Sauvie Island, Oregon

Sauvie Island, Oregon

Ship passing Sauvie Island

Sauvie Island lays in the Columbia River, still an important transportation route two hundred years later.

Sauvie Island is a rural area in the Columbia River about twelve miles northwest of Portland Oregon. It’s a close-nit farming community that plays host to tourists on a frequent basis. In addition to the farms and produce stands on the island, there is a substantial wildlife area for fishing, bird watching, hiking, and beaches. Not to mention a large clothing optional beach for those who are looking for such things. If you are going to enjoy the wildlife areas or the beach areas, be sure to purchase a parking pass at one of the local stores or online.

Sauvie Island Barn

An older barn hidden away in the weeds on Sauvie Island. The area is full of such sights.

One of the island’s most over looked features is it’s history. When Europeans arrived in 1792, the island was home to about 2000 Chinook Indians of the Multnomah Tribe. The first Europeans to arrive on the island was Lieutenant William Broughton of Captain George Vancouver’s expedition. He named many features along the Columbia River and on the island, including Mt. Hood which is visible from the southern end of the island.

Eagle Flying over Sauvie Island

Lewis and Clark named the island Wappatoe Island when they passed through in 1805 after the Wappatoe plant gathered and eaten by the natives. They noted in their journal on the return trip that it was a space of fertile ground.

Lifeboat wrecked on Sauvie Island

Lifeboat wrecked on Sauvie Island

Fort Vancouver was established up the river a few miles in the Winter of 1824-1825. The British and French-Canadian trappers brought diseases to the area that wiped out many indians in 1829. Among them was the bulk of the Multnomahs on Sauvie Island. Dr. John McLoughlin and the Hudson’s Bay Company removed survivors from the island and burned settlements to get rid of the disease that killed them.

Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth built Fort William on the western side of the island in 1834 in an attempt to compete against the powerful Hudson’s Bay Company based out of Fort Vancouver. This competition was among the HBC’s reasons for hunting many fur animals to extinction throughout Oregon. Wyeth abandoned the fort in 1836, and later sold his interest in the fort and the area to the Hudson Bay Company in 1837.

Two interesting events happened at Fort William during this time. A sailor jumped ship in 1835 and settled in the area. He was not seen after a few years, but it’s thought that he simply changed his name to keep from getting caught and settled into Pioneer life.

The second event was the murder of the Fort’s Tailor by Thomas J. Hubbard. The trial was presided over by naturalist John Kirk Townsend, and a jury acquitted Hubbard as alcohol was involved. The tailor was a known drunk and based on descriptions an abusive man. Hubbard married the object of the argument, a native girl named Mary St Martin, on April 3, 1837. He later went on to participate in the Champoeg Meetings that led to Oregon becoming a state.

Life in Abundance

The Hudson Bay Company officially settled the island in 1846 by sending Laurent Sauvé and 400 cattle to the island for the purpose of starting a dairy. They sold butter and cheese to Russian settlements in Alaska. Sauvé’s name became the name of the island.

In 1845 Robert E. Miller, his wife Sara Fergueson, 8 of their children and their families all settled on the island. James Francis Bybee, who was married to Julia Ann Miller, claimed the area of Howell Territorial Park. Bybee made his fortune in the gold fields of California and returned to build what is now known as the Bybee-Howell House located in the park.

Until 1920, the Island was flooded at least once a year in the early summer. This was when The Army Corp of Engineers built dikes around the island to protect it from the seasonal floods. A bridge was added in 1950 to replace the ferry system. This bridge was in turn replaced in 2006.

History sign about Sauvie Island Bridge.
Sauvie Island

Back of picture says “Sauvie Island – Toots Campbell, Ciara Ruhlin.”

Directions:
From Portland head north on Highway 30 of off I-405. You’ll go through the North West Industrial area and then through the town of Linnton. Follow the signs to the right to Sauvie Island and cross the bridge.

Books about Sauvie Island

Kiki Canniff – Suavie Island; A Step Back in Time

J.D Cleaver’s Sauvie Island Heritage Series:
– Island Immigrants
– Island Life: Pioneer Homesteading
– Island Origins: Trappers, Traders and Settlers
– The Artists Patecky: A Place in History

Omar C Spencer – The story of Sauvies Island

Thomas Vaughan – Bybee-Howell House on Sauvie Island: The Oregon Territorial Farmstead

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  1. The real history of this island is the native people, not the white honkies who brought disease, built companies, and took what wasn’t theirs. This island should be renamed “Chinook Island”, because of who was there first. Whites intruding and possessing others’ land and resources is typical, just like the Iraq war.

    • Hello Jake! Thank you for stopping by! Do you by chance have knowledge of the history of the island before Settlers came to the area?