Wallace House, The First American Building in the Willamette Valley

Fur traders with the Pacific  Fur Traders Company, an American company, left Fort Astoria in 1812, 23rd October (Franchere), for the Willamette Valley to establish a fur trading outpost.  The intent was to establish a trading post close to the Kalapuyan tribal villages and form positive relationships with the tribes.  Wallace House was built by William Wallace and Stephen Halsey in 1812 with the help of fourteen other men included Donald McKenzie (Henry, et al. 1897). Wallace house became the first American building in the Willamette Valley.

The trading post had year-round inhabitants from the Americans,  Pacific Fur Traders at Astoria, and was closed in September 1813. During the winters, when food became scarce, more fur traders would be sent to the Wallace house from Astoria, to live there because food was more plentiful there and they need to spread out their numbers in order to feed everyone.

wyeth 1832
Background of Wallace House, report submitted by Vickie Hilgamann & Don Upjohn to Mission Mill (online)

The Wallace House was located at North Salem, within the Chemawa-Chemeketa (Tcha-mikiti) tribal region, at the northern edge of the Chemeketa Plains. The tribe controlled a vast area from the Lake Labish area to just south of the Salem Hills. The Chemeketa village was noted by Tribal members at Grand Ronde as being associated with the Santiam (Halpam) tribe of Kalapuya Indians.   The major resources of this region was noted as camas prairies, where many tribes would come to Chemeketa to dig camas, and the vast amount of wetland resources of Lake Labish.

Example of how the Wallace House may have appeared, this example is the fur trading Rocky Mountain House in Canada
Example of how the Wallace House may have appeared, this example is the fur trading Rocky Mountain House in Canada

Wallace House had a significant role in provisioning Astoria. The Americans had meat based diets. They did not like Native foods, including fish and salmon and chose to eat dogs and horses instead of native foods. A few explorers mention trying native foods like camas and wapato, but the fur traders really made their primary diets on venison, elk and fowl. Later, they began gardens with European vegetables but meat was their mainstay. The trading post in the Willamette Valley was in the center of a vast range-land for deer and elk and the post was looked to for providing meat along with the furs.

Astoria 1813

1812- on March 20, Messrs. Reed and Seton, who had led part of our men to the post on the Willamette, to feed them, returned to Astoria. These gentlemen described the country of the Willamette as charming and abounding in beaver and deer, and they told us that Messrs. Wallace and Halsey had built a trading house on a great prairie about 150 miles from the mouth of that river. Mr McKenzie and his party left us again on the thirty-first, to tell the gentlemen who were wintering in the interior the decisions that had been made at Astoria… On the twenty-fifth, Messrs. Wallace and Halsey returned from their winter quarters with seventeen packets of skins and thirty-two bales of dried meat. The latter articles were welcomed with much pleasure, … (Adventure at Astoria 1810-1814, Gabriel Franchere.)

There was an extensive indigenous trade network in operation in the Northwest well before the fur traders arrived.  The trade network passed goods from the coast into the interior on the braided river highways navigated by the extensive canoe culture of the Northwest Coast.  The Kalapuyans had extensive hiking trails that crossed the Coast Range northwesterly through the Tualatin region, and trails called “Klamath trails” into the Cascades. The Trail to the coast was how the Kalapuyans from Tualatin got to Astoria to visit with the Pacific Fur Traders and establish person relationships. The Kalapuyans were peripherally part of the Columbia Trade network, and it was the Chinookan tribes of Chief Concomly and Chief Keasno who established first trade relationships and grew rich as middlemen in the fur trade. The Kalapuyans in fact had to be corrected by Chief Keasno when they stole supplies from a poorly guarded storehouse at Astoria. Keasno had to tell then to return the supplies, and to treat the Fur Traders well, for all of their benefit.

27th Saturday (1813)- During their absence the natives near at hand, in considerable numbers (whom he denoted Calapoyas) visited the place and finding only those two to guard it, rob’d and took away all the principal goods, as blankets, cloths, etc., etc., without offering any violence to the S. Islanders, who probably being overpowered in numbers made no resistance. On the return of Wallace and party he, with most of his number repaired immediately to the lodges of Indians in order to secure the goods, who, instead of offering to return them, were all assembled with bows and arrows ready for an assault. On discovering this movement, the whites proceeded instantly amongst them, seizing some and broke their bows or cut their strings, which brought a general scuffle. Wallace’s party it appeared had taken the precaution to load their muskets with powder only, and on perceiving the extremity to which they were reduced fired among the Indians which instantly frightened and dispersed them, and greater part of the goods were obtained. Ka-es-no, chief of the Cathlakamps, hearing of what had taken place repaired immediately to the Calapoya, harangued them, pointed out the great impropriety of such conduct and the consequences that would follow, told them in what manner himself and other chiefs on the river treated with the whites and the goods effects arising from it, and exhorted them without delay to return the remaining articles stolen. After hearing him, they followed his counsel, the things were all brought, and him (Keasno) charged the mediator to return them and make up the beach. (Annals of Astoria, The Headquarters log of the Pacific Fur Company on the Columbia River, 1811-1815, Robert F. Jones)

The fur traders likely had formed good relationships with all of the neighboring tribes.  The Santiams as well as the Yamhill, Luckiamute,  Tualatin and the Ahantchuyuk  all would have been trading partners. The insertion of this trading post in the Kalapuya area changed tribal society and economies forever. The tribes began extensive fur trapping to acquire metal tools and weapons, beads, and clothing. Blue and white beads were especially coveted by the tribes.

