From the article above:by Sue Frause
French-Canadian Connection: What do Montreal, Quebec and The Dalles, Oregon Have in Common?
Sign at Sunshine Mill in The Dalles, Oregon.
While going through photos of my springtime trip to The Dalles, Oregon, I picked up on a Canadian connection I hadn’t noticed before. Specifically, a French-Canadian connection. One of the many places I visited in The Dalles was The Sunshine Mill, once the home of Sunshine Biscuit Company and now headquarters of Quenett and Copa di Vino wineries. That’s when I took pictures of two directional signs that included Montreal. Really, La Belle Province (aka Quebec) in The Dalles? Turns out that The Dalles, county seat of Wasco County, is derived from the French word dalle. Here is a complete explanation from Oregon Geographic Names, 6th edition, by Lewis L. McArthur:
“The name The Dalles is derived from the French word dalle, meaning flagstone, and was applied to the narrows of the Columbia River, above the present city of The Dalles, by French-Canadian employees of the fur companies. Among other things, dalle meant a stone used to flag gutters, and the peculiar basalt formations along the narrows doubtless over flat, basaltic rocks. The first use of the name Dalles in Oregon was in 1814. The name La Grande Dalle de la Columbia became established. Although the city is officially Dalles City, the post office, and common usage is The Dalles. It has had several names since incorporation: Dalles, 1851; Wascopum, 1853; The Dalles, 1860. The Indians in the area called the area near Mill Creek, in present day The Dalles, Quenett, which was also their word for trout. Lewis and Clark camped here in 1806 and named it Rockfort Camp. Another Indian name in use was Win-quatt, signifying a place encircled by rock cliffs.”
Will it be Montreal or the Tasting Room? I’m a fan of both.
But what about Montreal and The Dalles? Several overland groups with the Astor Expedition passed by the area and explored the rapids from 1810-1812. In 1811, British fur traders of North West Company began traveling through The Dalles — the company was based in Montreal. Here are more details from the website of the Wasco County Historical Society:
“The Hudson’s Bay boatmen and the French Canadian fur traders called the greatest rapids on the Columbia River Le Grand Dalles de la Columbia. These rapids became known as the “Long Narrows” and their companion les petites dalles as the “Short Narrows.” The word dalle is French for flagstone or slab, and referred to the flat and columnar basalt rock but by the turbulent waters of the Columbia River. At the Long Narrows, the entire flow of the Columbia River was compressed through a natural basalt rock chute, thundering through a channel 200 feet deep by 200 feet wide. This torrent of water created a series of treacherous rapids.”
Fast forward to The Sunshine Mill, which milled wheat on the property for more than 130 years. Originally owned by the Sunshine Biscuit Company, the milled wheat was used in such products as the popular Cheez-It crackers. The behemoth building that housed The Sunshine Mill was the first in The Dalles to have electricity, and is the only “designated skyscraper” in the Columbia River Gorge.
Today, The Sunshine Mill is owned and operated by James and Molli Martin of The Dalles, and houses Quenett and Copa Di Vino wineries. Quenett Winery released its first vintage in 2002, and is known for its Sangiovese and Zinfandel vintages. The origin of the winery’s name also has a local connection. The word quenett was in the journals of Lewis and Clark and is an Indian word meaning “trout” or “steelhead” Fish wine? Tastes fine!