Local History: Three Generations of Van Vleet Family Lived at Parkersville
Washougal, WA — Three generations of the Van Vleet family lived at Parkersville, a township established in 1854 by David C. Parker along the shores of the Columbia River and now a national, state and county registered historic site.
The second annual Parkersville Day June 3, 2023, from 12 pm to 3 pm at Parker’s Landing Historical Park, at the Port of Camas-Washougal will celebrate the rich history of the site and families such as the Van Fleet’s who helped shape the communities of Camas and Washougal.
In 1855, Lewis Van Vleet, Sr. traveled the treacherous Oregon Trail from Missouri and took up a residence on a donation land claim in Fern Prairie three miles north of Camas. A dairy farmer, he later brought milk to Parker’s Landing where it traveled by steamship to Portland. On January 16, 1877, the editor of The Independent wrote in a column title Parkersville, “Parkersville is situated on the Columbia River, about sixteen miles from Vancouver. We have at present two steamboats running opposites – the Gazelle and Caliope. They make two trips per week — Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”
In 1858, when Parker died, Lewis Van Vleet, Sr. accepted part of the Parkersville property for his services as the estate administrator. Lewis Van Vleet, Sr. and lived there briefly. Parker’s widow, Ann, retained ownership and lived on the west side of the 581.97-acre donation land claim with her married daughter Mrs. Eliza Wiley.
Louisa, “Lutie”, daughter of Lewis and Ann Van Vleet, became one of the first woman doctors in the Camas and Washougal area, and in Washington State to hold both a medical degree and a license to practice. She treated settlers and indigenous people, covering miles riding side saddle or traveling by horse and buggy. Louisa married William Spicer, a pharmacist and had three children, Cecil, Lewis, and Edith, before the marriage ended.
In July 1880, Louisa purchased 10 acres in Parkersville from her parents that her son, Cecil, would eventually inherit. In 1901, she married James W. Wright, son of Washougal pioneers Emily Durgan and Stephen Wright, Sr. She continued her medical practice, served on the Camas School Board for 12 years, and reluctantly ran for mayor. Without campaigning she lost by one vote. In February 1904, she bought 35 acres in Parkersville and retired to a quiet and mostly deserted Parkersville.
Dr. Louisa Wright died instantly on May 30, 1913, from a horse kick to the chin while hooking up a buggy. Her funeral, held at her home, was well attended by many, some arriving by boat and others by Chinookan canoes.
On June 18, 1917, Cecil changed his name by petition from Spicer to Cecil Van Vleet in admiration of his mother and grandfather. On July 21, 1917, he married Elsie Virginia Moore. They were both teachers. Cecil and Elsie lived at Parker’s Landing during the 1920s. After Elsie died on January 2, 1950, Cecil met his second wife, Mary Roberts, while playing bridge. They lived at Parker’s Landing until he died on December 4, 1977. Cecil was the last of the three generations of Van Vleet families to live there.
The VanVleet home stood in Section B of today’s Parker’s Landing Historical Park until 1978 when it was burned to the ground by an arsonist. The following Monday, a Camas-Washougal Historical Society was formed and pledged a $1000 reward to anyone uncovering the culprit. The society was formed by promoters of the house becoming a museum. The house was thought to have been built in 1878 in Fern Prairie and moved to its waterfront site and had been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The new historical society named interim officers and historical advisors designating a Monday night meeting at 7 pm in the home of Mrs. Bernice Pluchos to discuss bylaws. Membership in the society was $4 per year for individuals and $7 for a family.
Meet members of today’s Camas-Washougal Historical Society, Washougal’s Two Rivers Heritage Museum, Clark County Museum, and Parkersville Heritage Foundation at the second Annual Parkersville Day at Parker’s Landing Historical Park at the Camas-Washougal Port. Learn about our rich local history in a fun, free, educational experience for all ages, on Saturday, June 3, 2023, from 12 pm to 3 pm.
Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/ParkersLandingHistoricalPark.
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