Although his name is obscure today, J.E.C. Durgan gets credit as a founder of Washougal and one of the leading early Vancouver merchants.
Durgan crossed the Plains to California in 1850, then returned to his home in Illinois two years later. About 1854 he traveled to the Oregon Territory and settled on a donation land claim five miles east of Washougal, not far from the Skamania County line.
Durgan moved to Vancouver in 1864 to go into the meat-cutting business. He and his brother, George, built what was said to be the first brick building in town. This later was used by the Commercial Bank.
J.E.C. Durgan also was a leader in establishing the Vancouver Seminary.
The town was small but making a bit of headway as an important trading center. But Durgan was restless again. About 1870 he went to Government Island to farm and make cheese and butter, and later moved to another farm, at Cape Horn Mountain. Then he moved to Parker’s Landing in 1879, and in the following year relocated to the new town of Washougal, where he continued as a merchant.
He also helped establish Bethel Congregational Church in Washougal.
About 1889 Durgan moved from Washougal to a residence near his son’s home on Fourth Plain Road four miles from Vancouver.