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About Washington State -- Frequently Asked Questions and Their Answers
This essay offers a brief introduction to the state of Washington, its jurisdictional development and government, and its official symbols.
File 5315: Full Text >
Beaver, SS, First Steamship in Pacific Northwest
The first steamship to operate in the eastern Pacific Ocean was the HMS Beaver
, a stout little craft commissioned by the Hudson's Bay Company. She saw continuous service from 1835 until July 26, 1888, when she ran aground at the entrance to Vancouver, B.C., harbor.
File 5260: Full Text >
Columbia River Treaty -- Historical Background
The Columbia River Treaty, signed in 1961 and ratified in 1964, was a landmark event in the joint U.S.-Canadian possession of the Columbia River. Yet for most of the river's vast history, the notion of a country's "possession" of the waterway was irrelevant. Not until 1792 did European explorers finally stumble upon the 1,243-mile-long Columbia. It immediately became an object of contention between rival powers. The American merchant Captain Robert Gray (1755-1806) was the first non-Indian to enter the mouth of the river in 1792 and he named it after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. Several months later, British Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798) entered the mouth and his men rowed a dory 100 miles upstream, where they formally took possession for Britain. For the next 54 years, both countries vied for possession of the river and its vast inland drainage. The question was finally settled with the signing of the Treaty of Oregon in 1846, which cut the river in two at the 49th parallel. British Canada acquired the upper two-fifths of the river, while the U.S. acquired the lower three-fifths. Joint ownership of this giant resource created questions and conflicts, and in 1909 the Boundary Waters Treaty created an International Joint Commission to resolve such questions. After the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam in 1941, the commission launched studies which would eventually result in the Columbia River Treaty, dealing with complex questions of water storage, flood control, and power generation on the newly tamed river.
File 10437: Full Text >
Denny, Arthur Armstrong (1822-1899)
Arthur A. Denny is considered the leader of the party of immigrants who first landed at Alki (West Seattle) in 1851 and then founded the city of Seattle in 1852. On February 15, 1852, after a period at Alki, Arthur Denny and others staked their Donation Land claims across Elliott Bay on what is today the waterfront of downtown Seattle. Denny served as a delegate to the Monticello convention which separated Washington from Oregon, as King County commissioner and Seattle postmaster, and as a delegate to the Territorial Legislature. This biography includes a list of the Denny Party with birth and death dates for each member.
File 921: Full Text >
Donation Land Law, also known as the Oregon Land Law
The Donation Land Law of 1850, or Oregon Land Law, permitted settlers on unsurveyed lands to select claims of 320 acres per settler (640 acres per married couple) provided they resided there for four consecutive years.
File 400: Full Text >
Fort Colvile (Hudson's Bay Company), 1825-1871
Fort Colvile, located near Kettle Falls, was established by the British Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) in 1825 when it moved its upper Columbia Basin fur-trading operations to this new location from Spokane House (established in 1810). The new post was christened Fort Colvile, after HBC official Andrew Colvile. Over the years the post grew, eventually comprising the store, warehouses, shops, stockades and a bastion, dwellings, and out buildings, as well as large land holdings for agriculture and livestock pasture. As a major way point for travelers in the Inland Northwest, Fort Colvile received many visitors, who are the main sources of information for what the post looked like. These accounts are indispensable, for hardly a trace of the place was left after a 1910 fire burned down what was left after 85 years. The post had gone into decline after the 1846 settlement of the American/Canadian border dispute, which left Fort Colvile in U.S. hands. Soon, the American military had established its own Fort Colville, with a slightly different spelling, leaving the old British-Canadian post to enter a long spiral of decay. The Hudson's Bay Company ended its occupation of Fort Colvile on June 8, 1871.The site was inundated by Lake Roosevelt in the early 1950s, following the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.
File 9235: Full Text >
Fort Okanogan was the first American outpost in what is now the state of Washington. Established in 1811 by representatives of John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company, the "fort" was a modest affair, initially consisting of only one small building at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers. The Canadian North West Company acquired it in 1814, expanded it, and later sold it to the British Hudson's Bay Company. The British replaced the complex with a second one, built about a mile away, in the 1830s. Today a small state park overlooks the second location. Only the wind and a simple highway historical sign mark the site of the original Fort Okanogan, which proved to be a temporary beachhead in an area that would not become part of the United States for 35 years.
