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Washington Counties
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Washington Counties

There are thity-nine counties in the state of Washington. Washington was carved out of the western part of Washington Territory and admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. The first counties were created from unorganized territory in 1845.

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Clark County, Washington

Clark County Education, Geography, and History

Clark County, Washington Courthouse

Clark County is a county located in the southwestern part of the state of Washington. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 425,363, making it the fifth-most populous county in Washington. Its county seat and largest city is Vancouver.It was the first county to be established in Washington, named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was created by the provisional government of Oregon Territory on August 20, 1845, and at that time covered the entire present-day state.

Clark County is included in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is located across the Columbia River from Portland.

Etymology - Origin of Clark County Name

William Clark, the co-captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

Clark County History

Clark County was formed 27 June 1844 as an original county. It was formerly named Vancouver County and then the name was changed to Clark 3 September 1849.

Clark County began as the District of Vancouver on July 27, 1844. It included all the land north of the Columbia River, west of the Rocky Mountains, and south of Alaska. In 1845 the provisional government changed its name to Vancouver County. At that time it stretched from the Columbia River to 54 degrees 40 minutes North Latitude in British Columbia. On June 15, 1846 the United States Senate approved the present boundary between the US and Canada at the 49th Parallel.

On August 13, 1848, President James K. Polk signed an act creating the entire region as the Oregon Territory. On September 3, 1849, the Oregon Territorial Legislature modified the borders again and changed its name to Clarke County in honor of explorer William Clark. At this time it included all of present day Washington and continued to be divided and subdivided until reaching its present area in 1880. It was not until 1925 that the spelling was corrected to its present form.

Northern Clark County

Chelatchie Prarie

Clark County was organized in 1850 with Vancouver the county seat of government. The Donation Land Act of 1850 provided free land for settlers and opened the entire county for land claims. In 1853 the Washington Territory was created from the Oregon Territory with the Columbia River separating the two territories.

The large upper drainage area of Chelatchie Creek near Amboy attracted settlers early in Clark County's history. Chelatchie is an Native American name meaning "Valley of the Tall Ferns." Ferns and low bush were commonly covering the land as a result of an early fire which devastated the valley. When the brush was cleared for cultivation, the valley was found well suited for growing grain and vegetables.

Early Settlers

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.
La Center, Main Street

The Lewis River, Lewis River Valley, and Lewisville were named after the first settler on the river, Adolphus Lee Lewis. He was a county surveyor in 1856 and probably had bearing on the name of the river being changed from the Native American name Cathlapootle to Lewis River. In 1866, Lincoln, one of the first settlements along the river, was founded. This small trading post and post office were located at the mouth of Lockwood Creek, named after Reuben Lockwood who settled the area.

John Timmen founded the town of La Center in 1871. It was the center of trade for many years until the condition of the roads improved. Steamboat Captain William Weir built the first house and store with a post office. A devastating fire consumed the wharfs and warehouses in LaCenter in 1890.

Stoughton, located at the end of the Native American trail was established in 1872 by Mr. Stoughton. This settlement has a small trading post and mail was deposited there until 1875.
The Mascot and the Cresap

In 1874, Adam Reid, a timber businessman, founded Etna, located eight miles east of Woodland on the North Fork of the Lewis River. Mr. Reid named the settlement after Aetna Greene, Indiana, where he was born. James Forbes homesteaded near the mouth of Cedar Creek in 1882 and built a house, store and steamboat dock providing essentials to early loggers and mill workers.

The Garner family came to Yacolt Prairie in 1887, homesteading 160 acres, and raising a family of five children.

This information was provided courtesy of Roberta Emerick, North Clark Historical Museum Coordinator. Special credit is given to the following people who supplied additional information: Louise Allworth Tucker for her book Battle Ground-In and Around; Louise Frasier for her book A History of Amboy; Orville Stout for his book Yacolt History; and North Clark Historical Museum historians Jeanine Liston and Margaret Colf Hepola.


Clark County, located in the Portland Metropolitan area, is the fastest growing community in the Pacific Northwest. The area has strong industry clusters in semiconductors, high technology and services. Clark County offers businesses the advantages of a major metropolitan city combined with affordable land, housing and business costs.


As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 656 square miles (1,700 km2), of which, 628 square miles (1,627 km2) of it is land and 28 square miles (72 km2) of it (4.27%) is water.

Clark County is surrounded on two sides by the Columbia River and on the north by the North Fork of the Lewis River. The East Fork of the Lewis River and the Washougal River cut across the county. The largest stream arising solely within the county is Salmon Creek, which terminates at Vancouver Lake before eventually flowing into the Columbia River.

Local history buffs call Clark County the "Cradle of Pacific Northwest History," reflecting the importance of the 628-square-mile southwestern Washington county as the scene of key historical developments. Here the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in 1805, the British Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Vancouver in 1825, and the town of Vancouver was incorporated in 1857. The county's location first made it an entrepot (trading center), then an agricultural area. The region developed in agriculture, lumber, and fishing, and later in shipbuilding and aluminum. In recent times, energy from hydroelectric projects on the Lewis and Columbia rivers has fueled development as a manufacturing center.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Cowlitz County, Washington - north
  • Skamania County, Washington - east
  • Multnomah County, Oregon - south
  • Columbia County, Oregon - southwest


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