Naselle River

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the river (above), the valley, and the town of Naselle were known by the name of “Nasel” after the Nasil Indian tribe who inhabited the valley when the first settlers arrived. In 1920, upon the suggestion of teacher/historian Emma Whealdon (who thought the pronunciation more pleasant), the spelling was officially changed to “Naselle.” Ivan Holm’s launch is said to be the forerunner for the name change.

Another familiar name for Stanley Point (the location of dream-cities Stanley, Napoleon, and Chetlo Harbor) is Cougar Bend. Of all the names for that particular location on the Naselle River, the story of “Cougar Bend” is most closely associated with the pioneers of the area. It is also the most tragic and, perhaps, the most memorable.

The story involves the Smith Family, a group of stalwart women from New York City who settled on the Naselle in 1873. They included “Ma” Smith, a widow, her three daughters, Lucy Anne, Hannah, and Eunice (also widowed) and granddaughter Annie. Isaiah, an older brother to the girls, had come ahead and welcomed the family to his small cabin on the river.

At the time of the Smiths’ arrival, there were only two other women living on the Naselle, both of whom were married. As might be expected, the unmarried women of the Smith Family generated a great deal of interest among the bachelors of the valley, and it wasn’t long before Lucy met Charles Holm who had begun to develop his property on the lower river. Lucy and Charles were married November 21, 1874; the bride was 21 and the groom 24. It was thought to be the first wedding in the valley.

In 1881, Eunice, or “Eunie” as she was called, married her cousin Henry Smith and they established their home on Smith Island. The following year their daughter Lucy May was born, and in 1885, son William Henry. Two weeks before William’s birth, however, tragedy struck when Eunice became a widow for a second time.

Henry and a friend were drowned about a mile above the mouth of Nasel. It was in December 1884 and the two men were returning from the head of the bay where they had gone to get Christmas supplies. When the bodies were found, a large cougar was seen to be standing over them and, since that time, the cove has been known as “Cougar Bend.”

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