To kick of March’s Women’s History Month, Trust Tree is going to be highlighting amazing women who are important to our local region all month long, telling Herstory.
And we’re kicking all this off with the Herstory of Esther Short.
All the locals in our homebase of Vancouver, Washington know about downtown’s Esther Short Park, it’s the place for outdoor summer concerts, community festivals and holiday tree lightings. But what’s Esther’s story?
Esther Short was born in Pennsylvania, it’s reported that her mother was an Algonquin and her father was of German descent although some report that she was fully Native American with ancestors of the Algonquin, Cherokee and Six Nations tribes. She married Amos Short and they worked as farmers, she had six kids and then they decided to head west.
While on the wagon train to Oregon Territory, Esther gave birth to a son. That is badass. And her story gets even more badass.
Arriving in Oregon Territory, Amos and Esther filed their donation land claim for land north of the Columbia River and the British from the Hudson’s Bay Company housed at Fort Vancouver weren’t too happy about it. The British were trying to keep all the Americans south of the Columbia.
There were several attempts by the British to relocate the Shorts to the other shore, including one incident where they nabbed Esther and her (by then 10) kids when Amos wasn’t home and set them adrift in a boat on the Columbia River without oars – what the actual? Can you even imagine the Columbia River back then, before there were dams and the whole thing was free flowing? Don’t worry though, our resourceful Esther was able to guide the boat back to shore and return to their homestead.
Esther and Amos continued to fight with the British for several years, it got nasty but ultimately the Shorts prevailed and perfected their donation land claim that stretched from the banks of the Columbia River all the way up to where Fourth Plain Boulevard and Main Street are today.
Amos died in a shipwreck trying to cross the Columbia Bar on the way back from a potato selling trip to the gold rush crazed Bay Area.
After the death of Amos, Esther put on her big girl panties and helped shape the city, taking over the Short’s land claim to the extent allowed by the law at that time and filing for the Town Plat for the City of Vancouver, donating the land for the public square in 1855 and getting her hustle on by opening a restaurant and the city’s first hotel. She then opened a second hotel.
She died at age 55 and is buried in Vancouver’s Old City Cemetery.
Read More about Esther Short at historylink.org
Read more about Clark History by the Columbian at history.columbian.com