History in the Columbia River Gorge

Pre-Historic & ICE Age

50-15 million years ago

• Cenozoic Era leaves deposits of plant and animal fossils that become known as the John Day Fossil Bed.

17 to 13 mya

• Lava flows cover Columbia Basin, leaving deposits of flood basalt up to 2 miles thick. Cascade mountains are formed.

2.5 mya

• Pleistocene glaciation Ice Age, also known as the Quaternary glaciation, covers most of Northern United States.

1.805 mya

• Cordilleran ice sheet, formed during the Quaternary Period, creates an ice dam that forms Glacial Lake Missoula, some 2000 feet deep, 200 miles wide, with more than 500 cubic miles of water. It is estimated this ice sheet melted rapidly, in 4000 years or less, melting the ice dam creating Glacial Lake Missoula.

15,000-13,000 years ago

• Missoula Ice Age Floods happen when the ice dam forming Glacial Lake Missoula breaks, sending forth a 400 ft. wall of water traveling 65 mph, carving the Columbia River Gorge. Some estimates say the flood of water was at ten times the flow of all current rivers combined. The estimate is the first “giga-flood” of the Ice Age Floods carried 540 cubic miles of water, 40 cubic miles of ice, and 50 cubic miles of debris, scouring the landscape of the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River gorge. This catastrophic event repeats several times. Native American oral histories recall great floods in the Columbia Gorge.

15,000 – 13,000 ya

• People arriving by canoes first populated the Pacific Northwest, becoming the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Later, some people traveled over the land bridge of Beringia crossed the Bering Strait from Mongolia.

14th Century


• Bartolome Ferrelo possibly reaches southwest coast.


• Manilla Galleon trade opens across North Pacific.


• Sir Francis Drake allegedly visits Oregon.

18th Century


• Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator in service with Russian Navy, discovers straits between the continents


• First documented use of word “Ouragon” by Maj. Robert Rogers’ in a petition to explore American West.


• Capt. Juan Perez sails to Northwest Coast for Spain. Perez reaches 54 degree 40′ north and discovers Nootka Sound.


• Spanish Captain Don Bruno de Heceta sailed from Mexico all the way to the Canadian border, subsequently claiming all of the lands he visited for Spain. Hezeta sees mouth of Columbia and names it Rio San Roque.


• Declaration of Independence signed July 4.


• Capt. James Cook makes landfall at Cape Foulweather and discovers fur wealth of Northwest Coast.


• Capt. Jonathan Carver, the first English-speaking explorer to venture west of the upper Mississippi River, publishes “Three Years Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America”, a book with maps and text with the first printed reference to “Oregon.”


• Capt. Robert Gray, with Capt. John Kendrick, explore the west coast. Gray captained the Lady Washington and Kendrick the Columbia Rediviva, but they switch vessels during the voyage. Gray attempts to enter a large river (the Columbia) but is unable due to the strong tides. Marius Lopius ( Marcus Lopez), a cabin boy serving Captain Robert Gray, was first person of African descent known to have set foot on Oregon soil.


• Spain opened the huge Pacific Northwest territory to trappers and explorers of other nations, mainly Great Britain and the United States.


• Capt. George Vancouver expedition maps the northwest coast and charts Columbia estuary in April.

• Capt. Robert Gray enters and names the Columbia River.


• Sir Alexander Mackenzie completes the first recorded transcontinental crossing of North America by a European north of Mexico on July 20, at Bella Coola (British Columbia).

19th Century


• President Thomas Jefferson negotiates the Louisiana Purchase from France (under rule of Napoleon Bonaparte). For 80 million francs, the United States added all of Frances’s territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.


• President Jefferson assigns his personal secretary, Merriwether Lewis, to head an exploring expedition into the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis chooses his friend, William Clark, as co-leader and assembled a party of men for the Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery .

• May 14, 1804 the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery depart for the Pacific coast from Camp Dubois, Illinois Territory with 33 men. The explorers were to map the unknown territory, study the Indian tribes, wildlife, botany and geology, and discover if the Northwest Passage existed.

• Rival companies engaged in the fur trade out of Canada merge, with most trade after the merger under the Hudson Bay Company or the Northwest Fur Company .


• The Lewis and Clark Expedition Corps of Discovery camped on the north banks of the Columbia river (Horsethief Butte in Washington) Oct. 25 after running the “narrows” at an Indian village where Clark counted 20 wooden houses. this location, now known as Horsethief Lake, is the site of many Indian petroglyphs including the famous Tsagaglalal, “She Who Watches.” Site was formerly largest burial ground of Indians in the area. The area is home for the Wishram, Cloud, and Lishkam tribes.

• Oct. 25-27 – Lewis and Clark Expedition camps on the banks of the Columbia River at a spot they name Rockfort Camp (now The Dalles), at the mouth of Que-nett Creek (Mill Creek). On Oct. 28 they camp at Crates Point.

• Nov. 7 – Lewis and Clark Expedition first see the Columbia estuary of the Pacific ocean. Clark writes “Ocian in view O! The Joy!”. Dec. 7 they establish Fort Clatsop.