File 7522: Full Text >
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company, a fur-trading enterprise headquartered in London, began operations on the shores of Hudson Bay in 1670. During the next century and a half, it gradually expanded its network of trading posts west across Canada. In 1821, it merged with its prime rival, the North West Company out of Montreal, thus acquiring several posts in the Pacific Northwest. Under the leadership of Governor George Simpson (1787-1860) and Chief Factor John McLoughlin (1784-1857), the company dominated the land-based fur trade in the Northwest for the next four decades. After the Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled the international boundary at the 49th parallel, the company gradually phased out its operations in Oregon and Washington territories and moved its Northwest headquarters to Vancouver Island.
File 9881: Full Text >
Latino History of Washington State
Latinos, currently the largest minority in the United States at more than 13 percent of the population, have been instrumental to the development of Washington state since the 1774 Spanish exploration of the Olympic Peninsula. During the past 25 years the state's Hispanic population has increased dramatically from 118,432 in 1980 to 549,774 in 2005. The foundation of the current Hispanic boom is rooted in economic and labor developments of the 1940s. Note: Although the term Latino is used throughout this essay, in actuality the Latino experience in Washington state has been until very recently primarily a Mexican American and Mexican experience.
File 7901: Full Text >
Lewis and Clark Expedition in Washington, 1805-1806: An Illustrated Tour
An illustrated tour of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in what is now the state of Washington. The Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery (as the expedition was formally named) entered the area of the future state in October 1805. The tour was written and curated by Cassandra Tate, with photos by Glenn Drosendahl.
File 7062: Full Text >
Lewis and Clark in Washington
In May 1803, the United States purchased Louisiana from France. The doubling of U.S. territory caused President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) to send Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) on a westward expedition to explore the nation's new piece of real estate. The Corps of Discovery was a party of 33 people, including Sacagawea, a Shohone Indian, and York, an African slave. The Corps, under the leadership of Captain Lewis and Captain William Clark (1770-1838), traveled by foot, horse, and watercraft across North America and back again beginning in Wood River, Illinois, in May 1804, and returning to St. Louis, Missouri, in August 1806. The period the Corps spent along the Columbia and Snake rivers and at the mouth of the Columbia -- from October 1805 to May 1806 -- was principally within what is now the State of Washington.
File 5556: Full Text >
Mexican American Women in Washington
Mexicans first moved to Washington Territory in the 1860s, one family raising sheep in the Yakima valley and another operating a mule pack train. In the twentieth century, particularly after the start of World War II, Mexican migrants from the Southwest and immigrants from Mexico, including women, made up a large part of the labor force that brought in Yakima County's harvests. In the last half of the twentieth century, Mexican American women assumed prominent roles in communities and in politics. They were an important part of the 329,934 people of Mexican origin in the state as of the 2000 census.
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Milestones for Washington State History -- Part 1: Prehistory to 1850
This is a brief chronology of the milestones of Washington history. Part 1 begins at prehistorical times and goes to 1850. Search the HistoryLink.org database for detailed essays on these events.
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Mukilteo -- Thumbnail History
Mukilteo is one of the oldest settlements in Snohomish County and the first county seat. Situated on Possession Sound, the town is bordered on the east by Everett and Paine Field. The site, long home to a village of the Snohomish Tribe, was the location for the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855. Early Mukilteo entrepreneurs Morris Frost (1804-1882) and Jacob Fowler (1837-1892) established one of the first salmon canneries in Washington Territory and one of the region's earliest breweries. Japanese workers of the Crown Lumber Company and their families became an important part of the Mukilteo community from 1903 to 1930. Mukilteo Light Station near the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry dock, completed in 1906, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Mukilteo incorporated in 1947. Since World War II, the city's proximity to Paine Field and Boeing has influenced growth choices significantly. Annexation of acreage south of the city in 1980 and in 1991 expanded the population, which in 2010 was listed at 20,313. Expansion shifted the economic focus away from the waterfront, but in 2015 work began on a new ferry terminal and transportation center on the waterfront that were expected to revitalize Mukilteo's "Old Town."
