Columbia county, lying east of Clatsop in the great bend of the lower Columbia, was cut off from Washington county January 23, 1854. It contains 575 square miles, and has a water line of over fifty miles in extent. It has between fourteen and fifteen thousand acres of land under improvement, value, with the buildings, at $406,000, with live-stock worth over $77,000, and farm products worth $73,000, consisting of the cereals, hay, potatoes, butter, and cheese. It has several lumbering establishments and a few smaller manufactories. The natural resources of the county are timber, coal, building stone, iron, fish, and grass. The assessed valuation upon real and personal property in 1879 was $305,283. The population was little over 2,000, but rapidly increasing. St. Helen, situated at the junction of the lower Willamette with the Columbia, is the county seat. It was founded in 1848 by H.M. Knighton, the place being first known as Plymouth Rock, but having its name changed on being surveyed for a town site. It is finely situated for a shipping business, and has a good trade with the surrounding country, although the population is not above four hundred. There are coal and iron mines in the immediate vicinity. Columbia City, founded in 1867 by Jacob and Joseph Caples, two miles below St. Helen, is a rival town of about half the population of the latter. It has a good site, and its interests are identical with those of St. Helen. The Pacific branch of the Northern Pacific railway passes across both town-plats, coming near the river at Columbia City. Rainier, twenty miles below Columbia City, was laid off in a town by Charles E. Fox about 1852. Previous to 1865, by which time a steamboat line to Monticello on the Cowlitz was established, Rainier was the way-station between Olympia and Portland, and enjoyed considerable trade. Later it became a lumbering and fishing establishment. The other settlements in Columbia county are Clatskanie, Marshland, Pittsburg, Quinn, Riverside, Scappoose, Vernonia, Neer City, Bryantville, and Vesper.

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