Chehalis ( (listen) shə-HAY-lis) is a city in Lewis County, Washington, United States. The population was 7,259 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Lewis County.
The Native American Chehalis people described, using their language and pronunciation, a location and village in present-day Westport, Washington that translates to American English as "place of sand" or "shifting sand". Early non-native explorers of the Pacific Northwest vocalized the words as "Chehalis" and proceeded to describe the original inhabitants as such.
In 1879, the town of Saundersville, Washington, named after S.S. Saunders on whose donation land claim it was founded, began to officially use the word "Chehalis" to denote its location to the Chehalis people and the Chehalis River. The translations were also fitting for the growing town due to the muddy bottomland along the Chehalis River which had long vexed stagecoach travelers on the Washington arm of the Oregon Trail between Kalama and New Market (now Tumwater).
Chehalis began as a settlement around a warehouse beside a railroad track in 1873, when the Northern Pacific Railroad built northward from Kalama to Tacoma, and ignored Claquato, then the county seat three miles to the west. After the Northern Pacific bypassed Claquato, the county seat was moved to Chehalis, leaving Claquato little more than a historical landmark. By 1874, a store was added to the warehouse, and a courthouse and several houses were constructed. Chehalis was incorporated on November 23, 1883.
Logging soon began in the nearby forests. Lumber workers of Scandinavian, English, and Scots-Irish descent arrived and settled in the neighboring valleys.