Research Paper Proposal and
April 21, 1998
Shipwrecks at the Columbia Bar
Over two thousand vessels have sunk and approximately seven hundred people have drowned because of the third most dangerous river entrance in the world, and the only one in the United States that requires the use of river bar pilots. I am going to support this statement with historical information relating to shipwrecks, lighthouses, lightships, jetties and dredging. Specifically I will give accounts of the shipwrecks at the Columbia bar, the history of the lighthouses and lightships guarding the entrance to the Columbia, and the building of jetties and the dredging of the channels to try to subdue the power of the Pacific Ocean hitting the Columbia River Bar.
J. Neilson Barry, "Who discovered the Columbia River," The Oregon Historical Quarterly 39 (1938). A superb writing of the famous people who were involved in the discovery of the Columbia including the map of Bruno Hezata. Also has aerial photographs of the bar and jetties.
"The Columbia River Jetties," (The Quarterdeck Review by the Columbia River Maritime Museum 15 no 2 (1988). A detailed historical article on the building of the Columbia River jetties, including excellent pictures.
James Daughtery, Trappers and Traders of the Far West (New York: Random House, 1952). This book covers John Astor's Pacific Fur Company and most importantly the founding of Fort Astoria as a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River.
William Dietrich, Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996). A balanced presentation of the story of the Columbia River, from the geological history to the present day politics. A very descriptive account of the many events and people that played parts in the development of the Columbia River basin. Pages 107 - 116 has some excellent information for my research paper.
Chad Ehlers, Sentinels of Solitude: West Coast Lighthouses (Portland, Or.: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1981). A pictorial compilation of west coast lighthouses. The Cape Disappointment light station and North Head light house are well depicted with a brief history of each. These two signal the entrance of the Columbia River.
T. C. Elliot, "The Log of the HMS Chatham," The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 18 (1917) 231-43. One of the best summaries of the Columbia bar's history I have read so far. Elliot makes you want to read more.
"Finances of Provisional Government," (Oregon Historical Quarterly) 4 (1906): 381-82. The impact of the increase of shipping at the bar is used to justify the establishment of a licensed pilotage in 1846.
Jim Gibbs, Disaster Log of Ships (Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, 1971). A pictorial and well written account of shipwrecks of the Pacific coast. This book has a good collection of photographs and written summaries of Columbia River Bar shipwrecks.
Jim Gibbs, Lighthouses of the Pacific (West Chester, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 1986). An interesting history of the development of lighthouses and lightships of the west coast including the Hawaiian Islands. Includes a diverse representation of the lighthouse keepers place in history. There is some good information about the lightships that worked the Columbia River bar.
Jim Gibbs, Oregon's Salty Coast: From Explorers to the Present Time (Medford, Or.: Webb Research Group Publishers, 1994). This book covers the Oregon coast history fairly well with excellent chapters on bars, jetties, and the U.S. Army Engineers.
James A Gibbs, Pacific Graveyard: A Narrative of the Ships Lost where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean (Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1950). Published for the Oregon Historical Society this book gives an expanded view of a small area, namely the Columbia Bar. It also contains a complete list of all the shipwrecks and groundings at the Columbia River bar up to 1950.
Jim Gibbs, Pacific Square-Riggers: Pictorial History of the Great Windships of Yesteryear (Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, 1969). A pictorial and written account of the many sailing ships of the Pacific. This book also includes a selection of pictures of shipwrecks at the Columbia bar.
Jim Gibbs, Peril at Sea: A Photographic study of Shipwrecks in the Pacific (West Chester, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 1986). A collection of pictures and summaries of shipwrecks of the west coast. There is a good section on the shipwrecks at the Columbia Bar with excellent photographs and written descriptions of the events.
Jim Gibbs, Sentinels of the North Pacific: The Story of Pacific Coast Lighthouses and Lightships (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort, 1955). A history of all the lighthouses and lightships of the west coast. This book has some detailed information about the different Columbia River lightships. Also there is a good selection of information about Cape Disappointment light station.
Jim Gibbs, Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort Publishers, 1957). A collection of illustrative and literal accounts of the many shipwrecks on the west coast. A very descriptive depiction of the events concerning the shipwrecks and rescue attempts.
Jim Gibbs, Windjammers of the Pacific Rim: The Coastal Commercial Sailing Vessels of the Yesteryears (West Chester, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 1987). A pictorial and historically written collection of the birth and death of over seven hundred sailing ships. A good source for finding out information about the ships that wrecked at the Columbia bar.
