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Canby Ferry centennial May 21 forum to explore history of local landmark

The Museum of the Oregon Territory will present the history of the 100-year-old Canby Ferry at 7 p.m. May 21. Museum researchers and staff from the Clackamas County Department of Transportation and Development will present photos, facts and a short video illustrating the history of the local landmark.

Determined to find a way to transport goods across the Willamette River, and to create a shorter route for residents on the west side of the river to attend the county fair, members of the Canby Business Men’s Club collected $500 in 1914 to purchase a ferry. They traveled to Newberg to buy a ferry that was being retired from service there. The ferry was delivered to Canby and used during the run of the fair and then tied up until the next year.

The first ferry was propelled by using a splashboard and the river’s current. It was replaced a few years later by a new gas engine ferry and then in 1921 by a larger gas powered ferry. Service continued until 1946 when high water swept the ferry from its moorings and down the river.

The Clackamas County Commissioners restored ferry service in 1952 at the request of local residents. The new ferry, christened the M. J. Lee after Millard Jerome Lee, son of pioneers Philander and Anna Green Lee. M.J. Lee was the first child born in the incorporated city of Canby. This ferry was replaced in 1996 by a larger boat which remains in service today. This ferry, the fifth to serve in the Canby area, continues to carry the name of M. J. Lee.

The Canby Ferry is one of three ferries still in operation on the Willamette River. Along with the Wheatland and Buena Vista ferries these vestiges of the past allow drivers, cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians to cross the river at points between the few bridges available between Oregon City and Salem.

The Canby Ferry Centennial History Forum takes place in the MOOT Tumwater room, located at 211 Tumwater Drive off HWY 99E in Oregon City. Free museum admission is included.



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