THE CLATSKANIE HISTORICAL MUSEUM
The Historical Society concentrates on the history of the area within approximately a 20-mile radius around the city of Clatskanie. The history of this area started with the Tlatskanai Indians, an Athabascan language tribe. Lewis & Clark passed through the area, naming some features along the river and camping at the mouth of the Clatskanie River. Then the riverboats began to service the area with passengers and freight. Logging and fishing were prominent in the early days with dairying, mink raising and mint farming later.
Early on, fish seining in the Columbia River, using horses to retrieve the large fishnets full of fish supported various fish stations along the Columbia. Chinese “coolies” were brought in to re-channel part of the Clatskanie River in the 1800’s. During the early 1900’s the lowland areas were diked to create more farmlands and Clatskanie became known as “Little Holland” for a time. The heritage of the Clatskanie area is largely Scandinavian. Simon Benson began logging the area on the Washington side of the Columbia River then transferred the majority of his operations to the Clatskanie area. Those timberlands are still producing logs on a managed timberland basis by a family connected to the Benson days.
The Beaver Army Ammunition Depot at what is now Port Westward became important during WWII and then the site was used to some extent for dismantling of ships sometime after the war. Lumber mills and eventually a major paper mill became important sources of employment.
Currently the museum is concentrating on collecting oral histories of long time residents as well as photographs. Artifacts from the fishing, logging, farming and industry in the area are important as well as steamboating and life along the river.