HENRY M. KNIGHTON, FOUNDER OF ST. HELENS
— by PEARL BECKER
Page 17, Volume X, 1971
COLUMBIA COUNTY HISTORY
HENRY MONTOMERY KNIGHTON — KNIGHTON HOUSE
Henry Montgomery Knighton, founder of the City of St. Helens, Oregon, was born in 1818 in New Jersey, according to the record he gave in his application for an Oregon Donation Land Claim. He was married April 23, 1841, in Pettis Township, Platte County, Missouri, to Miss Elizabeth Jane Martin. By 1845 when he and Elizabeth came to Oregon by ox team, they had two little girls, Josephine, born in 1842, and Louella, born in 1844, in Missouri.
Elizabeth’s family came in the same wagon train and settled in Yamhill County. Henry Knighton and family stopped at Oregon City, where he started the City Hotel. His building was used for the meeting place of the first territorial Legislature in 1846, for Oregon City was the state capital at that time. Knighton served as sergeant-at-arms for the session. He was appointed U. S. Marshal in 1846, when Joe Meek, the first Marshal, resigned. He was elected to that office in 1848.
In 1847 Knighton took a Donation Land Claim on the lower Columbia, where he established the town of St. Helens, calling it New Plymouth, Kasenau, and finally St. Helens. He interested the Pacific Mail steamship Company to make St. Helens its northern terminus and docks and warehouses were built in 1852. A railroad was planned from this point through Cornelius Pass to the Tualatin Valley. This plan did not develop. The docks burned and the Knightons moved to The Dalles, where he became a ship’s captain on the Columbia River, operating ships between The Dalles and Portland. At the time of his death in 1864 from typhoid fever, he was captain of the steamer Iris of the People’s Transportation Company. He is buried at Vancouver, Washington.
When the family came to St. Helens they lived in a log house where their first son, Sagerlin (called Sam), was born in 1847. It is told that Capt. LeMont’s ship came “around the Horn” in 1850, bringing lumber from Maine, and Knighton’s new house was then built in 1851, using rough lumber from the local mill at Milton, and finishing lumber brought by Capt. LeMont. This is the house where, 119 years later, a plaque has been placed by Mount St. Helens Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution designating the house as a historic site.