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I live in St. Helens and I like where I live. It's a nice community, with friendly people; it's a safe and comfortable place. My city is well managed and we are proud to have a very competent, well-trained, professional Police Force. Our crime rate is lower than many other small towns our size. Our fire district is the envy of many, and we have an excellent school system. People seek us out because our town is a very desirable place to live.
When I travel, people will look at me and ask: "Where are you from?"
"St. Helens, Oregon" I'll reply
The usual response is: "St. Helens? Oh yeah. You're the town with the volcano. Were you there when it blew?"
I then carefully explain that our town is in Oregon and that the Volcano's in Washington. You can see Mt. St. Helens from our town, but there are a number of other communities that are much closer to the mountain and have a better view. We did get to see the mountain explode, but our view was from a distance. The sound wave passed over us and local people didn't hear any nose from the explosion.
Mt. Saint Helens itself was named after Lord St Helens, a British diplomat and a friend of the explorer, George Vancouver, who surveyed the area in the late 18th century.
Captain Henry Knighton, whose parents came from St. Helens, England, founded our town in 1845. Knighton was born in New England and originally named the town Plymouth. He changed the name to St. Helens in 1850. Some say it was for the town's view of the mountain, others say it was to honor his ancestral home.
In the early days, St. Helens was a bustling seaport. The old town section was filled with taverns and less than respectable "hotels." Some writers say, that there used to exist a shanghai tunnel. Young men were unknowingly drugged and dropped through the floor, only to later awaken, on a boat destined for the Pacific.
For a time, St. Helens vied with the City of Portland about who would control shipping on the Columbia. A very expensive and elaborate series of docks was constructed. Strangely enough, shortly after construction, a mysterious fire broke out destroying the docks and the City's ambition to surpass the City of Portland.
In 1853, the Rev. Thomas Condon came to St. Helens. Condon taught school and preached at the Plymouth Congregational Church. This church later became the Plymouth Presbyterian (My church). Thomas Condon was a very important figure in Oregon history. He was responsible for starting the Oregon State Department of Geology. He later became the University of Oregon's first Professor of Geology.
Well before the turn of the century, St. Helens had established itself as the County Seat. It was a robust seaport, filled with, loggers, sailors, migrants and mill workers. Roads consisted of combinations of mud, word planks and cobblestones. In 1902, the city was host to its one and only hanging. August Schieve, a mail carrier, was accused of murdering Joseph Schulkowski a Yankton farmer. Schieve told everyone that he was innocent, but the evidence all pointed toward him. He was hanged, but some years later, August's father, while on his deathbed, confessed.
In 1906 the County built a courthouse with a bell and a Clock tower. The Courthouse was constructed out of locally quarried rock. It was a beautiful building, but as the County grew, the courthouse became too small to effectively conduct County business.
The County Commissioners had saved money, over the years, to build a new courthouse. Voter approval was still required, but county taxpayers refused to vote them permission to build.
After consulting with County Council, the Commissioners discovered that they didn't need voter approval if they would only build a courthouse annex. In this case the new annex would be three times the size of the old courthouse.
After construction in 1967, the voters held a special recall election. The county taxpayers got the last word and their recall was successful.
In 1998, Disney filmed the TV movie, "Halloween town." The City went out of its way, to fix up and make over it's, old town section. In 2008, a good portion of the film "Twilight" was also filmed in St. Helens.
The Shoe String Players, a local theatre group, conduct what they call "Twilight tours" of old town, pointing out the many "ghostly" happenings in St. Helens. Every Halloween, huge pumpkins are placed in the City's Plaza Square. Merchants vie with one another to see who can create the most innovative scarecrows. Children are encouraged to compete for a $1000 prize for the best costume. This is now an annual event. Each year, St. Helens transforms itself, again, into Halloween Town.
St. Helens is a great place to visit with its many antique shops, interesting stores and good restaurants. I think that St. Helens is great place to live. I love my town, and I am pleased to call it my home.