Why Not Willapa?
The Story of How Aurora Almost Didn't Happen
This newest exhibit at the Old Aurora Colony Museum features historic photography, personal letters, artifacts, art and even a miniature model of the “Lot Whitcomb” paddlewheel steamship.
The Second Eden
Ten scouts, seeking an isolated “Second Eden” for their new western colony arrived at Fort Vancouver on October 10, 1853. They were directed North to Fort Steilacoom where Emma Giesy would give birth to Andrew Jackson her first child nine days later.
Over the next few months the scouts learned about the many political agreements and economic deals that were simultaneously transforming and developing the new Washington Territory. Here also, they made partnerships with members of the Railroad survey party and settlers who encouraged them to visit the Willapa Valley.
In July of 1854 the scouts helped build a “road” to and from Willapa. Two months later Christian Giesy secured their first claim for a Second Eden in the Willapa valley and several scouts returned to Bethel with the news.
“No Wonder The Men Became Farmers”
That the Willapa valley was going to be a difficult place to build a “Second Eden” can be gleaned from the accounts of other pioneers. Mark Bullard, For example, arrived at Shoalwater Bay on August 12, 1853 and soon established a partnership with Sam Woodard and James Henry Whitcomb to ship logs to the San Francisco market.
It was slow going at first:
Logs were hewed out into square timbers for compact loads in the small sailing vessels and to prevent cargo from slipping. The first load was profitable; the second load was lost at sea; the third froze in the water and the fourth rotted for lack of a market. Four loads with pay for only one—No wonder the men became farmers.
A Leader in the “Second Eden.”
Before Dr. Wilhelm Keil arrived at Willapa in October of 1855, Christian Giesy was taking an active part in the life of Chehalis County, Washington Territory.
July 9, 1855: Elected Justice of the Peace for Chehalis County
On October 29, 1855: Volunteered as a member of the Chehalis County Militia.
After Keil rejected Willapa and left for the Willamette Valley, Giesy continued to stay involved.
July 14, 1856: Received the highest number of votes (22) as Territorial representative from Chehalis County.
We’ll never know if Christian Giesy ever intended to go to Aurora as he drowned at Willapa on July 7, 1857.