Name: Boones Landing
GPS: Latitude: 45.2940085, Longitude: -122.7756506
Directions: From I-5 take the Willsonville Road Exit (Second Willsonville Exit it headed from the north, first if headed from the south.) Turn right on to SW Willsonville Road. Take the next left on to Boones Ferry Road before Fred Meyers. Historic Boones Ferry is ahead and mostly on the left. The City of Willsonville maintains a map of historic properties in the area.
The original ferry location is easy to find, the north end is Boones Landing Park and the trail up the hill from the water can still be seen. The southern side is the marina in between the railroad tracks and modern day I-5.
Alphonso Boone apparently inherited his grandfather, National Hero Daniel Boone’s, wanderlust and need to always head west across the United States. He moved to Independence Missouri in 1841, to outfit traders and caravans on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1843 he started serving those west ward bound travelers on the Oregon Trail. In 1846 Alphonso, his seven (or ten depending on source,) children, his sister Panthea Boone and her husband, former governor of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs joined a Wagon Train in 1846 with nine or eleven wagons between them.
The 1846 wagon train consisted of many of Oregon and California’s early prominent settlers. Members of the ill-fated “Donner Party” traveled with the Boones under the leadership of Captain William Henry Russell towards California. Other settlers in the party included future Governor of the Oregon Territory, George Law Curry, who courted and married Boone’s oldest daughter Chloe.
Boone planned to depart from the train somewhere near Fort Hall. The wagon train was loosely associated with each other and had many partings and joining of other trains along the route. Russell ended up resigns as Captain two weeks in. The Donner party left the train and a week later the Boggs left the train to follow the Donner Party. The were lucky enough to not get lost and avoided the Donner Party’s fate by only a few days.
Alphonso and the remaining Boones met Jesse Applegate at Fort Hall on August 8, 1846 who was promoting a new “southern” route through Oregon to the Willamette Valley. This would by pass much of the problems along the Snake River to Columbia River route. 100 wagons set out on August 9th and encountered quite a few problems along the way. On October 16, 1846, Martha Leland Crowely died of typhoid and was buried along what became known as Grave Creek.
The wagon train finally arrived “in the Willamette Valley” around Christmas time. In those days this meant a winter spent at Oregon City. That Spring Alphonso Boone and family traveled “up river” and claimed 1000 acres on the south side of the Willamette River. They established a ferry service along an indian trail that ran from Salem to Portland, becoming the first ferry run by white settlers. Oldest son Jesse started clearing and improving the trail which soon became a major thoroughfare. This road still exists today as Boones Ferry Road.
The Boone men left for the 1848 California gold rush where Alphonso died. The sons made their fortune and some returned to Oregon. The Ferry continued to be run by Alphonso Junior for a while, but he soon sold the business to Jesse Boone who had been so instrumental in building the road that brought success to the ferry. He ran it until his own death in 1872.
Soon after the ferry was established, the community of Boones Landing started. A Post Office was established on April 10, 1868 with William A. Criswell as the first post master under the name Boon. The Post Office closed only a few years later on March 19, 1869, but reopened again on December 7, 1876 as Boon’s Ferry under Charles Wilson. It lasted until June 3, 1880 when Wilsonville was formerly platted and became a town. Wilsonville included the town of Boones Landing, effectively destroying the town as a separate entity.
The Ferry continued to run for several more decades. Competition came from the Oregon Electric Railway company who build a railroad bridge (which still exists) across the Willamette river in 1910. But the ferry continued to be operated by the State of Oregon until 1954, when the I-5 bridge across the river was completed.
Historic Oregon City – The Boone Family
Update – Pictures were taken on my trip to Boones Landing in August, 2014. These are from the old town area of Willsonville on the south side of the Willamette River.