• April 15-17 – Lewis and Clark stop again at Rockfort Camp on their return journey.


• John Jacob Astor founded his fur depot in Astoria in 1811. Pacific Fur Company establishes Fort Astoria near mouth of Columbia. The European fashion of beaver hats fuels the trapping and trading activities in Oregon and nearly decimates the population of beavers.

• David Thompson, explorer and fur trader for the North West Company, maps the Columbia River from the source to the mouth, arriving at newly created Fort Astoria July 14, 1811. He was given the name”Koo-koo-Sint”, or “Star-Gazer,” by the Indians. Thompson exchanges a few men with the Astorians, returning upriver with new companions John Coxe (Naukane), a Hawaiian relative of King Kamehameha, and Qa’nqon, an Indian berdache (a “two-spirit” woman who assumed the behavior of a man) and her wife. Thompson was perhaps the greatest geographer of all times; he mapped one-fifth of the North American continent, and mapped the 49th parallel, which established the boundary between Canada and the United States. His maps were so accurate they were used as the standard for over 100 years.


• War of 1812 begins. President James Madison recommends to Congress June 1 to declare war over sailor’s rights and British support of western frontier tribes.

• Overland Astorians discover South Pass in Wyoming, later route of Oregon Trail.


• North West Company purchases Fort Astoria and name it Fort George.


• Francis Scott Key watches as British bomb Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Sept. 13-14. When the smoke clears he sees the American Flag still waving. Inspired, he writes a poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry”, which he published in the Patriot on September 20, 1814, which later becomes known as The Star Spangled Banner.

• Treaty of Ghent signed Dec. 24 ends the War of 1812.

• First English woman, Jane Barnes, visits Fort George (Vancouver).

• First domestic livestock imported by sea from California.

• The first written use of the name dalles for the area now known as The Dalles on the Columbia River, in reference to the rapids on the river at this site. Fur trader Gabriel Franchère described the rapids in 1814 as “a channel cut by nature through the rocks, which are here almost perpendicular: the channel is from 150 to 300 feet wide, and about two miles long. The whole body of the river rushes through it, with great violence, and renders navigation impracticable.” The word dalle is French for flagstone, slab, or large tile. The term was used by the French-Canadian trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and referred to the large, smooth slabs of basalt rock that formed a narrow channel for the turbulent waters of the Columbia River. The name La Grande Dalle de la Columbia became established. The rapids that gave The Dalles its name were submerged when The Dalles Dam went into operation in 1957. The town has had several names since incorporation: Dalles, 1851; Wascopum, 1853; The Dalles, 1860. Another Indian name in use was Win-quatt, signifying a place encircled by rock cliffs.


• U.S. and Great Britain agree to “joint occupancy” of Oregon.


• Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain fixing northern boundary of California at 42 degree north, ceding Spain’s discovery rights north of 42 degrees to the U. S.


• Hudson’s Bay Company takes over North West Company.


• Virginia Congressman Dr. John Floydd introduces a bill to make “Origon” a Territory once its population reached 2000. The measure lost 100 to 61.


• American treaty with Russia limits latter’s southern boundary at 54 degree 40′ north. U.S. and Russia agree to 50 degrees as southern boundary of Russian interests .

• Dr. John McLoughlin begins long tenure as a Chief Factor for Hudson’s Bay Company.


• Workmen build Fort Vancouver, founded by Hudson’s Bay Company on north bank of the Columbia River.


• Second Joint-Occupancy Treaty with Great Britain. U.S. and Great Britain agree to indefinite “joint occupancy”.

1827 – 1830

• Fever pandemic begins calamitous death toll of Indians.


• Newspapers report four Indians from Pacific Northwest in St. Louis to visit William Clark: Black Eagle, Hco-a-h’co-a-h’cotes-min (Man of the Morning), No Horns on His Head, and Hee-oh’ks-te-kin (Rabbit Skin Leggings). They were acting on prophesies, seeking the white man’s prized “Book of Heaven,” and asking for teachers. Clark had forgotten the native language words he had learned on his historic expedition, and only poorly understood their motive. Their request was not fulfilled, to their deep disappointment. Three of the men died of disease before returning to their people. Only Rabbit Skin Leggings survived to return among his people. William Walker, an interpreter for the Wyandots, chanced to meet them in St. Louis, and carried the report to a friend, who in turn wrote their story and published it in the Methodist Episcopal Church publication, the Christian Advocate. The story inspired a movement of fervently devout missionaries to come to the Pacific Northwest and work among the native people.

• Capt. B. L. E. Bonneville arrives overland to trap and trade for furs on Columbia Plateau.


• The Methodist Church Mission Board, in a meeting in New York Oct. 10, 1833, appoints Rev. Jason Lee to establish a new Methodist Mission in Oregon’s Indian Territory. After the Indians of Willamette Valley failed to show interest in Lee’s religion, he turned his attention to the Dalles of the Columbia. It was a location that was “sightly, with pine and oak growing near; there was a fine view on the river and up stream, where the Indians were always present in great numbers.” The Wascopums were willing to assemble of a Sunday and listened so attentively that Daniel Lee and Mr. Perkins, his coadjutor, were much encouraged.


