Located on the Columbia River just east of Vancouver, the area now known as Camas was first settled in the mid-1840s. The earliest industries in the town were sawmills established by Jacob Hunsaler in 1846 and H.J.G. Maxon in 1852, but both mills were destroyed in a fire.
Then in 1883 Henry L. Pittock and his partners were looking for a place to build a paper mill to supply his Oregonian newspaper. They selected the Maxon Donation Land Claim largely because of Lacamas Creek above the proposed mill site. Water power was essential to run the paper mill’s machinery.
A six- by ten-block town site was laid out west of the planned paper mill. The town would house settlers who arrived to work at the paper mill and at a new sawmill also being built. A dam was built on Round Lake, raising its level twelve feet and creating a log pond for the sawmill.
From La Camas to Camas
The LaCamas Colony Company, which planned the town, took their name from a deep blue lily called Kamass or Kamiss by the Native Americans, who used the flower for food. To the early French settlers, it became La Camas. In 1906, when the town of Camas was incorporated, the “La” was dropped to avoid confusion with La Center and La Conner.
First as the Columbia River Paper Company and then as part of the Crown Zellerbach Corporation, the paper company Pittock founded continued to flourish. In 1987, the mill was acquired by James River Corporation, which initiated a $34 million investment program to expand capacity and reduce pollution.
In recent years, the city has significantly expanded its boundaries to the north and east through annexation, and now covers more than 12 square miles. The arrival of major high tech industries in Camas in the late 1980s has added to the present economic diversity of the community.
For more about Camas, visit the city’s Web site at: www.ci.camas.wa.us/community/aboutcam.htm