Washington Hall's Donation Land Claim

The location of Washington Hall's Donation Land Claim can be seen at the lower right on this 1950 Metsker Map of Section 22 township 9 North Range 11 West W.M. (Willamette Meridian) Pacific County map.

From 1818 to 1846, the vast expanse of Oregon Country encompassed the area that now forms part of the present-day Canadian province of British Columbia, all of the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming. When the inhabitants of Oregon Country formed a Provisional Government in the Spring of 1843, they adopted a constitution “until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us.” A section of the constitution covered land claims. Individuals were allowed 640 acres, said to be the most generous federal land act in the U.S. history.

In 1848, Washington Hall arrived at Chinook Point on the north bank of the Columbia River (which was in Oregon Country) and filed for his Donation Land Claim (DLC) the following year. By then, Elijah White and his band of settlers had also reached the north shore of the Columbia near Cape Disappointment where they intended to build Pacific City. White boasted it would rival San Francisco and become the Western New York. White, also, immediately filed for his DLC. Meanwhile, Judge John Champ, living on the northeastern shore of Shoalwater Bay, also filed for his DLC.

It was Washington Hall who surveyed all three DLCs. It was Hall, also, who surveyed the plat for his Chenookville, for White’s Pacific City, and for Champ’s Willapi City (which was never recorded.) Surely, at least one of the three men realized that all three plats were illegal. All three had been surveyed before patents were issued.

A patent was the document signed by the president of the United States giving title to the land. In order to get the patent, the applicant was required to improve and live on the land for a specified amount of time and provide proof to the government that all of the requirements of the DLC laws had been met. Once the patent had been issued, the plat could be surveyed. So, in actuality, neither of the first two Pacific County settlements was legal — not Pacific City and not Chenookville.

Perhaps it was Champ who, in his capacity as judge, understood the law more fully than White or Hall. And perhaps it was for that reason that he did not follow through with his Willapi City. If so, one wonders if he shared his concerns with White or Hall. Perhaps…

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