• First steamship Beaver begins service for Hudson’s Bay Company on the Columbia River

• Whitman-Spalding mission party, including Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, arrives overland via Oregon Trail


• Whitman and Spalding Missions established


• Jason Lee lectures about Oregon in Peoria, Illinois.

• Wascopam Methodist Mission established (The Dalles, Oregon) Rev. Daniel Lee and Rev. Henry K.W. Perkins build the mission over a few months with the help of some local Native Americans, a Hawaiian, and a free black man.

• Dec. – Congress received a proposal to make Oregon a Territory of the US.


• Jan. – Jason Lee petitions Congress to extend US authority to Oregon. A large number of Methodist missionaries with Rev. Jason Lee and some civilian emigrants boarded The Lausanne and set sail for Oregon on October 10, 1839. (The ship arrived at Ft. Vancouver on June 1, 1840.)


• By late summer of 1840, the total non-Indian population, not including Hudson’s Bay Company operatives, within territory including a portion of Montana and all of Idaho, Washington and Oregon, was 200 people.

• Over 1200 Native Americans from the Columbia River and a variety of inland tribes, attended a religious revival led by Jason Lee in April at the foot of a rocky precipice near the Dalles. This peaceful gathering lasted several days, with communion administered to hundreds.


• Slave markets thrive – Two of the largest slave markets west of the Mississippi were located in Oregon; one at the Willamette (Oregon City), the other on a wind-swept bluff east of The Dalles City (at Celilo Falls) overlooking the Columbia. “Modoc and Klamath slavers rubbed shoulders with American, Chinook and French buyers, Wascos, Klickitats, and Walla Wallas.”


• Pioneer settlers cross plains to Oregon; first steps toward local government.


• By treaty, the United States and Britain set the border between Maine and Canada on August 9, 1842.


• First large migration of over 900 emigrants arrives via Oregon Trail. The migration of 1000’s of pioneers over the Oregon Trail. The Grande Dalles de la Columbia was a way station on the emigrant road to the Willamette Valley, and marked the end of the overland Oregon Trail; from there people had to float wagons down the Columbia to reach the Willamette Valley until the construction of the Barlow Trail over Mt. Hood.

• Lt. John C. Fremont mounts reconnaissance of Oregon Trail. He arrives in November, 1843 at Wascopam Mission with his mountain men guides, Kit Carson and Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick. The expedition takes on a young native man called Billy Chinook who had been a student at the misison.

• Settlers meet to address the menace of wild animals. These “Wolf Meetings” led to a drafting of a constitution and the formation of Oregon’s first Provisional Government on May 2nd, 1843 which include both American and British participation.


• June 26, 1844, the Oregon Provisional Legislature outlawed slavery yet ruled Negros could not reside in the territory as free men, and if Negros didn’t leave the territory “they would receive on their bare back not less than 20 or more than 30 strips to be inflicted by the county constable.”


• Oregonians submit petition to Senate seeking U.S. jurisdiction. Reorganized Provisional Government , First Provisional governor, George Abernethy, elected.

• Meek Cut-off opens as alleged short-cut to Oregon Trail.

• Estimated 3,000 overland emigrants arrive.

• Francis Pettygrove and A. L. Lovejoy name Portland and commence plat of city.


• Lt. Neil Howison mounts reconnaissance of western Oregon.

• Sam Barlow completes the Barlow Road, begun in 1845, over Mt. Hood, allowing emigrants passage into the Willamette Valley without risking death in the treacherous rapids of the Columbia. The Barlow Road opens as toll route in the fall of 1846, charging $5 per wagon to emigrants on their way to the Willamette Valley..

• Applegate Trail opens as alternative to Oregon Trail.

• Oregon Treaty with Great Britain affirms U.S. sovereignty to Pacific Northwest. Treaty established Oregon title and defines northern boundary at 49 degree north… (concluded June 15, proclaimed by President Aug 5, 1846)


• Nov. 29 – Following years of increasing hostilities caused by ownership disputes, acts of white “justice” considered murder by the Indians, and disease outbreaks, Cayuse Indians attack Whitman Mission in what becomes known as the “Whitman Massacre.” This event marks the beginning of the Cayuse Indian War.


• Joseph Meek carries petition east seeking federal “patronage”

• Oregon’s Provisional Government passes the first Exclusion Law in the Oregon Country following the Whitman Massacre in 1847.

• James W. Marshall, who once served under Captain John C. Frémont’s California Battalion during the Bear Flag Revolt, discovers gold Jan. 24 in California at Sutter’s Mill.

• Samuel K. Barlow and a crew of 50 men complete the Barlow Road, giving emigrants headed for the Willamette Valley a choice between rafting the trecherous rapids of the Columbia or paying Barlow toll to cross over Mt. Hood from Wamic to Oregon City.


