Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association We collect, display, preserve, and safeguard various artifacts, ephemera, photographs and research materials about the history of Columbia County, Oregon.

Happy 4th of July! Pictured are Gladys, Rich and George Gortler with their cousins Hazel and John Gentry. Taken around 1...
07/05/2019

Happy 4th of July! Pictured are Gladys, Rich and George Gortler with their cousins Hazel and John Gentry. Taken around 1915 in Yankton.

It's been a fun day so far. Happy 4th of July!
07/04/2019

It's been a fun day so far. Happy 4th of July!

We hope to see you tomorrow for the 4th of July festivities in downtown St. Helens. We will be offering a guided walking...
07/04/2019

We hope to see you tomorrow for the 4th of July festivities in downtown St. Helens. We will be offering a guided walking tour around the historic district that will last approximately 30 minutes. Tours will be offered at 12:00, 12:45 and 1:30 and will begin from the courthouse steps. Our 1:30 tour will be shorter so you can be back in time for bell ringing and cake. If there is enough interest we can do another full length tour at 2:30.

Museum Association memberships will be offered tomorrow at a discounted rate of $15. We hope to see you there!

President John F. Kennedy proclaimed July 4, 1963 National Bell Ringing Day, declaring "Let's ring freedom bells!" Many ...
07/04/2019

President John F. Kennedy proclaimed July 4, 1963 National Bell Ringing Day, declaring "Let's ring freedom bells!" Many communities participated wholeheartedly in this celebration honoring the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but sadly the tradition has been largely forgotten over the years.

Five years ago a dedicated group of locals decided to revive the tradition, and tomorrow in St. Helens you will hear nine bells throughout the area ringing at 2:00. You are invited to gather in front of the Courthouse at 1:45 as Mayor Rick Scholl introduces Frank Hupp of the American Legion. You are encouraged to bring your own bell to ring (they even have an app on your phone) or you can come just to listen to the impressive bells that will be echo throughout town.

This celebration is getting bigger and better every year and you won't want to miss it! Join not only us, but also participants from the American Legion, National Guard, Columbia County Sheriff, St. Helens Police Department, Fire & Rescue, the VFW, American Heritage Girls and more! Cake will be served right after the bell ringing.

The bells that will be rung are the Columbia County Courthouse bell, the Warrior Rock Lighthouse replica behind the Courthouse, the Warrior Rock fog bell in front of the Courthouse Annex, United Methodist Church, St. Frederic Catholic Church, the historic bell next to the Columbia River Fire & Rescue Station, Plymouth Presbyterian Church, Christ Episcopal Church and the Olde School (John Gumm).

4th of July 1915 in the Courthouse Plaza.
07/03/2019

4th of July 1915 in the Courthouse Plaza.

If you missed our February presentation about St. Helens' 130th Birthday you have another chance to hear it tonight! Bra...
06/19/2019

If you missed our February presentation about St. Helens' 130th Birthday you have another chance to hear it tonight! Brandon Sundeen will be presenting portions of the presentation with a few variations tonight at the First Lutheran Church at 4th and Wyeth in St. Helens at 7:00PM. Please enter through the Wyeth St. entrance.

How many of these businesses do you remember?
06/16/2019

How many of these businesses do you remember?

Happy Father's Day!
06/16/2019

Happy Father's Day!

It's almost time!
06/15/2019

It's almost time!

We hope to see many of you at the Kiwanis Community Parade in St. Helens tomorrow, starting at noon. We are honored to p...
06/15/2019

We hope to see many of you at the Kiwanis Community Parade in St. Helens tomorrow, starting at noon. We are honored to participate this year as the Grand Marshal.

See if you can figure out where these photographs of St. Helens parades were taken over the years. We also have some great film footage of local parades that you can view on our website.

http://www.colcomuseum.org/parades

06/14/2019

Happy Flag Day!

Among the benefits of being a member of the Museum Association are behind-the-scenes tours like this. Tonight we enjoyed...
06/14/2019

Among the benefits of being a member of the Museum Association are behind-the-scenes tours like this. Tonight we enjoyed touring the 1927 Knights of Pythias building with Mitzi Ponce of 2Cs Vendor Mall. We learned about a long-forgotten movie theatre and found out where our very own Piggly Wiggly store was located. If this sounds like fun we'd love to have you join our organization. Memberships are $20 and annual renewals are $15.