File 8422: Full Text >
Native Americans of Puget Sound -- A Brief History of the First People and Their Cultures
Current scientific data indicate that Native Americans arrived from Siberia via the Bering Sea land bridge about 12,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. Native Americans in King County, who are united by a common Lushootseed or Salish language system, believe they were created in this area at the end of an ancient Myth Age. Major groups or tribes of local native peoples include the Suquamish, Duwamish, Nisqually, Snoqualmie, and Muckleshoot (Ilalkoamish, Stuckamish, and Skopamish) tribes. They evolved complex cultural, social, and economic structures, which the invasion of Euro-American settlers in the mid-1800s almost erased, but which continue today as the tribes struggle for their survival, respect and renewal.
File 1506: Full Text >
Oregon Territory, Establishment of
European exploration of the Pacific Northwest from the late 1500s through the 1700s led to multiple and overlapping territorial claims by Spain, Russia, France, Britain, and last but not least, the new American republic. At issue was the vast "Oregon Country" extending along the Pacific Coast from the northern edge of Spanish California on the 42nd parallel to the southern edge of "Russian America" (now Alaska) at 54 degrees 40 minutes north.
File 5446: Full Text >
Pacific Northwest Explorations Before the American Presence
In A. D. 458, a Chinese adventurer named Hwui Shan crossed the Pacific to Mexico, and then followed the Japan current north to Alaska. Centuries later, in September 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa "discovered" the Pacific after struggling across the swampy Isthmus of Panama. Following that momentous event, Spain dispatched a number of legendary captains to the West Coast of North America, including Hernando Cortez, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and Bartolome Ferrelo. In 1579, Britain's pirate Francis Drake sailed off the Oregon coast; during the early 1740s, Vitus Bering opened the North Pacific to Imperial Russia; during the late 1700s, English captains James Cook and George Vancouver charted the Pacific including the bays and inlets of Puget Sound (Vancouver); and in 1786, Comte de La Perouse, representing France, sailed to the Queen Charlotte islands.
File 5449: Full Text >
Seattle and King County's First Non-Indian Settlers
In the vicinity of the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay where in 1851 the first U.S. settlers began building log cabins, the Duwamish tribe occupied at least 17 villages. The first non-Natives to settle the area were farmers who selected their claims on the Duwamish River on September 16, 1851, and brought household goods and family members to the claims on September 27, 1851. These original King County settlers were Luther Collins (1813-1860) and his family (Diana Collins and children Lucinda and Stephen), Henry Van Asselt (1817-1902), Jacob Mapel (or Maple) (1798-1884) and his son Samuel Mapel (or Maple) (1827-1880). Following shortly behind were the members of the Denny party: brothers Charles and Lee Terry, brothers Arthur and David Denny, the Low family, William Bell, Carson Boren and his two sisters Louisa Boren and Mary Boren Denny (married to Arthur). This essay gives a detailed chronology of the arrivals and settlements of the Collins party, the Denny party, and various other claimants to first settler such as John Holgate (1830-1868). It sifts various debates and assertions about who came when and what this meant.
File 1660: Full Text >
Sequim and the Sequim-Dungeness Valley -- Thumbnail History
The thriving town of Sequim, the nearly deserted village of Dungeness, and the valley between them, located in Clallam County, are linked historically, culturally and economically. Sequim's present (2008) population is 5,330, or some 15,000 counting the surrounding valley. Before Sequim became a town, there was Dungeness, about five miles to the north, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One of the earliest Puget Sound ports, it made possible the development of inland Sequim. Long before either town existed, however, this narrow stretch of forest and prairie between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was the domain of the Klallam (S'Klallam) Tribe. Klallam is said to mean "strong people" (Carter, 34). The name Sequim (pronounced Skwim) comes from a rather poor approximation of the Klallam word for "hunting ground," although several published sources mistakenly claim that it is either the Indians' word for "quiet waters" or the traditional name for a local wild onion that supplemented their diet of clams, crabs and salmon. All that remains of the busy little shipping port of Dungeness (originally named New Dungeness) are a few buildings and a line of pilings from its long pier. Most of the dairy farms of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley have given way to the new homes of a massive influx of retirees drawn by the climate and scenery. Local agriculture has reinvented itself as the lavender capital of North America.
File 8555: Full Text >
Skykomish -- Thumbnail History
The City of Skykomish, located in the northeast corner of King County, began in 1893 as a rail town for the Great Northern railroad. Nestled in mountain forests, and supported over the years by rail, timber, mining, and tourism industries, Skykomish has prospered through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, while many nearby mountain communities have faded back into the green.
File 1623: Full Text >
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