• Oregon Territory established (Aug 14, 1848). Federally-appointed Governor Joseph Lane proclaim that Oregon is now a Territory of the United States. Began government March 3,

• First Mounted Riflemen of U.S. Army arrive overland.


• Congress passes Oregon Donation Land Act granting free land to “whites and half-breed Indians” in the Oregon Territory. It opened a floodgate of emmigration of pioneers who traveled to Oregon on the Oregon Trail.

• Oregon census enumerates 11,873 Oregonians.

• Steamship mail service from San Francisco to Columbia River established.

• Military troops established at Camp Drum (renamed Fort Dalles in 1853). The Dalles Landing is described as a desolate location of 100 abandoned emigrant wagons and starved cattle roaming about the flats and hill sides. There was only one cabin in The Dalles at that time.

110-rorick1• The oldest home in The Dalles was built sometime after 1850 by a non-commissioned Army officer stationed at Fort Dalles. As part of the Fort Dalles Miltary Reservation, the house served as the Sergeant’s Quarters. Former Mayor of The Dalles and U.S. Congressman (1899 to 1903) Malcolm A. Moody owned the house from 1884 until his death in 1925. It was purchased by Eck and Mae Rorick and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Moody/Rorick house is operated by the Wasco County Historical Society.


• First post office at the Dalles, established by Capt. Nathaniel Coe, territorial postmaster for Oregon. William Gibson was appointed postmaster. Justin Chenowith, after whom Chenowith creek was named, was given the contract by Capt. Coe for transporting the mails from the Cascades to Fort Dalles Landing. He used a sail boat, Indian dug-out canoe with Indian paddlers for assistants on days when the wind was not favorable for sails.

• City of Portland Incorporated Feb. 8.

• Willamette Valley Treaty Commission negotiates treaties.


• U.S. Army establishes Fort Dalles on Oregon Trail.

• Congress names Salem capital of Oregon Territory.


• This is the year of the Big Emigration of the Oregon Trail, when 18,000 people were credited by historians as passing through The Dalles and many of them remained or returned to The Dalles to make their homes.


• Camp Drum renamed to Fort Dalles. Fort Dalles Military Reservation at Wascopam (The Dalles) was cut down to one square mile.

• Emigrants were allowed to settle at the Wascopam Landing.

• The emigration that passed through The Dalles that year was estimated to be 8000.

• On Sept. 5, 1853 the name of the city was changed to Wascopam (Sept.) and remained known as Wascopam until March 22, 1860 although the fort remained known as Fort Dalles.

• Jonas Mosier, after whom the city of Mosier was named, built many of the dwellings and business establishments becomes the first contractor of The Dalles.

• Territorial legislature adopts Oregon law code

• Cow Creeks and Rogue River Indians negotiate treaties with U. S

• Congress establishes Washington Territory by dividing Oregon Territory

• Pacific railroad surveys authorized


• Indian wars


• Victor Trevitt (1827-1883) moves to Dalles City in 1854 during the gold rush. He was a State Representative in 1858, state Senator 1866-1874. Trevitt died of consumption in San Francisco on January 23, 1883. His funeral was delayed due to temperatures of -20 degrees. His funeral was March 10, 1883. He had a Masonic funeral. Trevitt was buried on Memaloose Island, the only white man ever to be buried there. He said, “I won’t have any chance to get into heaven unless I slip in with the Indians. When Gabriel blows his horn on the last day, I will get up with the Indians, wrap my blanket about me and slip in with them and St. Peter will never notice me.” There were 90 Masons on the steamer “Hassalo.” Lulu Crandall (Wasco Co. Historian) was on the boat. His tomb is 8 feet square, the monument is 13 feet high.

• Wasco County is created from portions of Clackamas, Marion, Linn, and Lane Counties Jan. 11, 1854. It was one of the largest counties ever formed in the United States, originally covering 130,000 sq. miles and consisted of all of Oregon Territory between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains and from latitude 42deg. (the California border) to latitude 46deg. (the Washington border. The Dalles was designated the county seat. Wasco County is named for the Wascopam tribe.

• Oregon’s Exclusion Law is repealed. The State Legislature prohibits sale of arms and ammunition to Indians, sale of ardent spirits to Indians and bars testimony of “Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians, or persons one half or more of Indian blood” in proceedings involving a white person.


• Pacific Railroad Surveys examine potential routes

• Treaty of 1855 – Joel Palmer, government Indian agent, negotiates a series of treaties with the Indians. Wascopam tribes sign treaty reserving land and rights to food resources. There are at least 3 to 4 first-hand accounts placing the signing of the 1855 treaty with the Wascopam Indians “east of The Dalles” at the “Crossing” on 3-Mile. This treaty provided for the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of 464,000 acres, provided that Indians could hunt and fish in their “usual and accustomed places” and forbid white men from trespassing upon their lands, provided for schools, and Indian agent and other provisions, beginning the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. While the Indians on the Oregon side of the Columbia river accepted the terms of the Treaty of 1855 those on the Washington side were not ready to submit to being placed on reservations and having all their other lands taken by the white man without fighting for their homes.

