Jackson Prairie Courthouse

First Courthouse in Washington State

Jackson Prairie Courthouse
This scene, photographed about 1905, shows the home of John Robinson Jackson, one of the first settlers north of the Columbia River. The John R. Jackson home was located in Section 9, Township 12 North, Range 1 West and about nine miles up the Cowlitz Trail from Cowlitz Landing, which was located about one mile down the Cowlitz River from present-day Toledo, Washington.

The Cowlitz Trail was an early route to Puget Sound from Cowlitz Landing at the head of the navigable water route from Fort Vancouver. Cowlitz Landing was located on the 320-acre donation land claim of Frederick Andrew Clarke, where by the summer of 1852 he provided lodging at his home as the Cowlitz Hotel and had a relay of horses at the home of Sidney S. Ford, at Ford's Prairie, so travelers of the Cowlitz Trail could reach Olympia in one day from Cowlitz Landing. It was there at Cowlitz Landing that twenty six delegates representing settlers north of the Columbia River convened for the first Cowlitz Convention, held on August 29, 1851, which resolved that a memorial to Congress should be prepared, petitioning for the organization of a Territorial Government north of the Columbia River. During an earlier Cowlitz Precinct meeting, held on July 7, 1851, at the home of John R. Jackson local plans were made for that first Cowlitz Convention.

The John R. Jackson home was known as the Jackson Prairie courthouse, as the building was used as the first courthouse within the northern part of Oregon Territory, which a few years later became Washington Territory. John R. Jackson House The Jackson home was also established as the “Highland” post office in 1854 and John R. Jackson is listed in the 1855 edition of “Post Offices in the United States”, as postmaster of Highland, Lewis County, Washington Territory. The first record from the Jackson Prairie courthouse is from October 4, 1847, when Sheriff John R. Jackson presented a Lewis County tax assessment roll for examination at the October term of the Commissioners Court of Lewis County. Lewis County was named after Captain Meriwether Lewis, and in 1847 Lewis County included all of what is now western Washington, west of the Cowlitz River and the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Federal Judge William Strong held the first U.S. District Court session north of the Columbia River at the Jackson Prairie courthouse on November 12, 1850. On October 27, 1852 a public meeting of citizens of northern Oregon Territory was also held at the Jackson Prairie courthouse. At this meeting a resolution was passed to appoint and send delegates to a second Cowlitz Convention, to be held at Monticello, Oregon Territory, on the last Thursday of November, for the purpose of memorializing a petition to Congress to establish a separate territory north of the Columbia River.

Monticello was located along the west bank of the Cowlitz River, near the confluence with the Columbia River, and within what is now the present-day city of Longview, Washington. John R. Jackson was one of forty-four delegates who met at Monticello, on November 25, 1852, to sign the Monticello Convention Memorial, the petition to Congress to establish a separate territory north of the Columbia River. The Monticello Convention Memorial stated that the new territory should be named the Territory of Columbia but President Millard Fillmore signed legislation, on March 2, 1853, establishing the new territory as the Territory of Washington, a name proposed by Representative Richard H. Stanton of Kentucky.

Theodore Winthrop wrote a letter, dated July 23, 1853, which described his travels earlier that week over the Cowlitz Trail through Jackson Prairie to Fort Nisqually. That letter was published in The Canoe and The Saddle or Klalam and Klickatat, by Theodore Winthrop, on pages 259-263 (Tacoma, WA: J.H. Williams, 1913).

The restored Jackson Prairie courthouse is located about eleven miles south along the present-day Jackson Highway (old US 99) from Chehalis, Washington and is located near present-day Marys Corner.

Territory of Washington

Home Andrew Craig Magnuson
Forks, Washington
March 15, 2006