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How Kalama Was Named

Kalama received its name from the river two miles to the north. The Kalama River was named after John Kalama, a full-blooded Hawaiian, who was born on the Hawaiian islands in 1814. John was forced to leave his Hawaiian home at sixteen years of age to seek employment on one of the fur trading vessels that made its way to the Northwest in the early 1830's. The rough life of the sea did not appeal to John, so he found the Nisqually Indians where he sang his native songs and joined in their festivities. John eventually married Mary Martin, daughter of Chief Martin. John built a cabin near Tumwater for his bride. When the Indians made their annual trip to the Cowlitz for smelt and berries, John Kalama and his wife went with them. John did not enjoy being on the move all the time so for that and perhaps other reasons he did not return to the Sound, but took up permanent residence at the mouth of the river bearing his name. He hunted, fished, and trapped for many years, and the area soon became recognized as his domain.


Cowlitz County Historical Museum