Date of visit: October 15, 2011
Population: 12,883 (2010 Census)
Of all the ports on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, St. Helens was the second largest behind Portland in 1852. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company had chosen St. Helens for its main office and built a large wharf designed specifically for steamboats. In October 1853 the company announced that the mail steamer that ran between Portland and San Francisco would now terminate its journey at St. Helens. Passengers and freight leaving from Portland would be shuttled to St. Helens.
Portland businessmen retaliated by inviting any other steamship that would serve Portland to do so. The Peytona was just such a ship, and in December Portland businessmen signed a resolution stating “Whereas, the recent course of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, in stopping their regular vessels at St. Helens, is antagonistic to the best interests of Portland, be it therefore resolved: that we the merchants and businessmen of Portland, pledge ourselves to encourage and sustain the steamship Peytona, now in port, to continue as a regular packet between this city and San Francisco, by giving her all our freight and influence.”
Now that the Pacific Mail Steamship Company had no Portland freight to transport, they found that they didn’t have enough cargo to carry from St. Helens alone. By February, they had no choice but to reverse their decision, and from then on their mail steamer terminated its trips at Portland. St. Helens became just a stop along the way, and eventually even that stop was eliminated. The expensive dock built at St. Helens was abandoned and later destroyed in a fire.