Settled in 1852 it is one of the oldest communities in the state. In the early days it was the head of navigation on the Willapa River, and a supply point for Willapa Valley, until the railroads were built. The first name was Woodard’s Landing, for Samuel Lowell Woodard, the first settler, who arrived in 1852. When postal service was established, the present name became official. It is for the Whilapah Native American tribe, which is now extinct.
Several mills were built in the 1850s, and the town flourished as the supply point for all of the Willapa Valley beyond until 1893, when the railroad established direct connections with Willapa Harbor. Lumbering, long on the decline here, is being replaced by farming.