• Rogue River Indian War commences .

• Yakima Indian War commences.

• Territorial capitol burns in Salem.


• U.S. Army orders closure of settlement east of Cascades because of warfare with Indians. A General Order was issued from the Dept. of the Pacific, at Fort Dalles on June 29, 1857, stating no white person shall be permitted to settle in Indian country east of the White Salmon river and north of the Columbia in Washington Territory, and East of the Deschutes River in Oregon. This order was revoked by Gen. Harney Oct. 31, 1858.

• The military garrison at Fort Dalles was strengthened in the fall of 1856, under Col. George Wright with 3 companies of the 9 U.S. Infantry.

• Surgeon’s Quarters built at Fort Dalles.


• Fort Dalles is “officially” incorporated as Dalles City June 26, 1857 by Col. N.H. Gates.

• Oregon Trail Emigrants continue to arrive in long trains to settle in the valleys east of The Dalles, “where thousands of horses and cattle grazed on the bunch grass hills that knew no plow for years afterwards.”

• Constitutional convention at Salem, August and September. (Ratified by popular vote on 2nd Monday of Nov) . Draft constitution bars African-Americans from residency. The pro-slavery separatists in southern Oregon bring an amendment to vote but again fail to carve a new federal Territory out of the southwestern region of the Oregon Territory.

• Railroad building Oregon to California begun. First cargo of wheat shipped to foreign parts.

• Fourteenth Amendment passes in Oregon.

• Mt. St. Helens erupts April 17, 1857.


• First state officials elected, including Governor “Honest John” Whiteaker.

• Secretary of war sub-divideds the Military Dept. of the Pacific into the Military Districts of Oregon and California, Sept. 13, 1858.

• R.R. Thompson and Orlando Humason built the upper Columbia river steamer Col. Wright at Deschutesville to take care of the increased volume of passenger and freight traffic to the gold mines. The Columbia Steam Nav. Co. and the Oregon Steam Nav. Co. operated boats on the middle river from the Cascades to The Dalles.

• M.M. Cushing builds the Wasco Hotel in Dalles City, bringing the hotel total to 3, in an effort to take care of the large “floating population” passing through the city.


• Oregon becomes 33rd state when Congress grants Oregon statehood on February 14. Oregon becomes the first state admitted to the Union with an exclusion law written into the state constitution. Propositions of Congress accepted by the State 3 June 1859. First elected governor of state, John Whiteaker, inaugurated.

• The Journal” was the first newspaper published in the city, it was published by Capt. Thomas Jordan of Fort Dalles.

• W.A. Moody built his meeting hall and opera house for public gatherings and entertainment, on First street (south side) between Union and Court.

Col. Nicholas B. Sinnott and Maj. Daniel Handley (a 300 lb. man) acquired the Umatilla House at First and Union. They made it a world famous hotel of 128 rooms, and did more business in a month than all the other hotels combined. The Umatilla House was the place where the stagecoach left for Canyon City, pulling out at 5AM.

• The Pack Trail to Canyon City was established. Long lines of freight wagons, pack trains, emigrant schooners lined the streets.

• Orlando Humason’s portage road was dust-choked with traffic day and as late at night as possible, weather permitting.

• Dalles Fire Department established.

• The first Wasco Co. Courthouse was completed April 8. Oliver White helped build it where city hall now stands, at the intersection of East 3rd and Court Street. The building has been moved many times and today it stands at 410 West 2nd Place, behind The Dalles Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center. This courthouse, once seat of government in a county of 130,000 square miles, was built in response to a citizen petition. The building cost $2,500 and provided the first county-owned jail and office space. The lumber for the courthouse was sawed at Jonas Mosier’s mill at Mosier and floated upriver on a scow.

• The city limits extended to 2nd bluff.

• The First Congregational Church of Dalles City is first established by Rev. William A. Tenney, Aug. 14, 1859. Rev. Tenney and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. E. S. Joselyn of White Salmon, Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Z. Donnell, E. S. Penfield, and W. D. Stillwell were charter members of the original church. These eight people gathered together in an upstairs room of the newly built original Wasco County courthouse. Theirs was the first successful attempt at regular Sunday services between Portland and Omaha. Rev. Thomas Condon later preached there.

• Gold is discovered in Eastern Oregon and Idaho and Montana, establishing the first big “gold rush” out of The Dalles – the next 10 years being known as “the Gold period.”

• Mt. Hood erupts Aug. 17, 1859. Witnesses describe an occasional flash of fire and a large mass of the northwest side had disappeared, and that snow that had covered the south side, had also disappeared. Immense clouds of ashes filled the air, through which, at times, flashes of fire were perceptible. Terrible land slides were also frequently seen. Dense clouds of steam and smoke constantly rose above the summit, together with the entire change in its appearance.

• Mt. Baker erupts Nov. 25, 1859.


• March 22, 1860 Wascopam is renamed The Dalles, Oregon, not to be confused with Dallas, Oregon in Polk County. The incorporated name of the community was now Dalles City, but the postal name and the one in universal use is The Dalles.

