Tired of transient teachers for his employees’ children, John McLoughlin, chief factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, sent to England for a teacher. He got a couple. They traveled from England around Cape Horn, then to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), from there sailing the Pacific to the mouth of the Columbia River before arriving at the Hudson’s Bay outpost in 1846.
The teachers, Richard (1820-1882) and Charlotte “Anna” (1825-?) Covington were also accomplished musicians and artists. Both possessed musical voices and played piano, guitar and violin. Richard was somewhat artistic and recognized as a “man of many accomplishments.” He drew maps, sketched Fort Vancouver and the landscape surrounding it.
Shortly after the couple’s arrival, the Hudson’s Bay Company assigned Richard as one of the first justices of the peace for Clark County. The following year, under the Oregon Territory’s Provisional Government, he was elected county clerk. Locals also elected him school superintendent in 1862 and 1863. He served as justice of the peace again in 1863.
The shifting United States and British claims for the area allowed the Covingtons to claim land in April 1848. They located their cabin at today’s crossing of Northeast 76th Street and Covington Road.
According to the 1850 census, the two teachers ran a boarding school instructing eight children. It’s likely they abandoned their school when the Sisters of Providence came to the area to set up schools in the city.
In 1867, the Covingtons sold their home before departing to Washington, D.C., where Richard worked in the Patent Office for President Ulysses S. Grant. Once the Covingtons headed for the East Coast, they never returned. History says little about his wife after their move. Richard died in Hawaii.
Once the social heart of the county, its oldest residence slipped into a shabby, faded memory. In 1926, the Fort Vancouver Historical Society and the Women’s Club of Vancouver hatched a plan to move it. About 1928, they had the house disassembled, each hewn log numbered, cataloged, moved and then reassembled at today’s location, 4201 Main St.
Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at ClarkCoHist@gmail.com.