Mossyrock, “The Heart of Lewis County,”

By Buddy Rose – February 7th, 2024
A recap of his presentation at the February 7th Mossyrock Historical Society meeting and Buddy’s Facebook post on that Presentation.

Mossyrock Area Historical Society members and guests enjoyed a slideshow presentation on Mossyrock history at the Feb. 7 meeting. The show followed a tasty dinner of chili dogs and fixin’s plus the usual delicious desserts brought by members.

The presentation on Mossyrock, “The Heart of Lewis County,” began with information about the first European settlers coming to Klickitat Prairie. The fertile prairie was occupied by the Cowlitz and had been by their native ancestors for centuries. Landon Busey and Joseph Mitchell came there in the early 1850s and filed 160-acre Donation Land Claims. Busey’s claim was near where Birley Road now intersects Hwy. 12. Mitchell’s claim was in the area that eventually became the town of Mossyrock. Donation Land Claims were authorized by Congress in 1850 to encourage settlement of the Oregon Territory, which had been established in 1848. The Homestead Act of 1862, which followed, had similar aims for the entire Western U.S.

Busey built a blockhouse for protection on his land near the west end of Klickitat Prairie during the Puget Sound area Indian uprising in 1855. However, when a painted band of potentially hostile Klickitats approached, Busey feared he would be captured and tortured and committed suicide on the prairie near his blockhouse.

Much of the early history of the Mossyrock area was recorded in a detailed paper authored by well-known pioneer Daniel Shaner in 1913 and based on his personal knowledge and experience. Shaner was a Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania who came to the Mossyrock area in 1890. He died in 1926 and many of his descendants lived in the area around Mossyrock. Shaner’s paper was included in the Mossyrock Grange book about the histories of families in School District 206 (Mossyrock) published for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

The slideshow included a number of photos taken from the namesake “mossy rock” overlooking the town from the east that chronicled the growth of the town through the years. The first one was taken sometime between 1912 and 1916 and showed the original high school building beneath the rock that was built in 1912.

Mossyrock became an incorporated city in 1948. Percy Birley was the first mayor and Laurence Deacon was the first city treasurer, a post he held until his retirement from the city in 1975. Deacon was also high school principal at Mossyrock from 1934 until 1967. The first city council members were Lewis Duncan, Lee Childers, Lloyd Carson, Walter Greear and Lowell Redmon. Duncan was also Mossyrock school superintendent from 1929 until his death in 1952.

Pioneer Days, a popular celebration in Mossyrock, took place in late July beginning in 1946. It lasted until about 1956. It featured a kids parade and a grand parade with pioneer themes, costumes and prizes. There were many other activities and contests and usually a baseball game or two.

New guests attending the society meeting included Christel Nixon and her daughter and son-in-law, Tammy and Brent Bradley; all visiting from Kelso. Christel was married to Dean Nixon, a 1950 graduate of Mossyrock High School and lifelong resident of the area who died in 2015.

The next meeting of the Mossyrock Area Historical Society will be on March 6 at the Community Center, beginning with a short business meeting at 5:00 p.m., followed by a fried chicken dinner and a historical slideshow program with the topic to be announced later. Everyone is welcome to attend. Payment for dinner is by donation.