Ear: Pillar

An interesting tidbit from a March 1887 edition of The Daily Astorian:

• … A heavy landslide occurred one mile below Pillar Rock, Washington Territory … a mass of earth sliding from the bluff into the water, carrying trees, soil, rocks, etc., and completely demolishing two houses owned and occupied by (two families who made) their escape in their night clothing. Both families are reported to be in a destitute condition.

Note: Taking a look at a geological map reveals that yes, indeed, the area is a landslide zone (bit.ly/Pillarmap). The town of Pillar Rock took its name from a monolith that sits about 900 feet offshore in the Columbia River, a few miles east of Altoona. Both the area and the rock are steeped in history.

The rock's original name was Taluaptea, after a Wahkiakum chief. He angered the gods, who turned him to stone. Originally 75 to 100 feet high, Pillar Rock was eventually flattened to 25 feet to install a navigation marker and light.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped at Pillar Rock twice, first on Nov. 7, 1805, when William Clark's famous quote "Great joy in camp we are in View of the Ocian …" was written. They stopped again on Nov. 25 that year, while backtracking to find a narrower spot to cross the Columbia.

In the 1830s, a Hudson's Bay Co. fish receiving station and saltery was operational at Pillar Rock during salmon season. From 1877 to 1947, the Pillar Rock Cannery packed salmon. In 1947, the decline in both the salmon and Chinook runs caused both the Altoona and Pillar Rock canneries to close.

The Pillar Rock Cannery still stands, but is now privately owned, and isn't accessible except by invitation or (history buffs, take note) during a stay at the Pillar Rock Cannery Escape Airbnb. (bit.ly/PillarRock, bit.ly/PillarRock1)

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.