"The Glenesslin," (Quarterdeck Review by the Columbia River Maritime Museum) 13 no2 (1986). A detailed account of the Glenesslin shipwreck with excellent pictures.
Washington Irving, Astoria: Adventure in the Pacific Northwest (New York: KPI, 1987). This book covers the life of John Jacob Astor and the history of Fort Astoria with all the color and diversity of good quality tangential writing.
William Dennison Lyman, The Columbia River: Its History, its Myths, its Scenery, its Commerce (New York: The Knicker Bocker Press, 1911). A well written and pictorial history and description of the Columbia River before 1911. Excellent descriptions of bar crossings.
Don Marshall, Oregon Shipwrecks (Portland, Or.: Binfords & Mort, 1984). A superb presentation of shipwrecks on the Oregon coast through the weaving of written accounts, pictures, and maps.
Lewis A. McArthur, "The Pacific Coast Survey 1849-50," The Quarterly by the Oregon Historical Society 16 (1915): 246-74. An interesting detailed account of the Columbia River bar and future location of a lighthouse.
Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound: A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981). This book starts with the discovery and exploration of Puget Sound by Vancouver and goes on to tell the stories of all the important people and events that influenced and shaped the creation and growth of Tacoma.
Gary E. Moulton, ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, vol. 9 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983). The journal entries of Ordway in the chapter Winter on the Coast gives an amazing feeling for the wet dreary climate in the winter at the mouth of the Columbia River.
"News and Comment," (Oregon Historical Quarterly), 33 (1932): 94. The south jetty began in 1885 and finished in 1913 is being repaired at a cost of three million dollars. For further research the source was "A history of the Columbia Jetties" by Leroy Williamson in the Oregonian, Jan. 1, 1932.
Alexander Ross, Adventures of the first settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River (Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1923). A great perspective from the early settler viewpoint of Astoria and Fort Vancouver.
Dr. John Schouler, "Journal of a voyager to NW America, 1824-26," The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 6 (1905). Excellent account of a scientific view of the Columbia river at the mouth including the people and events of 1824to1826.
William Simpson, Letters to wife and children during the period from 1875 to 1919 (Located in the University of Washington's Archives) A surprisingly rich story of a Captain of the Steam ferry, Tacoma, on the Kalama run. The story is of a young man in love who goes on to get married and have a family. This story is told through the diligent writing of letters to the women he loves. In the hundreds of letters William Simpson writes to Nellie he describes the everyday life on the river while professing his love to her. At one point he moves to Warrenton, which is right by Astoria, where he describes the majestic power of the Pacific and the dangerous conditions at the bar.
"Social and Economic History of Astoria," (The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society) 4 (1903): 130-49. A good account of the history of Astoria, Or. from 1811 to 1903. The account of the first pilot boat at the Columbia bar in 1849 is very relevant to my research paper.
"Documents relative to Warre and Vavasour's military reconnaissance in Oregon, 1845-6," (The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society) 10 (1909). An excellent description of the difficulties created by the shifting locations of the bar. The overall mission of gathering information for military reconnaissance adds an excitement to the writings.
Washington (State).Board of Pilot Commissioners of the Columbia River and Bar, Annual Reports 1885, 87, 89, 90, 95, 98 (Olympia, Wa.). Reports of the Board of Pilot Commissioners to Watson C. Squire, Governor and Legislative assembly at Washington Territory 1885 to 1898 omitting some years. These reports give an interesting take on the beginning of the bar pilots on the Columbia River bar.
Charles Wilkes, "Report on the Territory of Oregon by Charles Wilkes, Commandeer of the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-42," The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 12 (1911). This report covers all scientific aspects of the northwest from the topography to the people. Wilkes concludes his report with a glowing review of the area.
United States. Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, The Ports of Coos Bay & Astoria, Oregon, Longview & Vancouver, Washington, and Ports on the Columbia River (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1976). These are the best maps for detail that I have seen of the Columbia River entrance.
Frederic G. Young, "Columbia River Improvements," The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 9 (1908) An excellent summary of the improvement projects on the Columbia River during the time period up to 1908. Specifically pg. 91, the building and costs of the jetties from 1884 to 1908.
I went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon on April 20,1998 where I met with Ann Witty the Curator of the museum and did some research with the use of their closed library. During this trip I also went to Fort Canby, Fort Stevens, and the Cape disappointment Coast Guard Station.