The original inhabitants of the Ridgefield area were a Chinook tribe whose village was located along the banks of Lake River.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition visited the area twice, once in 1805 en route to the Pacific Ocean and the next in 1806 on the return voyage. The Chinook Indians stayed until 1876 when they relocated to the mouth of the Lewis River.
In 1840, a young Irish immigrant named James Carty filed the first Land Donation Claim in the area, a portion of which is in what is the present-day the northern part of downtown Ridgefield. His nephew, James Carty visited in 1860 and later settled in the area in 1872. Records indicate that the younger Carty was active in the Democratic Party and his son William Carty was a state representative for the State of Washington for 22 years.
History indicates that Mr. Carty was the only settler until 1853 when Frederick Shobert arrived to homestead 320 acres, which included the southern portion of the current downtown area. Family members say Mr. Shobert chose this land because he wanted to log the heavy timber that covered it.
In the years that followed, more settlers were drawn to the gently sloping land extending from elevated highland to the banks of Lake River. The original name of the community was Union Ridge due to the number of residents originating from the Union Ranks of the Civil War. The name was changed to Ridgefield in 1890 after S. P. Mackay successfully circulated a petition to rename the area and a meeting was called to order to decide the fate of the city name.
The Post Office was established in the home of the first Postmaster, Asa Richardson, 1865, and commerce came to Ridgefield in 1882 when Stephen Shobert and J.J. Thompson opened the first store.
At a special election held in 1909 the people decided by a vote of 62-12 in favor of incorporation. The first officials of the City were James A. Smith, Mayor, and Council members N.C Hall, A. Murray, J.S. Maxson, F.H. Gilbert and Dr. R.S. Stryker. The City Clerk was J.W. Blackburn and the Treasurer was E.A. Blackmore.
The established businesses for the City in 1909, as advertised in the Ridgefield Reflector, were two general merchandise stores, a department store, two lumber mills, a water well contractor & driller, two contractors and builders,a boat builder, meat market, hotel, livery and draying, boot & shoemaker, creamery, barber shop, blacksmith, realtor, and a weaver.
Other pioneering families settling in the Ridgefield area were the Wells, Bartel, Meuler, and McDonald families. These families, along with the Cartys, Shoberts, and other prominent families played an important role in the progress and development of Ridgefield. Descendants of these families still reside in Ridgefield.
Important Dates in Ridgefield’s History
- 1840- James Carty becomes first settler in the area
- 1865- Post Office established
- 1890- Union Ridge renamed Ridgefield
- 1892- School opened on Maple Avenue
- 1893- First telephone installed
- 1909- Town of Ridgefield incorporated by a vote of 62-12
- 1909- The Ridgefield Reflector started publication (now in Battle Ground)
- 1910- Ridgefield State Bank opened on the corner of Main & Pioneer
- 1911- Eight-room school building opened (now View Ridge Middle School)
- 1913- Bratlie- McClellen Lumber Mill built
- 1916- Electric service established by Bratlie Lumber Company1916-
- 1916- Steamboat “City of Ridgefield” was launched for a Ridgefield-Portland run
- 1928- Clark County Potato Growers Association organized
- 1945- L.S. Shoen built the first U-Haul trailer in a tool shed at the Carty Ranch
- 1946- Liberty Theatre opened
- 1964- Pacific Wood Treating Plant opened
- 1975- Lancaster House placed on National Register of Historic Places
- 1977- Abrams Park dedicated in honor of D. K. Abrams
“There’s a little bit of heaven,
this side of hell;
This little bit of heaven,
is the place in which we dwell.
The grass is rather shaggy,
and the fish ponds nearly dry;
But I wouldn’t change our Ridgefield,
for a city in the sky.”