• The land for the Pioneer Cemetary in The Dalles was donated by W.D. Bigelow June 14, 1860 and contains 2.12 acres. A Warranty Deed was filed September 9, 1904 at 4 p.m. by N. Whealdon and his wife W. Lucinda Whealdon officially deeding the property to Dalles City, Wasco County, Oregon. The earliest burials in Pioneer Cemetery were Michael J. Kelly who died May 29, 1860 and James Tivis, son of John and Minerva Tivis, who died July 22, 1860. Research has revealed there are 228 graves located in Pioneer Cemetery though many are unmarked.

• Oregon census enumerates 52,465 Oregonians.

• Oregon Steam Navigation Company commences service.

Dalles City has a permanent population of 2,500, but a “floating tent” population of 10,000.

• Gold dust is the medium of circulation in Dalles City instead of coins. Nothing was less than $1. No currency whatever was in circulation, all was done with gold dust.

• Saloons and gambling houses operate 24 hours a day in Dalles City. George Clayton runs what is considered the biggest gambling house in Eastern Oregon. It was said, “the town was controlled by gamblers and the tough element and night life was a virtual uncontrolled riot.”

• Phillip T. Sharp, Vice-President and founding member of the Wasco County Fair, carries many hundreds of bags of gold from Canyon City to The Dalles. At the time Wells Fargo was charging 10% to haul gold dust from Canyon City to The Dalles, and Mr. Sharp did it for half that sum.

• Major Enoch Steens, after whom the Steens mountains near Burns are named, makes a passable military wagon road from Fort Harney, near Burns via Canyon City, Camp Watson, Mitchell, Burnt Ranch, Antelope, Shaniko, Bakeoven, Sherar’s Bridge, Nansene, Wasco, Boyd, to The Dalles for military supplies and use of miners and the public. The Dalles to Boise Military Road Co. later follows a portion of the Steen Military Road from Shaniko into John Day.


• The Civil War begins in the East.

1862 – 1868

• Gold Rush – During the Gold Mining period in Wasco County, Canyon City and The Dalles were the two largest cities in the Pacific Northwest. At the peak of the local gold rush, it is estimated 10,000 people passed through The Dalles and Canyon City. $15,000,000 was taken from Canyon Creek by 5000 miners. People with gold fever swarm into the area by the hundreds. Panning could yield several ounces of gold in each pan of sediment. Ike Guker’s Great Northern mine on the north side of Canyon Mountain was a small lode mine discovered in 1897. It is estimated that $67,000 worth of gold was taken out. By 1870 the population had dropped to 2500 whites and 940 Chinese in the county. The boom was over. Mining was still going on but not at the boom town fever of the previous decade. Of the 2500 whites in Grant County in 1870 only 386 were miners.


• Canyon City established June 1862, following the discovery of gold in Canyon Creek near John Day.

• 1862 the Pony Express was established between The Dalles and Canyon City. They all used Todd Bridge across the Deschutes below Tygh. The bridge was replaced by a wagon bridge in 1864.

• The first wooden sidewalks were authorized and the first water pipes laid in Dalles City.

• One of the coldest winters was on record for The Dalles (approx -24 below.)

• Legislature of Oregon provided by penal codes for the removal of Negros, Mulattoes, Chinese & Hawaiian, that each said person residing within the limits of the state should pay an annual poll-tax of $5 and on failure to do so would be arrested and put to work on public hiways for 50 cents a day until tax and court cost were discharged (OR Coded App. 76-7).

• Congress passes Homestead Act

• First Oregon Cavalry raises six companies

• First portage railroad completed at Cascades

• Rev. Thomas Condon and his wife Cornelia moved to The Dalles in the spring of 1862 to lead the town’s Congregational church. Rev. Thomas Condon (1822-1907) became the second pastor of the First Congregational church at the Dalles in 1862. Condon eventually quit the ministry to become Professor of Geology at the University of Oregon.


• Idaho Territory established.

• By April of 1863, 150 miners left The Dalles each day headed for the diggings at Canyon City, along with 200 pack animals, and ten to twelve freight wagons loaded down with payloads of 3,000 to 5,000 pounds apiece. The business of packing boomed between 1862 to 1885. Long strings of twenty to forty mules carried all the provisions necessary to sustain the burgeoning new population of the mining districts. These packers hauled picks, shovels, clothing, food, nails, rope, bolts, and dynamite. J.J. Cozart and Joseph Sherar are two of the more colorful packers mentioned in the record.


• April 11–Portland receives word via telegraph of Robert E. Lee’s surrender and the end of the Civil War. The town celebrates with a 100 gun salute, followed by ringing of bells.

• Popular vote approves Salem as state capital.

• Montana Territory established.

• Grant County formed from part of Wasco County.