THE FLOOD OF 1894     We might be enjoying warm, sunny weather this week, but 125 years ago our forebearers were dealing...
06/13/2019

THE FLOOD OF 1894

We might be enjoying warm, sunny weather this week, but 125 years ago our forebearers were dealing with the effects of the biggest flood in the region’s recorded history, the likes of which they had not seen for nearly twenty years. Area rivers reached their crest on June 7, with the Willamette reaching an unprecedented 33 feet – fifteen feet above flood stage. The Columbia River at Longview reached 10.5 feet above flood stage, and the locales in between did not fare any better. The Oregon Mist newspaper provided a detailed account of the conditions each week.
In some places travel was restricted for several weeks, simply because many of the roads were under water. Small bridges floated away and wagons were parked. For many, the only mode of travel was by boat, and even the local rail traffic was interrupted. Sauvie Island was severely affected and all of the cattle from stock ranches and dairy farms had to be moved off the island. Stacks of cordwood had been stacked along the banks of Scappoose Bay on the Fullerton place and before long they were nowhere to be seen. In Warren on the Cox farm it was reported that within a few minutes of wading through the flooded meadows with pitchfork in hand you could have more carp than you knew what to do with.
The county seat did not go unaffected and in fact found many in the business district moving to higher ground. The Dart and Muckle Store was surrounded by several feet of water, along with the nearby Muckle Bros. Mill and wharf. Their warehouse floated from its fastenings and nearly drifted away. The businesses on the Strand all moved to their second story if they had one, and the hotels were forced to temporarily relocate. W.H. Dolman got creative and built steps made of boxes to the side of his building so that patrons could purchase goods from the upper story. At Deming’s drugstore, the pharmacist relocated all the drugs to the upper story and customers used boats to pick up their medications from the upstairs window.
On June 7, water stood at 40 inches deep on the post office floor. Flooding continued for a couple weeks and many houses washed away, including the island home of Joseph Hayburn, the Warrior rock lighthouse keeper. The Chinese laundry disappeared, along with two large rafts of sawlogs belonging to the Muckles and it was said their mill was “in perilous condition.” It was reported that the new church at Reeder’s on Sauvie Island was nearly a complete loss.
Steamers plying up and down the river found much more water than they were used to, along with hidden obstacles. In mid-June the steamer Sarah Dixon passed through the Deer Island Slough on its way to Astoria, the first time any steamer had passed through that body of water in a long time. Another problem the steamers faced was finding a place where they could land. St. Helens was the exception, and that proved to be the only place where they could stock up on wood which was in high demand. Also, in high demand was drinking water, with the Mist reporting, “Water is scarce in St. Helens – that is for drinking purposes.” After what seemed like an eternity, the water finally began to recede and after much cleanup to guard against malaria, life began to get back to normal.
The Oregon Mist of June 22, 1894 reported, “The scene which greeted the eye of the St. Helenite on Monday morning was one of encouragement. After weeks of stagnation in business, brought about by high water, the citizens once more began the week in a busy way. Some were engaged in the work of cleaning up the streets, others cleaning away debris of wrecked buildings and wharves, and getting their property in shape generally, while the merchants and business houses were showing signs of more activity in trade than for weeks previous. Since the water began to recede long drawn-out countenances are not so numerous in these parts.”
The reporter concluded, “It is not probable that any one of this generation will ever see this record broken, neither is it probable that anyone desires to see it surpassed.” For a comparison, here are the crests recorded on the Willamette River at Portland by the National Weather Service for other well-known floods, some of which you might remember:
1. June 1894 – 33.00 feet
2. June 1948 – 30.00 feet
3. December 1964 – 29.80 feet
4. February 1996 – 28.55 feet

We've received some great comments about our parade picture posted earlier today. Someone asked a great question. Why is...
06/12/2019

We've received some great comments about our parade picture posted earlier today. Someone asked a great question. Why is it called DeSpain Hill?

Well... The hill was named for U.S. "Jack" DeSpain, who served as county road supervisor for many years. After coming to Columbia County in the 1880's he lived in Apiary and Bachelor Flat before moving into St. Helens. He built his house atop the hill that would later be named after him. He left St. Helens in 1920 and died in 1951. Many locals know the name of the hill, but now you know why.

