The Highway



The celebration of the opening of the Columbia River Highway at Clatskanie last Thursday [12 August 1915] was a complete success with one of the largest crowds in attendance that has graced a like occasion in Columbia County in many months.

From early morning to late in the afternoon, farmers’ rigs and autos from Portland, Astoria and surrounding country arrived in bunches. At about 10:30 o’clock the delegation from Portland, in company with the Governor and State Highway Commission arrived amid the blowing of whistles and the ringing of bells and the celebration was on.


Clatskanie Welcomes Visitors

The townspeople had turned out en masse to extend a welcome and the streets were gay in dress of flags and bunting, while nearly every person appeared to be armed with an American flag. When the Astoria, Seaside and other Portland autos turned into the main street of the town, the throngs on the streets cheered themselves hoarse in welcoming the visitors from every section. Automobiles were parked in the streets of the town and the visiting delegations were piloted to several long rows of tables where an excellent lunch was served by a bevy of Clatskanie’s fairest daughters.

State Aid Promised

Short speeches was made by the Governor and members of the State Highway Commission who congratulated Columbia County upon their magnificent highway and without an exception, every member of the state Highway Commission said that in their opinion Columbia and Clatsop Counties had far exceeded what was expected from them towards building the Columbia River Highway and that it was now up to the State to take the road over, hard surface and maintain it and that they would give their utmost endeavors and first consideration over other highways towards this end. Such promises from the State Highway Commission brought forth great applause from the many hundreds of people massed along the main streets of Clatskanie.

Short talks were delivered from several other prominent men among whom were: Senator Chamberlain, S. Benson, Sam Hill, and Julius Meier.

Road’s Value is Seen

The Portland folks who made the trip, if they were not convinced before they started, became convinced last Thursday that the Columbia River Highway justifies the time, the money and the effort expended in its construction. “If seeing is believing: said Julius L. Meier, president of the Highway Association, “I am convinced that every one who was in this party today believes that the Columbia River Highway will serve a valuable purpose, not only to the county that it touches directly, but to the whole state as well.

“It not only affords Portland an easy overland route to the ocean, but it answers an even more worthy purpose, it redeems thousands upon thousands of fertile acres to development that heretofore have been neglected on account of the lack of proper transportation facilities. It opens some more of God’s own country for settlement.”



A party consisting of Mrs. C. R. Melville, Mrs. Maravell Hunter, and Mrs. O. Makinster walked from Goble to Rainier last Tuesday over the Columbia River Highway. “Not so much of a trip” you may think. But how about it, when it is known that Mrs. C. R. Melville is 61 years old. When asked if the trip tired her, Mrs. Melville replied “Not in the least. I expect to walk back and am ready to start now.” “I enjoyed the trip very much”, said Mrs. Melville, “and expect to try and make the whole distance to Astoria afoot in the near future, and I believe I can do it.”



While Columbia River Highway is A Beautiful Drive, It Also Opens Up Thousands of Acres of Fertile Lands. (From Oregon Journal)

More history was made last Thursday when the link in the Columbia river highway from Portland to the sea was dedicated and formally opened to travel. The vision of a magnificent highway paralleling the mighty river of the west is being realized. A few days ago the section on the upper river was thrown open. Now comes in turn the section along the lower river on which has been expended approximately one million dollars between the Multnomah county line and Seaside.

The first party to pass over the road Thursday consisted of members of the Columbia highway association, state and county officials and good roads advocates.

In its announcement of the official opening of the road the arrangements committee of the Columbia Highway association says: “No event in road construction that has yet occurred has greater significance to Oregon than this. This highway in addition to its scenic value, opens up a magnificent agricultural and industrial county. We are profoundly interested in this territory made accessible by a high class highway at a very great sacrifice on the part of the people of the state and must show our appreciation by joining in a grand demonstration on the official opening day. Do not forget that we want the ladies with us on this historic trip. Gasoline obtainable all along the line.”

Hill’s Prophecy Comes True

One morning about four years ago Samuel Hill entered his office in this city and greeted his secretary, J. C. Potter, with this announcement: ” A highway can be built down the Columbia river to the sea on a five per cent grade. I know it can be done because I have just walked over the route.” “It can’t be done”, retorted Potter as he looked up from his work. When Mr. Hill broached the subject to others they politely told him he was crazy. Even if it was practicable they said it could be of no great benefit to the community and would be a needless expense. Hill persisted in his “craziness” until his friends began to avoid him. Finally he succeeded in bringing a few of them up to the mourner’s bench where they could see the light as he saw it. Prominent among these was Julius L. Meier, who had been talking about a road to the coast through Washington county into the Nehalem country and thence to Astoria.

