THE CITY ON WILLAMETTE FALLS
Near the mouth of the Clackamas River, there once stood an old, moss-covered, seemingly dilapidated house 300 feet long. In it lived the entire Clackamas Indian tribe. The Indians along this portion of the Wal-lamt, or Willamette, River were hosts to the hundreds of migrating Molallas, Calapooyas, Multnomahs, Teninos, and Chinooks who came each year to catch salmon at Hyas Tyee Tumwater — what white men named Willamette Falls. The Indians’ permanent marks can still be seen in petroglyphs at the base of the falls on Black Point.
The first white man to take an interest in the Willamette Falls area was Alexander Ross of the North West Company in 1815, who recognized that the falls could supply reliable, year-round power to mills along the river banks. In 1829, John McLoughlin established a land claim at Willamette Falls in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company and began to encourage former trappers to settle nearby. McLoughlin would later buy out the HBC’s interest, putting the claim in his own name before retiring. Next were the Methodists in 1840, when the Reverend Alvin Waller established a mission and started building a church. The Methodists and McLoughlin would be at odds for a dozen years, driven more by strength of personality than by the soon mooted battle for political supremacy in Oregon City.