Oregon Emigration and Immigration

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In the early 1800s, traders and trappers came into the area from Canada, Russia, Latin America, and the United States. In 1811, John Jacob Astor, an American, established the first white settlement in Oregon. In the 1830s and 1840s, other settlements were created in the Willamette River valley. These settlers generally came from midwestern and eastern states, Canada, and Russia. In 1843, a provisional government was set up by American settlers. In the same year, over 900 more Americans arrived, mostly from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.

The Oregon Donation Act of 1850 guaranteed free land to those who settled and cultivated the land before 1855. New settlers surged into the Oregon Territory, primarily from the Mississippi River valley, the Midwest, and the South. Foreign-born immigrants came mainly from Canada, Germany, Scandinavia, England, and Russia.

In 1860, gold discoveries in Idaho made Portland an important trade depot. The completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 brought many new settlers into Oregon. This was Oregon's first transcontinental rail connection. Later immigrants came from China, Japan, the Philippines, and Latin America.

A helpful source on overland migration is William Adrian Bowen, The Willamette Valley: Migration and Settlement on the Oregon Frontier (Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1978; FHL book 979.53 X4b; fiche 6101360).


There are no known lists of passengers arriving in Oregon ports (such as Astoria, Portland, and Tillamook). However, records of ethnic groups and shipping enterprises are available at the Oregon Historical Society Library.

Records of minorities, such as the Basques,  Swedes, and Chinese, are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under the group-Oregon (e.g. Swedes - Oregon). For records of American Indians, see the section “Native Races” on this site. Some of these tribes are the Cayuse, Klamath, Modoc, Nez Perce, Paiute, Tillamook, and Umatilla.