Here is a great photo from our collection showing two women at the top of the hill. Some of the homes that show up in the background are still in use today.

1936 Labor Day Parade in St. Helens - the route is the same today but they're going the wrong way. Can you tell where th...
06/11/2019

1936 Labor Day Parade in St. Helens - the route is the same today but they're going the wrong way. Can you tell where this photo was taken?

News of the allied invasion of Western Europe began to trickle in over the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. Official...
06/07/2019

News of the allied invasion of Western Europe began to trickle in over the early morning hours of June 6, 1944. Official news came at 12:32 A.M. with the announcement, “Under the command of Gen. Eisenhower, allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.” The Oregonian broke the news that morning of what it called “the greatest overseas military operation in history” under the headline “Allied Troops Enter France.”

Many stuck close to a radio throughout the day to hear news of the D-Day invasion that Eisenhower called “a great crusade.” St. Helens area churches held special prayer services throughout the day and evening, and that night most tuned in to hear as President Roosevelt led the nation in prayer. The Rainier Review noted, “So here, as elsewhere in the nation an air of solemnity marked the day. There was no note of celebration, but rather one of thoughtfulness and perhaps prayerfulness on the part of those so grounded.”

D-Day resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, including one with a local connection. Following his graduation from Woodland High School, Lt. Donald Turner lived in Rainier for two years while working as a linotype operator for the Rainier Review. He was killed at the age of 22.

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo
06/04/2019

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo

05/27/2019

Remembering the bravery and sacrifice of so many this Memorial Day.

05/27/2019
05/27/2019

Earlier this week I sat down with 90 year old Barbara Thompson as she shared some memories of her older brother Willard "Billy" Bennett, a Warren boy who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country during World War II.

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo
05/24/2019

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo

May is Preservation Month, the perfect time to get out and visit and support the historic places that are near and dear ...
05/23/2019

May is Preservation Month, the perfect time to get out and visit and support the historic places that are near and dear to you. We appreciate the work of those who work hard to preserve our heritage for future generations. Where is your favorite local historic site?

We enjoyed a great visit with members of the Tarbell family who stopped in to share their memories of family friend Rebe...
05/16/2019

We enjoyed a great visit with members of the Tarbell family who stopped in to share their memories of family friend Reber "Spud" Murphy. They enjoyed many hunting trips and other memorable occasions over the years. If you've lived around St. Helens long enough you might remember seeing him in community parades dressed as a clown.

Happy Mother's Day!
05/12/2019

Happy Mother's Day!

Columbia County Courthouse and Plaza in St. Helens (Photo Courtesy of St. Helens Public Library Brownlow Sentinel Mist C...
05/12/2019

Columbia County Courthouse and Plaza in St. Helens (Photo Courtesy of St. Helens Public Library Brownlow Sentinel Mist Collection)

Who is the teacher that made a difference in your life?
05/08/2019

Who is the teacher that made a difference in your life?

It looks like it's going to be a great week to get out and experience our downtown St. Helens Walking Tour. New restaura...
04/29/2019

It looks like it's going to be a great week to get out and experience our downtown St. Helens Walking Tour. New restaurants and shops to enjoy, and lots of historic facts to learn about this great area we call home!

https://sites.google.com/colcomuseum.org/walking/home

If you have traveled through St. Helens via Highway 30 lately, you may have noticed the hue of purple high on the bluffs...
04/29/2019

If you have traveled through St. Helens via Highway 30 lately, you may have noticed the hue of purple high on the bluffs overlooking the city. What you’re seeing is the beautiful Camas flower, a sight that has been familiar here in its natural environment for centuries, and was even noticed by famed explorers Lewis and Clark when they passed through the northwest. It is truly one of the natural resources that makes this area unique.

Camas was once plentiful in this area, where near-perfect conditions allowed it to thrive, and you can still see the beautiful sight for yourself – if you try hard. Small patches exist throughout the area, including the Columbia Botanical Gardens, Nob Hill Nature Park, McCormick Park and on the rocky bluffs near the St. Helens Middle School. Unfortunately, much of the natural habitat that has allowed the Camas to flourish has been lost to development. You may in fact live on a piece of ground that once housed thousands of Camas bulbs, but it doesn’t take much to alter or destroy conditions that allow the plant to grow and soon they are gone forever.

