‘Rural centers’ add to county’s unique character

Hamlets have distinct personalities, history

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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North of Clark County’s riverfront cities lies the hinterlands, seven “rural centers” nestled in unincorporated Clark County with a unique country tone.

Amboy, Brush Prairie, Chelatchie Prairie, Dollars Corner, Fargher Lake, Hockinson and Meadow Glade are each clusters of homes, with perhaps a church or restaurant tied in, that make up a community.

The rural centers have no elected officials, and rely on Clark County for specialized development planning. So while a big-box store won’t be coming to one of the rural centers, residents could see a tavern, a veterinarian or a saw mill pop up in the future.

“Rural centers aren’t meant to be little towns,” said county planner Gordy Euler. “They aren’t supposed to have all the uses in them. The goal is to see what was there historically and keep them like that. It’s not urban zoning, and it’s not rural zoning. It’s kind of in between.

”Amboy was named in 1886 when A.M. Ball petitioned for a post office in the area. Ball was given the rights to naming the hamlet, and while there are a few competing theories on his selection, it’s believed he chose the name as an homage to him and his neighbors A.M. Browning and A.M. Blaker, the A.M. Boys. Amboy has a middle school, a museum that was once a church and a local tavern in Nick’s Bar & Grill.

Brush Prairie is named for exactly what homesteaders found in the area, brushy prairies and marshes. Brush Prairie also touts a few businesses including the Prairie Bar and Grill, where the motto is: “More love, less attitude.

”Chelatchie Prairie is the rural center farthest afield from Vancouver proper, and serves as the terminus station for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, a sightseeing rail line which runs a 10-mile route through north county.

Dollars Corner has a spot for travelers to grab a meal at Julie’s Cottage Kitchen and several shops. The rural center is named after Smith L. Dollar, who opened a store in the area in 1917.

Fargher Lake is arguably the smallest community on this list, and is the most recent addition to the county’s roster of rural centers. It also doesn’t have a lake. The water from the lake was drained in 1918 so mint and blueberry fields could be planted.

Hockinson is home to a small diner, and the largest rural high school in the county. The original name of the region was Eureka, but was renamed for the first postmaster in the community, Ambrosius Hakanson.

Meadow Glade was originally a Seventh-day Adventist community constructed near a boarding school. Today the region is home to fields of raspberries and strawberries.