Explore the delightful villages of the Greater Willapa Valley…
Bay Center, Washington
The picturesque village of Bay Center is one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in Pacific County. Located on the Goose Point Peninsula of Willapa Bay, the town depends heavily on commercial fishing and seafood farming and processing for its existence. Dungeness crab, salmon, Pacific Oysters and Manila Clams are the major products of Bay Center. Fresh Willapa Bay oysters and seafood are available for purchase at many of the canneries of Bay Center.
The Goose Point Peninsula was the site of an Indian encampment and trading ground before and after the arrival of White settlers. Bay Indians called the river and camp Palix, meaning “slough covered with trees”. Joel Brown, who took a Land Claim in the area now known as Rhodesia Beach (named for the Rhoades family) in 1853, was the first White settler on the peninsula. By 1873 the beachfront on the point was crowded with homes occupied by farmers and oystermen.
Around the turn of the century there were so many churches on the point residents referred to the town as either “New Jerusalem” or “Saint’s Rest”. (Pacific County Historical Society.
Menlo is a small community in Willapa Valley and home to Pacific County Fairgrounds.
Around 1851, Captain Herman Croker had a claim on the Willapa River near the future site of Menlo. In November 1855, members of the Keil Colony arrived in the valley and filed Donation Land Claims throughout the valley.
When a post office was established on September 5, 1894, the department decided on the name “Menlo”. The name was taken from the sign settler John Brophy had erected to advertise his real estate development in the area. The sign originally read “Menlo Park” but had been moved around the valley so much only “Menlo” remained when the post office adopted the name. (Thanks to Pacific County Historical Society)
Lebam is a farming and residential community on Hwy. 6. Settlers first moved to the site in 1879 and called their little community Half Moon Prairie, or Half Moon Creek.
When the post office was established May 26, 1890, postmaster Jotham “Joe” Weeks Goodell was asked to supply a shorter name. Goodell considered various alternatives but finally submitted the reversed spelling of his daughter Mabel’s name.
Lebam was a prosperous sawmill and farming district town for nearly three decades. Two calamitous fires in the 1920’s almost destroyed the town but residents rebuilt both times. (Courtesy of Pacific County Historical Society)
Frances is a farming community on Highway 6.
E.H.McHenry, chief engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad survey crew who passed through the area in 1892, bestowed the name. Frances was his wife’s middle name.
Several Swiss/German families settled in the area in 1886 and have been a dominant group in the community for over 100 years. Descendants hold a variety of ethnic celebrations at the Swiss Picnic Grounds on Elk Prairie Road each year. (Courtesy of Pacific County Historical Society)
Nemah is a farming community on Highway 101 and the Nemah rivers. Nemah is the site of an old Indian village and was a logging camp, 1890s to 1920s. A small band of Chinook Indians known as the “Marhoo” or “Nemar” camped on the river, fished for salmon and gathered oysters prior to the arrival of White settlers.
A logging railroad connected Nemah with several camps in the Willapa Hills- during and after WWI. The Nemah Community hall (formerly the schoolhouse) and several homes and farms are all that remain of the community. (Pacific County Historical Society)
The community developed near the mouth, or delta, of the three Nemah rivers (North, Middle and West Fork) in the 1890s. Access to the settlement was by water until the Ocean Beach highway was built in the 1920s.