It is likely that the Kalapuyans had some idea that changes would be taking place soon. Oral histories retold by Santiam leader John (Mose) Hudson Jr.  (Santiam) mention that changes to the earth would be occurring soon and that newcomers would be turning over the camas prairies forever with plows. Other regional stories by Chinookans,  spoke of large ships coming to the coastline. These stories, now called Oral history were big parts of the tribal trade networks, as news from throughout the region would have been passed by word of mouth while trading for essentials.

Costume of a Callapuyan, Agate 1841, This man exhibits trade items
Costume of a Callapuyan, Agate 1841, This man exhibits trade items

By 1812, Kalapuyans eagerly began participating in the new trade opportunities of Wallace House, to gain new and valued products like their wealth Chinookan neighbors. They would have changed their economy to increasingly hunt beaver and other fur bearing animals because of the new value they fetched at the trading post.  In addition, many Kalapuya women married fur traders, increasing their interactions in the fur trade. Tribal accounts suggest the Kalapuyans were still managing to trade extensively despite a great amount of sickness and death in the area, due to malaria and other introduced diseases.

In the 1830s, there were devastating epidemics such that by 1850, some 95-97 percent of the Kalapuyans were gone.  Regionally, there were stories of epidemics as early as the 1780s and 1790s. Evidence of this early epidemic was seen on the Columbia River by Lewis and Clark on the pock-marked faces of the remaining Chinooks devastated by small pox (Lewis, et al. 1961). Death by influenza and malaria, and secondarily pneumonia  led to whole villages becoming deserted, causing the remnant tribal people to congregate together at fewer large villages.

The Kalapuyans never went to war against American encroachment, and probably could not, having already been devastated by diseases. There are some accounts of thefts, and raids, on settler’s homesteads  attributed to Kalapuyans.  Many of the attacks and thefts were proven to have been perpetrated by visiting Native peoples, like the Klamaths and Klickitats. Both of these tribes were known to regularly, seasonally, visit the Willamette Valley and reside for months  while they hunted for deer and elk.

Location of the Wallace House site, 2016 Google Maps
Location of the Wallace House Park site in Keizer, Oregon, 2016 Google Maps

In the 1840s and later,  the area around the Wallace House was called Wallace Plains. In 1856, following treaty ratification, about 600 surviving Kalapuyans were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The Santiam heritage is preserved in the area with the place names Chemeketa (Tcha-Mikiti), Chemawa and Santiam, and the many Grand Ronde tribal members who remain part of the communities in the Willamette Valley.



Henry, Alexander, David Thompson, and Elliott Coues

1897  New light on the early history of the greater Northwest. The manuscript journals of Alexander Henry … and of David Thompson … 1799-1814. Exploration and adventure among the Indians on the Red, Saskatchewan, Missouri and Columbia rivers. 3 vols. New York,: F. P. Harper.

Lewis, Meriwether, et al.

1961  The Lewis and Clark Expedition. Philadelphia,: Lippincott.

Annals of Astoria, The Headquarters log of the Pacific Fur Company on the Columbia River, 1811-1815, Robert F. Jones

original essay was submitted to Keizer Times Newspaper, 2012, Edited and updated March 2015, June 2016.




  1. Hey I just posted this on Facebook/CowCreeksForChange:


    I have reached the conclusion through sad experience that Indian Country everywhere has been corrupted by corporate greed. Everywhere one looks, the same corporate mentality that always created destruction among our people, flourishes. The unbridled greed of our Tribal Leaders alongside their business and political cohorts is directly assaulting our people, our culture, killing our very spirits. We have no protections against the hostile takeovers going on in our Tribes. No Federal Agency is protecting us, the people, and no private organizations exist that can. Honorable Natives today are exiting their reservations, their governments, and all holdings of their Tribes – either by force or by choice. Many Tribes today are not being run by, or even inhabited by, true Natives. Making that trend of non-Native Tribes become 100% is now our only chance of survival. Once there are no true Natives left in what is called ‘Indian Country’ today, then Federal agency-overseers will declare these entities the fraudulent organizations that they are, and finally shut them all down. Only then will we TRUE NATIVES have a viable chance at re-establishing life and spirit- sustaining communities for our own people, spiritually free of the horrible abuses of human and civil rights that currently plague our Tribes and all of Indian Country. I challenge any Native to prove me wrong. Staying = Becoming Them / Losing Who We Are.

    On Wed, Jun 29, 2016 at 6:05 PM, NDNHISTORYRESEARCH | Critical & Indigenous Anthropology wrote:

    > David G. Lewis’ Ethnohistory Research, LLC posted: “Fur traders with the > Pacific Fur Traders Company, an American company, left Fort Astoria in 1812 > for the Willamette Valley to establish a fur trading outpost. The intent > was to establish a trading post close to the Kalapuyan tribal villages and > form posi” >


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