms the same as Washoogal District detachment.

You are authorized to secure as many men as you can get, on your way, for the volunteer service.

You will report to head quarters, Vancouver, at the earliest period possible.

(Signed,) WM. KELLY,
Capt. Clarke Co. Rangers, 2d Reg't. W.T.V.




[No. 343]
Lewis River, Clarke County,
April, 1856.

Capt. Wm. Kelly, Clarke County Rangers, W.T.V.:

Sir: -- In pursuance to your orders of date April 14, 1856, I proceeded to this place, and to fulfil the duty assigned me, I procured the services of Mssrs. Lewis and Tappan as guides, for the purpose of examining the country in this district. To-day I selected a point for the location of the block-house.

This is the most central, and a point that will secure the most protection to settlers, being a good pasture and range around it.

The settlers with the exception of two or three, have left their claims and gone to St. Helens, O.T., for safety. I would suggest that you send a detachment down to build the house, and scout on the mountain passes.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

(Signed,) J.D. BILES,
1st Lieut. Clarke Co. Rangers, 2d Reg't. W.T.V.




[No. 345]
Head Quarters, Clarke Co. Rangers,
Vancouver, W.T., April 30, 1856.

Major James Tilton, Adjutant General W.T.V.:

Sir: -- Herewith I enclose some of my orders and reports of Lieut. J. D. Biles, in relation to the defence of Clarke county. My company at present numbers seventy-four, officers and men, and sixty-four horses. They are distributed as follows:

Fourteen detached at Washoogal district. The fort or block-house is built, and known as Fort Riggs, and a scouting party of one-third is sent out daily to reconnoitre the trails on the mountains of Cape Horn.

Five men detached at Lackamas prairie, eight miles from here, who scout on the trails to that place.

Fifteen men at 4th Plain, commanded by Sergeant Covington. They have built a fort with a block-house bastion, and with a small piece of ordnance could defy a very strong force. They scout on the trail leading from Cha-la-che prairie, which is the principal trail to Vancouver from the Indian country.

Seven men at Salmon creek. They have built a stockade and scout on an old trail leading from the east fork of Lewis river.

I have been to Che-la-che prairie with a party of twenty-three men; it is about thirty miles from the Lewis river settlement. There was no indication of Indians being in that direction, though rumor had it that there were hiu before I went there. There was also some two hundred head of horses supposed to be there, but on arriving, I found only four two year old colts, and one lame horse that had been left there by a friendly Indian last fall.

The Che-la-che prairie is an important point, and should have at least fifty men staitoned there, as the Indians must pass that point to come into the settlements, and if they should by chance get into this country, a party there could check their retreat. ...

The people at Lewis river were nearly all away from their claims, and no men could be induced to volunteer into our company.

To-morrow morning a detachment of fifteen men under Lieut. Biles, leaves for Lewis river to build a block-house at that place, which could not possibly be done before in consequence of the material that composes my company. Nearly all are married men and farmers, and humanity demanded that they should make their own womena and children secure before they could be called away.

Hoping that my course may meet the approbation of his Excellency the Governor, as well as your own,


I remain, sir, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed,) WM. KELLY,
Capt. Clarke Co. Rangers, 2d Reg't. W.T.V.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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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:    City of Scappoose Newsletter, "Scappoose History", May 2015;    "Historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856;    Message of the governor of Washington Territory: Also; the correspondence with the secretary of war, Major Gen. Wool, the officers of regular army, and of the volunteer service of Washington Territory, 1867, E. Furste, Public Printer, Olympia;    Sinclair, D.L., 2004, Center for Columbia River History, "Part I, Our Manifest Destiny Bids Fair for Fulfillment: An Historical Overview of Vancouver Barracks, 1846-1898, with suggestions for further research", funded by The National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in co-operation with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington;    Washington State Secretary of State website, "Legacy Washington", 2017;   

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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September 2017