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Originally the site of a Chinook Indian village, the small city of Ridgefield in Clark County grew up on the banks of Lake River, a slow slough of navigable water that starts in Vancouver Lake and flows north and slightly west before emptying into the Columbia River.Ridgefield lies 10 miles north and a little west of Vancouver, the county seat.Seven canoes of Indians came out from this large village to view and trade with us, they appeared orderly and well disposed, they accompanied us a fiew miles and returned back" ( Lewis and Clark returned to trade and visit further with the Cathlapotle on March 29, 1806, and at that time they estimated the settlement's Native population to be 300 (some secondary sources mistakenly transcribe this number as 900), or about 21 persons for each of the 14 large cedar plankhouses.The expedition's relations with the Indians remained friendly, and the principal chief of the village was honored with the gift of a medal.It appears from the record that he was unmarried, and remained so.For 10 years after his arrival, Carty apparently had the future townsite almost to himself, sharing it only with a scattering of surviving Natives who, given the toll taken by imported disease, remained remarkably friendly. Teal, and George Thing, built separate cabins on an island in Lake River near Carty's mainland abode.
A New Generation and a New Name In 1873 James Carty, who alone had started the settlement that was to become Ridgefield, died in the home he had built nearly 35 years earlier, apparently still a bachelor.
The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex lies between the town and the powerful Columbia River three miles to the west.
While in earlier times Ridgefield weathered periods of very slow growth and economic stagnation, in more recent years it has seen rapid development as more people are drawn by its rustic charm, natural setting, and proximity to larger population centers.
His nephew, also named James Carty, arrived some 20 years later, and that nephew's son, William, became a prominent Ridgefield citizen and long-serving state legislator. Although often referred to as "Columbia Island" on early maps, it has come to be known as "Bachelor Island" after these three spouseless settlers.
Alone No More In 1839, three more bachelors arrived, all of whom were employed in sawmills downstream at St. It was not until passage of the Donation Land Claim Act by Congress in 1850 that this small enclave, still known only by the name of its original Native inhabitants, began to slowly develop as a real settlement.
These amiable contacts did not foretell the disaster that was to come.