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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Clatskanie in Columbia County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
 

“Captain” John West and Westport, Oregon

 
 
"Captain" John West and Westport, Oregon Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 23, 2017
1. "Captain" John West and Westport, Oregon Marker
Inscription. "Captain" John West was a self-made man. A native of Scotland, he settled on the lower Columbia River near this spot in the early 1850s after trying his luck in the goldfields of California. West built and operated sawmills, ran a general store and post office, built and managed a salmon cannery, developed and improve canning machinery, and exported lumber. He also exported canned salmon around the globe and left his name on both a large seafood processor and distributor and on Westport, the Oregon community four miles east, upriver.

Born in 1809, John West immigrated to Quebec where he married and started a family while apprenticing as a millwright. In 1849 he left his family and job to search for gold in California. A year later, with little gold to show for his efforts, he arrived in Astoria and went to work using his knowledge and skills as a millwright.
In 1853, West and his wife Margaret took up a 640-acre Donation Land Claim along the lower Columbia River upon which he soon began construction of a water-powered sawmill. West built a steam-powered sawmill in the early 1860s, and by 1868 he was exporting lumber to Australia. During these years the community of Westport grew up around John West's sawmill on his Donation Land Claim.
The West family sold the mill in the early 1900s. The Westport Lumber
"Captain" John West and Westport, Oregon Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 23, 2017
2. "Captain" John West and Westport, Oregon Marker
Company continued production there until February 1956, when it became uneconomical to operate the mill due to a scarcity logs of sufficient size.

John West also exported salmon from as early as 1857. The first fish West processed were salted, packed in barrels, then shipped to California, where they were loaded on sailing ships and sent around Cape Horn to East Coast ports, and then on to Great Britain. In 1868, West entered into partnership with several others to found the Westport Cannery, the first on the Oregon shore of the Columbia River. The cannery packed 22,000 cases of salmon during the 1873 season and in October of that year won a gold medal from the Oregon Agricultural Society. Salmon canning peaked in the 1880s with 39 canneries in 1883, supported by 1,700 commercial fishing boats along the Columbia River.
West invented an automated can-filling machine and was the first on the lower Columbia River to make use of salmon waste for oil and fishmeal by-products. He also experimented with canning beef, mutton, and blackberries to keep the machinery and workers busy during the salmon off-season. West's brand label for canned foods lives on today as John West Foods Ltd. of Liverpool, England. As a subsidiary of the H.J. Heinz Company, it sells canned fish, fruit, vegetables, and meat all over the world.

"Captain" John West died in 1888 at the age of 79 and is buried in the West family plot at the Westport Cemetery.

Thank you to Bryan C. Aalberg, fourth great-grandson of "Captain" John West, for creation of this marker.
 
Erected by Oregon Travel Experience.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Oregon Beaver Boards marker series.
 
Location. 46° 10.284′ N, 123° 26.19′ W. Marker is near Clatskanie, Oregon, in Columbia County. Marker can be reached from Columbia River Highway (U.S. 30) near Clifton/Shingle Mill Road, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Clatskanie OR 97016, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within 15 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Cathlamet (approx. 3.3 miles away in Washington); Ahlberg Park (approx. 14.4 miles away in Washington); Grays River Covered Bridge (approx. 14 miles away in Washington).
 
More about this marker. This marker is located at Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint.
 
Also see . . .  Oregon Travel Experience - "Captain" John West. (Submitted on February 2, 2018, by Douglass Halvorsen of Klamath Falls, Oregon.)
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceNotable Persons
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 11, 2018. This page originally submitted on February 2, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 46 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on February 2, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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