Driving around Clark County, my mind often wanders. I start to think about the history of the area and try to picture just what happened to get Battle Ground its name. Even as a long time resident I have no idea what battle was fought there, and after asking around it seems to be a mystery.
As I went on to research the names of some of the local cities and sites I remembered from childhood, an interesting tapestry of history unfolded. That battle I was searching for that gave Battle Ground its name simply never happened. Read below to discover the history behind some of the regional names in Clark County.
For residents of Washington state, there are always questions about living in DC versus the Pacific Northwest. There seems to be a lot of confusion about why we have both Washington, DC, and Washington state. Oddly enough the naming of two Washingtons was done to clear up confusion between DC and the state.
In 1791 the official capital of the United States was named “Territory of Columbia.” In 1852 settlers in Northern Oregon asked Congress to make their land a separate territory and wanted to call it “Columbia Territory.” Naming the new area after the first President was a compromise to avoid two Columbias. It wasn’t until years later that the capital was re-named Washington DC. This is how there ended up being two Washingtons.
No spoiler alert needed here, the county got its name from half of the famous exploring duo, Lewis, and Clark. Clark County was the first county in the state and was actually on the map before there was a Washington state. In 1845, the leadership of the Oregon Territory created Clark County. At that time the county was about the size of modern-day Washington state.
There seem to be several version of the local story about how this tiny town got its name. The one that seems the most logical dates back to a petition for a post office started by A.M. Ball in 1886. To have a post office, the town needed a name. It seems there were three male settlers in the area with the initials AMB. They called themselves the A.M. Boys. The name stuck.
The area was officially named Battle Ground in 1902 by A.M. Richter after a battle that never really happened. It was tied to the short-lived Indian Wars of 1855-1856. A band from the Klickitat tribe slipped away from Fort Vancouver where local troops followed them. While there was an exchange of gunfire as shots were fired in the air, no real battle took place. The single death that day was Chief Umtux.
The area above Battle Ground was once a part of the Bowman homestead. One of the children named it because it was swampy and brush covered prairie.
This area earned its name from early settlers due to the distinct sent of cedar in the area. This break from the typical landscape became not only a welcome sight for the travelers but a landmark towards the end of their travels.
The names come from a native word meaning an area covered in ferns. The lush greenery helped name the local Chelatchie Creek. In 1853 a surveyor for the railroad extended the name beyond the creek and it became Chelatchie Prairie. The railroad history is still a considerable part of the area.
This area got its name entirely by accident. In 1917 the Dollar family bought the land to build a store and filling station. At the time the local Sheriff told the deputies to only patrol as far as the store. They started to refer to the area as Dollar Corner. Locals adopted the name for the surrounding area long after the store closed.
Five Corners is officially on the map as a US Census Bureau recognized area. The confusing thing about the current location is that due to recent street upgrades there is no longer a point where the five corners come together. The sale of a large farm in the area gave way to more development and the end to the five-sided intersection.
While Clark from Lewis & Clark got a county named after him, many assume this river was named after the other half of the exploring team. This is not the case. The river was named by an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company who was not related to Lewis.
It seems Meriwether Lewis did name the river first, but he called it the Cathlepootle for the natives that lived by the water. That name means “people who live along the rocky water.”
Adolphus Lewes was the employee, and he later changed his last name to Lewis. He re-named the river after himself.