About this time the people of Clatskanie and Rainier began to talk better roads and a connection with the outside world. Clatskanie had heard of Mr. Meier and he was invited to come down to Macedonia and help organize a movement.

The idea of a through road to Portland began to take root next in Seaside, Gearhart, and Astoria.

After a few informal meetings had been held Mr. Meier called a general meeting at Gearhart, Labor day 1912. The meeting was attended by a few good roads enthusiasts from Clatsop, Columbia, and Washington and Multnomah counties. Many of these saw obstacles in the way that could not be overcome. There was the great cost to consider and where was the money to come from? A common objection was that it was 20 years too soon to begin such an undertaking.

On the other hand there were a few who had the vision. Among those was Robert Yount of Rainier, who declared that he would have his community take off its coat and build a portion of the highway with pick and shovel.

J. M. Conyers of Clatskanie said that his town would do as much as Rainier. Then there was E. C. Judd, county judge of Clatsop County, who said that it could be done.


Organization is Completed

After full discussion it was decided to form an organization for the purpose of inaugurating a campaign of education. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution and bylaws and adopt a name. The name reported by the committee was “Columbia River Boulevard.” “Cut out the Boulevard,” said Chairman Meier. “Boulevards are associated with scenic drives. This is to be a highway for the farmer as well as the tourist.” “Right you are, Julius.” interjected Samuel Hill. “Call it the Columbia highway and make it a highway as monumental as the river it parallels.”

Out of the meeting was born the Columbia Highway association with Julius L. Meier, president; W. D. B. Dodson, Secretary, and Paul Wessinger, treasurer. A year was then spent on a campaign of education. In September, 1913, another general meeting was held at Gearhart. The result of the preceding year’s agitation was made manifest by an increased attendance and greater enthusiasm. “Bob” Yount was there more hopeful than ever. There also present A. S. Benson, John B. Yeon and Rufus C. Holman, with all the zeal of new converts. The general result of this meeting was that the time had arrived to begin the work of actual construction. The county courts of Clatsop and Columbia counties gave assurance that they would have a survey made under the direction of the state highway department.

After re-electing its officers the association adjourned under the slogan: “From Portland to the Sea in 1914” The next step was the authorization of the survey and location of the route.

Then came the campaign for the issuance of bonds to provide funds to build the road. In this campaign a prominent figure was Frank Terrace, a dairyman of King county, Washington. His effective presentation of the value of good roads was largely influential in bringing the campaigns to a successful issue.

Clatsop county bonded itself in the sum of $400,000. Of this amount $205,000 was appropriated for the Columbia highway. Columbia county issued bonds to the amount of $360,000 and set aside $260,000 for the highway. Contracts were let for the work last May.

In Clatsop county everything proceeded smoothly but in Columbia county differences arose between the county court members and the state engineer over location and funds. As a result the members of the county court were recalled by the voters.

When the rainy season set in last fall the road was still unfinished and funds were exhausted. The trouble between the engineers and the contractors in both counties is a matter of recent history. It is sufficient to say that these were finally adjusted and work was resumed early this summer on the road with state aid.

At last it has reached that stage of completion which will permit travel in good weather. It is far from a finished road yet. To make it so there is a moral obligation resting on Portland enthusiasts to assist in securing aid from the state or private sources.

The counties of Columbia and Clatsop have done their share and have burdened themselves with a heavy debt to do so. During the campaign, promises were made to have the state put on the hard surface.

So much for the history of the road. From a standpoint of developing the country it opens up a vast section hitherto inaccessible. On the upland there are hundreds of thousands of acres of rich land and on the lowlands or delta thousands of acres that can now be easily reached. The highway will be a trunk line for an immense region of great possibilities.

As a scenic highway it is a fitting supplement to the one along the upper river. While not so rugged in character there is a beautiful blending of landscape and river that is unsurpassed. The roadbed is the product of skillful engineering and of a most permanent character.

The grade is 24 feet in width under five per cent and the curves are sweeping and graceful. Probably the most scenic point is Bugby Point, 1300 feet above sea level. The highway approach to Bugby pass and down the supported grade around the loops and for a distance of two miles beyond the loops afford a wonderful panoramic view of the Columbia river, its wooded hills, cultivated valleys and towns along its banks as far as the eye can see. The highway for three miles of its length is also in full view from the top of the hill and from many points along the line.

The distance from Portland to Seaside over the highway is approximately 125 miles.

The mileage from Portland to other points is as follows; to St. Helens, 28.9; to Goble, 40.3; to Rainier, 47.3; to Clatskanie, 65.7; to Astoria, 104.8; to Gearhart, 122.5.

Compiled by Larry Rea
from news articles contained in “The Rainier Review”

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