The local Indians called the area Quamish, after the blue lilies that grew along the water’s edge. French–Canadian trappers added a French twist, and called the area “La Camas.” The post office would drop the French article (“la,” meaning “the”) to make it less confused with La Center and La Conner. But it would take a paper mill to turn Camas into a town.
Located on the Columbia River and close to an abundant supply of timber and water, Camas was the perfect place to set up a timber mall. In 1883, Henry Pittock and his investors bought land and platted out a town site. The town came before the townsfolk, and a good education became important from early on.
A Community Effort
The paper mill would change hands over years, but would dominate and define the Camas community for more than a century, as its almost sole employer. The mill owners depended on and funded the schools to provide a future, educated workforce. The mills started the Crown Willamette Paper School in cooperation with the Camas School District. High school students received college credit while learning the trade. By 1946, Crown Zellerbach had built an important research lab in town.
Today, local high-tech companies and research companies work with Camas School District to provide on-site internships and other learning opportunities to continue the tradition of a well-educated workforce.
The Garfield Building
The original Garfield building was built in 1913 and was home to both Camas Senior and Junior High until the mid- 1950’s. The theater was named in honor of Joyce Garver, a beloved art and drama teacher who spent most her life teaching fine arts to Camas students.
PHASE 1 | 1994-1999
Skyridge Middle School
PHASE 2 | 1999-2007
Prune Hill Elementary, Liberty Middle School, Camas HS
PHASE 3 | 2007-2016
Grass Valley Elementary, Helen Baller Elementary, Woodburn Elementary, Hayes-Freedom High School, Doc Harris Stadium expansion
PHASE 4 | 2016-2021
New Lacamas Heights Elementary, new Project-Based Learning High School, Garfield Building renovation
PHASE 5 | 2021-?
Possible second comprehensive high school, third middle school