Ear: Williamsport

From The Daily Astorian, May 21, 1881:"Great bargains are now offered in the city of Williamsport for any persons wishing to locate from one lot to five acres. It is well adapted for gardens, dairy ranches or pleasant homes; well elevated, situated one mile south of Astoria on Youngs Bay, with a good graded road to the place. For further information, call at my residence near the cemetery. John Williamson"

Williamsport, named after Williamson, was referred to as a suburb of Astoria in a December 1879 article provided by Liisa Penner, archivist at the Clatsop County Historical Society, which touted the area as "a new town site for Astorians to think over."

Williamson hoped the 50-acre South Slope tract, adjacent to a much larger one owned by W.W. Parker and J.G. Hustler, would develop into a city in its own right. He claimed the three streams in Williamsport could support 150,000 inhabitants — quite an extravagant boast. He also touted the harbor on Youngs Bay as being a mile wide, with deep water anchorage available, an important feature in that era.

"The main street is the present county road," the article says. "Mr. Williamson will lay out all business streets to a width of 70 feet wide. Lots will be 50 by 100 feet in size, and eight lots to the block."

The proposed city was also in the direct line of the proposed Astoria and Winnemucca Railroad, so Williamson also planned to deed some acreage to the railroad company to use for machine shops. And, he offered alternate lots in that parcel for the cost of the paperwork (about $255 now) to those who would guarantee to build within a certain period of time.

Unfortunately, Williamsport didn't amount to much, probably because the railroad project stalled at Goble (between Deer Island and Rainier) in 1883 — the railroad didn't reach Astoria until 15 years later (bit.ly/AstWinRR).

Perhaps all that's left as a reminder of the not-quite-city is Williamsport Road — likely following the route of the late 1800s "wagon road" or "city park road" — which winds from Youngs Bay to the reservoir near Shively Park, where it becomes 16th Street.

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.

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