Seaports of the World
United States: Astoria, Oregon
Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. It was first visited by Captain Robert Gray in 1792, by the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery in 1805, and followed by adventuresome pioneers by the thousands. Mt. Hood came into view shortly after the Lewis and Clark party began traveling on the Columbia River, confirming that they would soon be back in charted territory and eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. As they travelled, the explorers recorded in details their scientific observations of fish, wildlife, plants and people.
As they proceeded west, the arid landscape transformed into a moist environment filled with ancient trees, mosses, ferns, and waterfalls. They encountered Indian villages all along the river. Lewis and Clark reached Grays Bay, a wide point in the Columbia River estuary, on November 7, 1805.
Astoria had its share of problems throughout the years. It went from a money making powerhouse through profitable waterfront businesses to a city in need of building updates. Initially, with the influx of Europeans, the large male population of seamen, fishermen and loggers, generally rough in nature, were handling grain, shanghaiing unsuspecting young men and fleecing residents.
Daily Alta California, October 19, 1878
The British Ship "City of Dublin" Wrecked on the Columbia River Bar- A Total Loss
PORTLAND, October 18th. The British ship City of Dublin, while attempting to cross the Columbia River Bar this forenoon, ran on the middle sands and stuck fast. Several tugs were despatched at once from Astoria to the assistance of the vessel. After working some time unsuccessfully, the tugs were forced to abandon the ship to her fate, and the latest news from Astoria is to the effect that she was going to pieces. She will prove a total wreck. The Captain and crew were all rescued. This vessel came from Wellington, New Zealand, in ballast. She was consigned to James Laidlaw. The City of Dublin is an iron vessel of 814 tons register. This is her third voyage to this port. There is probably no insurance on the vessel. The cause of the disaster is mainly attributable to tbe attempt on the part of the Master to cross the Bar without having a Pilot on board. The vessel is comparatively new. Loss, from $60,000 to $70,000.
Daily Alta California, May 3, 1879
The "Great Republic"
PORTLAND, May 2d. The Board of United States Inspectors of Steam Vessels for the District of Portland, Oregon, met this morning for the purpose of investigating the loss of the steamship Great Republic at or near the sand island between the Columbia River Bar and Astoria. There were present George H. Flanders, Inspector of Hulls, and James Lotan, Inspector of Boilers. The investigation has been in progress all day. Several witnesses have been examined, including Captain James Carroll, Pilot Dolg, Purser Peck, Commissary Cummings, and others. Thus far nothing new has been developed. Captain Carroll and Pilot Doig have both made statements, but they are substantially the same as those already published. The enquiry will be concluded tomorrow.
The waterfront empire had crumbled and the shipping of the 1870's and 80's was gone. Work in the canneries had tapered off, leaving the Chinese and Hindus who were employed in the canneries and mills to abandon Astoria.
Because of the abundance of lumber during Oregon's early days, Astoria included shacks built on wood piling foundations which were not the most appropriate material for permanent construction. The lightframe buildings were a great fire hazard. The city council proposed an ordinance requiring property owners to install fire stops, but the taxpayers objected to the expense. Insurance rates had skyrocketed so high that less than 50% of $18,000,000 in real estate was insured, and only 20% of personal property. Astoria was destined to go up in flames, the question was when.
At 1 a.m., December 8, 1922, the Astoria business district burned to the ground.
Thirty-two acres of buildings were leveled. Of those, 90% were of light frame
construction and supported by wood piling.
Daily Alta California, July 29, 1877
The Ajax has 7842 cases of Salmon from Astoria.