Pioneer Vessels "Columbia."

"Columbia" has been quite a favorite name for vessels which have plowed the waters of the great river after which they were christened. The first of the name to appear in the Pacific ocean and drop her anchor in the second waterway of the Union, was the American ship Columbia, Captain Robert Gray commanding. To him belongs the honor of the discovery of the river, and in honor of his good ship, he named the river. He crossed the bar on May 11, 1792, coming to anchor in Baker's bay. She was the first American vessel to carry the Stars and Stripes around the globe.

The next vessel to bear the name is also historical from the fact that it was the first vessel built in the Pacific Northwest proper. Her frame work was shipped here from the East on the ship Tonquin, her remaining timbers were secured from our native woods. When she left the ways at Astoria, October 2, 1811, she plunged into the waters under the name of Dolly, but with the downfall of the Astor enterprise that built her, she fell into the possession of the British, who renamed her the Columbia. In after years she was taken to California, where she was dismantled and abandoned.

Another Columbia, the third to arrive, was a British brig. She came as a trading vessel, arriving in 1817. In that year she entered the river for a brief stay. After securing a cargo she left for foreign waters and did not return to this coast.

The next of the name to come was a British bark which has quite a page in history, not only because she was the consort of the Beaver, the first steamer to enter the Pacific and the second to cross the Atlantic, but because she was for years the semi-regular sailing vessel to run from this coast to the Sandwich Islands, then a much more important port than all of the Pacific coast combined. She belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company and reached anchorage inside the river's bar on March 22, 1836. She finally left these shores in 1843, never to return.

People not very well posted on the discovery of the Columbia river, frequently state that the river was christened after this Hudson's Bay Company's bark, those of them believing this, should read up on the premises. If they are Americans, they certainly ought to be proud of their nationality, when they discover that one of their own countrymen named the river in honor of an American vessel, the first whose spread of sail cast a shadow upon its surging tide, and through this was the Pacific Northwest declared territory of the United States.

The next pioneer was wholly of home manufacture. It was the river steamer Columbia, the first built in the Pacific Northwest, and like the first sailing vessel [the Dolly], launched on the river. She was built at Astoria in 1850. She was an oddly shaped and clumsy craft, being double ender like a ferry boat. She ran between Portland and Astoria for a year or so, when she was dismantled. Her machinery was put on the steamer Fashion and her hull left to go out with the tide to loose itself among the sea and shore sands.

The first steamship to bear the name, it is said, was built in New York by a former resident of Astoria by the name of Hunt, who went east to construct her under an agreement with Messrs. Chapman, Coffin and Lownsdale, Portland townsite proprietors. The keel was laid in 1849 and when ready to launch, financial difficulties arose and she was attached and sold to Howland & Aspinwall. These gentlemen brought her around the Horn and ran her between San Francisco and Portland, as originally intended, from the winter of 1850 to 1860, when she was sent to Chinese waters.

Since 1850, quite a number of vessels of different class, called the Columbia, have been identified with the shipping interests of the Pacific Northwest, but around none of them has been woven the woof and warp of incident as memorable as that which clings to their predecessors of pioneer times.

Return to "Native Sons" Index
"A Place Called Oregon"