• The U.S. Congress appropriates money in 1864 to build The Dalles Branch Mint, a fortress-like structure intended to mint U.S. coinage from the gold diggings coming out of Canyon City. The project ran 2 years beyond the scheduled completion date due to cost over-runs, lack of workers (they kept leaving for the gold fields), and flooding from the Columbia River, and by the time the building was completed in 1870 the gold had run out. No coins were ever minted here. Mint officials decided to build a Branch Mint in Denver, where the gold supply was steadier.


• Slavery abolished Feb. 1, 1865.

• Civil War ends April 9, when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant negotiates Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at the McLean House, near Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

• Rev. Thomas Condon accompanies an army patrol from Ft. Dalles into the John Day country, where he had heard there was a rich deposit of fossils. Although he was not the first to discover fossils in the area, he was the first to recognize the significance of the deposit. Condon’s fossil discoveries in the John Day country soon became known to some of the nation’s top paleontologists and geologists, a number of whom wrote him requesting specimens. Many of the specimens Condon sent were species new to science, and several were named after him.

• The Dalles to Salt Lake City mail stage, express and passenger run of 800 miles was established.

• The sinking of the Brother Jonathan takes the lives of Gen. George A. Wright and Mr. Wm. Logan, Indian agent at Warm Springs, and their wives.

• The Dalles was credited with a population of 1898 in 1865.


• Fort Dalles was abandoned by the government in 1866.


• Congress authorizes The Dalles-Boise Military Road, Feb. 25, 1867 (14 Stat. 409).

• U.S. Army establishes Fort Harney

• Columbia Brewery, established in 1867 in The Dalles by Charles Schanno who was originally from Alsace-Lorraine, France. Emil Schanno arrived in town in 1869 and purchased the brewery. Schanno sold the brewery in 1877 to August Buchler. Buchler re-named the brewery Eastern Oregon Brewery. Buchler ran the brewery until it was re-organized in 1905 under the management of A. Keller and Charles Inderweis, though Buchler probably still functioned as brewmaster. Not many know that Heidelberg beer first gained a brewing reputation when it was originated here in The Dalles. The brewery closed when prohibition in Oregon took effect on 1 January 1916. The three-story stone building is located at the foot of Brewery Grade on East 2nd in The Dalles.


• Has No Horse surrenders to Gen. Crook. August 1868, at Fort Harney.


• The Dalles Military Road completed after several delays. This road was the main freight route from The Dalles to Fort Boise in Idaho, by way of Canyon City. Military forts and roads were established to intervene between the miners and the local American Indians who had not yet ceded their lands to the government through treaties.


• The Fifteenth Amendment, granting black men the right to vote, is added to the US Constitution despite failing to pass in both Oregon and California. This federal law supersedes a clause in the Oregon State Constitution banning black suffrage.

• Oregon census enumerates 90,923 residents

• I.C. Nickelsen opened a book store in 1870. Now known as Klindt’s Booksellers, this was the state’s second book store after J.K.Gill of Portland, and is now the oldest continuous one. In 1927, the Weigelt brothers bought it. It still has the original wood floors, and oak and plate glass display cases, and is still open as a retail bookstore.


• Antelope post office was established Aug. 7, 1871, and Howard Maupin was the first postmaster


• Modoc Indian War commences.


• University of Oregon opens.

• Fossil post office established Feb. 28, 1876, at the ranch of Thomas B. Hoover, who was the first postmaster.


• Nez Perce Indian War involves Chief Joseph’s band

• Congress passes Desert Land Act


• Bannock-Paiute Indian War sweeps into southeastern Oregon

• Dufur post office established Jan. 11, 1878, and named for the Dufur family. Chauncey A. Williams was the first postmaster, and is said to have selected the name of the office.


• O. R. & N. Company begins railroad through Gorge.


• Census enumerates 174,768 residents.


• O. R. & N. Company railroad reaches Umatilla providing transcontinental links. North Pacific last spike celebration Sept 8; Oregon Railway and Navigation line connected at Ainsworth. Completed to Huntington, 1884.


• Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce band locates on Colville Reservation


• Congress passes Oregon Indian Depredation Claims Act

• Census enumerates 313,767 residents


• Watkins introduces a bill in the Oregon senate to incorporate The Dalles, Jan. 29 1891.

• The City of Fossil was incorporated in 1891. Named by Thomas B. Hoover, who was removing some fossil remains on his ranch at the time the small community post office was established.


• The City of Dufur is incorporated in 1893, founded by Andrew J. Dufur, Jr., a successful raiser of livestock.


• Flood of 1894. At noon on June 2, First Street was out of sight, being under water from Mill Creek to the grade at the East End. Nearly all the residences on Third street west from Court will have to be abandoned. The floods were not confined to the Columbia, but extended all over the west coast. The Fraser River was higher than ever known, the Sacramento and streams of Southern California were raging. Three persons were drowned in the streets of Los Angeles. In Colorado every stream was a torrent.


• Workmen complete Cascade Locks

• Antelope was incorporated in 1896 with John Hollinghead serving as first mayor. The City of Antelope was originally a stage and freight wagon road stop on the Old Dalles to Canyon City Trail.


