Washington History

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The following important events in the history of Washington affected political boundaries, record-keeping, and family movements.

1800's:  At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Spain, Russia, and England all claimed what is now Washington.

1811:  John Jacob Astor (American) established a trading post at Astoria. This was the first settlement in this area.

1819:  Spain withdrew her claims.

1825:  Russia withdrew her claims.

1836:  Marcus Whitman established the second white settlement near present-day Walla Walla. Early settlement centered in the Willamette valley.

1846:  The present boundary between the United States and Canada was established.

1848:  The Oregon Territory was created. It included what is now Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.

1849:  Settlers went farther north into the Puget Sound area to obtain food and lumber that was needed in the California gold fields.

1850:  The Oregon Donation Act was passed. This guaranteed land to those who settled and cultivated land in the territory before 1855. This attracted an estimated 30,000 new settlers.

1853:  Washington Territory was created from the northern part of Oregon Territory.

1859:  Oregon became a state. Washington Territory was enlarged to include the remaining Oregon territory not included in the new state.

1860:  The discovery of gold near Walla Walla attracted many prospectors.

1863:  The Idaho Territory was created from lands in eastern Washington Territory.

1881:  The Northern Pacific Railway reached Spokane.

1888:  The transcontinental railroads reached Washington and brought a great influx of settlers.

1889:  Washington became a state. Seattle was the largest city and the chief supply point for the gold rush to the Yukon territory in Alaska.

A helpful source for studying the history of Washington is Harvey K. Hines, An Illustrated History of the State of Washington: Containing . . . Biographical Mention of . . . its Pioneers and Prominent Citizens . . . (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Pub. Company, 1893; FHL book 979.7 D3h; film 1000637).

Background information on Washington counties is in Newton Carl Abbott and Fred E. Carver, The Evolution of Washington Counties (N.p.: Yakima Valley Genealogical Society & Klickitat County Historical Society, Washington. 1978; FHL book 979.7 D25a; fiche 6051194). This is listed in the Family History Library Catalog under WASHINGTON - HANDBOOKS, MANUALS, ETC.