If you are fortunate to live close enough to get out and enjoy this beautiful natural resource, take advantage of it and enjoy it. It only blooms for a short period of time each year. If you are fortunate enough to own a piece of ground where the Camas makes its home, do what you can to protect it and allow it to grow unhindered as it has for centuries. We have a photograph of Camas in our museum, but wouldn’t it be sad if that was the only place we could go to see it?

04/26/2019

We enjoyed our time the last few weeks with the 4th and 5th graders at McBride Elementary. We talked about local history, including how McBride School got its name, and found out what that big rock in front of the school is all about. They had a lot of good questions and I think we have a lot of future historians in our midst!

Luckily it is much warmer than it was when this snowy picture was taken in early St. Helens. Who knows what we're lookin...
04/25/2019

Luckily it is much warmer than it was when this snowy picture was taken in early St. Helens. Who knows what we're looking at?

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo
04/23/2019

Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association's cover photo

How are you celebrating Earth Day? In 1994 local Boy Scouts were handing out seedlings, as seen in this edition of the S...
04/22/2019

How are you celebrating Earth Day? In 1994 local Boy Scouts were handing out seedlings, as seen in this edition of the St. Helens Reel News.

04/21/2019
It's National Siblings Day! Pictured are Cox siblings Reg, Marian and James - grandchildren of Richard and Annie (Muckle...
04/10/2019

It's National Siblings Day! Pictured are Cox siblings Reg, Marian and James - grandchildren of Richard and Annie (Muckle) Cox. (Photo courtesy of Diane Thornburgh)

Throwback Thursday! It's that time of the year... (Photo courtesy of Sharon Cody Marsh)
03/22/2019

Throwback Thursday! It's that time of the year... (Photo courtesy of Sharon Cody Marsh)

This now vacant parking lot was once the place to be! This was the home of the Liberty Theatre, built in 1918 for L.R. R...
03/13/2019

This now vacant parking lot was once the place to be! This was the home of the Liberty Theatre, built in 1918 for L.R. Rutherford. The 35x102 ft. building was made of hollow tile so it would be fireproof, and was completed at a cost of $4,000. It included an 18x24 ft. stage so that it could accommodate live performances, and indeed many live performances were conducted there over the years. The theatre could seat 425 people.

The theatre was managed over the years by Alva Smith, Mrs. C. Chapelle and her son Neal, G.S. Mendenhall, and was eventually purchased by a man named Lew Cates, who promised to continue giving "the best of the screen productions." G.O. Garrison, who also owned the Columbia Theatre across the street, purchased the Liberty and continued to operate it until December 1930.

The building was then converted into a recreation hall that included four bowling alleys and a golf driving course. By 1940 the building was serving as a union hall, and was later referred to as a labor hall. In 1948 the Jaycees started using the building as a meeting place. Four years later in 1952 the building was purchased from Mrs. Rutherford by the Columbia County Shrine Club. Extensive remodeling work took place, including putting down linoleum, installing a dressing table and mirror in the lady's powder room, and a new electric stove in the kitchen.

The old building was known as the Shrine Hall for many years, and was believed to have been demolished in the late 1970's or early 1980's. Unfortunately we don't have any good photographs of the theatre, but it does show up in several shots as almost an afterthought.

If you have any photographs or information about the theatre building we would love to hear from you.

Many of you have probably used this parking area in downtown St. Helens, but do you have any idea what used to be on thi...
03/12/2019

Many of you have probably used this parking area in downtown St. Helens, but do you have any idea what used to be on this spot 100 years ago?

We can't end International Women's Day without mentioning Pearl Becker, who held the title of unofficial Columbia County...
03/09/2019

We can't end International Women's Day without mentioning Pearl Becker, who held the title of unofficial Columbia County historian for many years. She was heavily involved in the community and many local organizations, such as the Grange and 4-H. She was also very active in the Columbia County Historical Society and helped to preserve the county's rich history for future generations. She wrote many articles for the society's historical publications, and many of you might remember seeing her historical columns in the local newspapers. Thank you Pearl for your hard work and dedication for so many years!

Address

230 The Strand
Saint Helens, OR
97051

Opening Hours

Wednesday 12:00 - 16:00
Thursday 12:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(971) 225-3971

Alerts

Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Contact The Museum

Send a message to Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association:

Videos

Nearby museums


Other Saint Helens museums

Show All