• St. Peters Catholic Church is dedicated March 17, 1898. This Gothic Revival Church building features Carrera Italian marble, Kilgen pipe organ, 40-foot stamped metal ceilings, six foot rooster on a 176-foot steeple topped by a six-foot tall rooster weathervane. This is the Columbia Gorge’s highest spire, and still used by surveyors as a benchmark for surveying boundaries. The services were conducted by Archbishop Gross, assisted by Rev. Verhag, of Baker City, Father Bronsgeest, of The Dalles, and Father Bohler, of Oregon City. The building is now preserved as a landmark museum.


• Wheeler County formed Feb. 17, 1899 out of portions of Grant Co., Gilliam Co., with the Mitchell portion coming from Crook Co.

• City of Moro incorporated in 1899. It is generally believed that Henry Barnum was the first resident of the place, settling there in 1868, and establishing a trading post some 11 years later.

20th Century


• The City of Grass Valley was incorporated in 1901. Pioneer settlers said in early days the rye-grass was so tall in this part of Oregon that it was well over a man’s head, even when the man was on horseback. This accounts for the name.

• Shaniko incorporated in 1901. The town was once the nation’s largest wool-shipping capital. Shaniko was named for pioneer settler August Scherneckau. The Scherneckau ranch was on the stage route from The Dalles to central Oregon and August Scherneckau opened a stage station and kept the travel. This locality was first called Cross Hollows, and a post office with that name was established May 23, 1879, with Scherneckau first postmaster. The office was closed May 27, 1887. Shaniko post office was established Mar. 31, 1900, with John D. Wilcox first postmaster.


• Mr. W. E. Richards of Albany built a steam engine car. This was the first automobile built in Oregon and ran 12 miles per hour.


• Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition at Portland

• The Sorosis Society begins work to save the derelict Surgeon’s Quarters building of Fort Dalles and turn it into a museum April 1905, making it Oregon’s oldest history museum.


• The Dalles Carnegie Library dedicated Sept. 1910. The library is one of 2509 libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. The construction grant for $10,000 was approved March 10, 1907.The building was used as a library until September, 1966. In 1967 the building was leased from the city and converted into The Dalles Art Center.


• Sam Hill begins construction of Maryhill, a poured concrete castle-like chateau overlooking the Columbia River. The building is now the Maryhill Museum of Art, and was dedicated on Hill’s birthdate, May 13, 1940. Museum exhibits include gifts given to Hill from his many personal friends: Loie Fuller, Alma Spreckels, Auguste Rodin, and Queen Marie of Romania.

• Stonehenge Replica – part of the 6,000 Maryhill estate includes a full-scale replica of England’s famous neolithic Stonehenge, Hill’s tribute to the soldiers of Klickitat County who lost their lives in World War I. The structure was the first monument in our nation to honor the dead of World War I. Hill’s own crypt is a short walk southwest of Stonehenge on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River.


• The oldest J. C. Penney store in continuous operation opened in The Dalles. The store is still in operation in its current location on 2nd street.


• Mobilization of Oregon Guard, March 25; World War I declared April 6th.


• Armistice signed, November 11th


• Civic Auditorium now stands was the Wiley Livery barn. The Dalles City Council purchased the property for the Civic in 1921 for $11,000 from Mr. Frank McCullough. Construction began the following year at a cost of $80,000.


• Columbia River Scenic Highway completed June 27, 1922. It was hailed as one of the engineering marvels of its age and was the first paved highway in the Northwestern United States. This King of Roads was the product of two visionaries, Samuel Hill and landscape architect Samuel C. Lancaster. The first U.S. state historic highway to gain distinction as a National Landmark, it has also qualified as a National Scenic Byway, a distinction that requires the road itself to be considered a destination.


• Oregon repeals its exclusion law, amending the state constitution to remove it from the Bill of Rights.


• The Oregon State Constitution is finally amended to remove a clause denying blacks the right to vote.


• When it opened in The Dalles, the Granada was the first theater west of the Mississippi River to feature “Talkies” and was equipped with “Vita Phone” and “Movietone” soundsystems. The building features Moorish architectural-style exterior.


• Bonneville Dam in Multnomah County completed.


• The present First Congregational church building in The Dalles was dedicated on February 14, 1937 with the Rev. Robert A. Hutchinson serving as pastor.


• Oregon repeals its law prohibiting interracial marriages.


• The Dalles Dam in Wasco County completed. The completion of the dam on March 10, 1957 inundated Celilo Falls when the 24 mile long backwater of Lake Celilo formed behind it, resulting in the loss of the sacred traditional Native American fishing grounds and way of life for the Wy’Am, Wasco, Yakama, Umatilla, and Warm Springs tribes of the Columbia River.


• Oregon voters ratify the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.


• Legislature designated the Oregon sunstone as the official state gemstone.


• The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum opened its doors as the official interpretive center for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.


• Barack Obama elected Nov. 4 as President of the United States; a majority of Oregon residents cast their ballots for the first president with African ancestry. This was a major milestone since the year 1859 when Oregon entered the union with an exclusion law written into the state constitution. Inaugural day: January 20, 2009.