Building the New Territory, Washington

In the previous chapter I have made the reader acquainted with the earliest American residents of the territory north of the Columbia, and the methods by which they secured themselves homes and laid the foundations of fortunes by courage, hardihood, foresight, by making shingles, bricks, and cradling-machines, by building mills, loading vessels with timber, laying out towns, establishing fisheries, exploring for coal, and mining for gold. But these were private enterprises concerning only individuals, or small groups of men at most, and I come now to consider them as a body politic, with relations to the government of Oregon and to the general government.

The first public meeting recorded concerned claim jumping, against which it was a protest, and was held in Lewis county, which then comprised all of the territory north of the Columbia and west of the Cascade Mountains not contained in Clarke county, and probably at the house of John R. Jackson, June 11, 1847.

The second was held at Tumwater November 5, 1848, and was called to express the sentiments of the American settlers concerning the threatened encroachments of the Puget Sound Agricultural Association. “This fall,” says an old settler, “the company conceived the design of making claim under the treaty for the immense tract called the Nisqually claim, lying south of the Nisqually River, and with that view drove a large herd of cattle across the river.” The American residents, in a convention called to order by M. T. Simmons and presided over by William Packwood, passed a series of resolutions, a copy of which was presented to W. F. Tolmie, the agent in charge of Fort Nisqually, by I. N. Ebey who had just arrived in the country, and Rabbeson, with the declaration that the Americans demanded the withdrawal of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s herds to the north side of the Nisqually within one week from the day the notice was received.

The preamble set forth that the herds of the company would soon consume all the vegetation of the country ranged by them, to the detriment of the settlers on the south or west side of the river; and that, as these cattle were wild, if suffered to mix with domesticated cattle they would greatly demoralize them. It was thereupon resolved that the Hudson’s Bay Company had placed obstacles in the way of the Americans who first designed settling on Puget Sound-referring to the Simmons colony using misrepresentation and fraud to prevent them, and even threatening force; that they held the conduct of Tolmie censurable in endeavoring to prevent settlement by Americans on certain lands which he pretended were reserved by the terms of the treaty of 1846, although he knew they were not; that this assumption of right was only equaled by the baseness of the subterfuge by which the company was attempting to hold other large tracts by an apparent compliance with the organic land law of the territory that is, by taking claims in the names of servants of the company who did not even know where to find the lands located in their names, but who were compelled to agree to convey these lands to the company when their title should have been completed.

Search Military Records - Fold3

They declared that they as American citizens had a regard for treaty stipulations and national honor, and were jealous of any infringement of the laws of the country by persons who had no interest in the glory or prosperity of the government, but were foreign born and owed allegiance alone to Great Britain. They warned the company that it had never been the policy of the United States to grant preeruption rights to other than American citizens, or those who had declared their intention to become such in a legal form, and that such would without doubt be the conditions of land grants in the expected donation law.

They declared they viewed the claims and improvements made subsequent to the treaty by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company as giving them no rights; and as to their previous rights, they were only possessory, and the United States had never parted with the actual title to the lands occupied, but that any American citizen might appropriate the land to himself, with the improvements, and that the claims held by the servants of the company would not be respected unless the nominal settlers became settlers in fact and American citizens. 1

Within the week allowed the company to withdraw their cattle from the Nisqually plains they had withdrawn them, and there was no trouble from that source. The threat implied in the resolutions, to sustain any American citizen in appropriating the lands claimed by the company and not by individuals who had renounced allegiance to Great Britain, together with the improvements, was carried out to the letter during the following twelve years, their lands being covered with squatters, and the products of the Cowlitz farm taken away without leave or compensation, 2 not by the men who composed this meeting, but by others who adopted these views of the company’s rights.

The land laid claim to by the agricultural company, in their memorial to the joint commission provided for by the convention between the United States and Great Britain March 5, 1864, was “the tract of land at Nisqually, extending along the shores of Puget Sound from the Nisqually River on one side to the Puyallup River on the other, and back to the Cascade Range, containing not less than 261 square miles, or 167,040 acres,” with “the land and farm at the Cowlitz consisting of 3,572 acres, more or less, 3 which they proposed to sell back to the United States together with the Hudson’s Bay Company’s lands, and the improvements and livestock of both companies, for the sum of five million dollars. They received for such claims as were allowed $750,000. That the sum paid for the blunder of the government in agreeing to confirm to these companies their claims without any definite boundary was no greater, was owing to the persistent effort of the settlers of Washington to diminish their possessions. 4 Another specimen of the temper of the early settlers was shown when the president and senate of the United States sent them a federal judge in the person of William Strong. They refused, as jurors, to be bidden by him, “in the manner of slave-driving,” to repair to the house of John R. Jackson to hold court, when the county commissioners had fixed the county seat at Sidney S. Ford’s claim on the Chehalis, at which place they held an indignation meeting in October 1851, M. T. Simmons in the chair. 5

When the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1845 made a compact with the provisional government of Oregon to give it their support on certain conditions, there existed no county organization north of the Columbia River, except as the counties or districts of Tualatin and Clackamas extended northward to the boundary of the Oregon territory, declared by the legislature of 1844 to be at the parallel of 54° 40′, when, as no American citizens resided north of the Columbia at that time, no administration of colonial law had over been necessary; but on the compact going into effect, and Americans settling in the region of Puget Sound, the district of Vancouver was created north of the Columbia, and officers appointed as follows: James Douglas, M. T. Simmons, and Charles Forrest district judges, and John R. Jackson sheriff. 6

On the 19th of December 1845 the county of Lewis was created “out of all that territory lying north of the Columbia River and west of the Cowlitz, up to 54° and 40′ north latitude,” and was entitled to elect the same officers as other counties, except that the sheriff of Vancouver county was required to assess and collect the revenue for both districts for the year 1846. No county officers were appointed, but the choice of judges and a representative was left to the people at the annual election in 1846, when W. F. Tolmie was chosen to represent in the legislature Lewis County, and Henry N. Peers 7 Vancouver County, while the privilege 8 of electing judges was not regarded.

Dugald McTavish, Richard Covington, and Richard Lane, all Hudson’s Bay Company men, were appointed judges of Vancouver district to fill vacancies, but no appointments were made in Lewis County. At the session of 1846 a change was made, requiring the people to elect their county judges or justices of the peace for the term of two years, at the annual election. Under this law, in 1847 Vancouver County elected Richard Lane, R. R. Thompson, and John White, one man of the fur company and two Americans, justices of the peace, and Henry N. Peers representative; while Lewis county elected Jacob Wooley, S. B. Crockett and John R. Jackson justices, 9 and Simon Plomondon, Canadian, for representative. Vancouver County elected William Bryan sheriff and assessor, Adolphus Lee Lewis treasurer, and R. Covington county clerk; Lewis County elected M. Brock assessor, James Birnie treasurer, and Alonzo M. Poe sheriff. 10 The vote of Lewis County at this election gave Abernethy the majority for governor, which he did not have south of the Columbia.

In 1848 Lewis County was not represented, the member elect, Levi Lathrop Smith, whose biography I give elsewhere, having been drowned; Vancouver county was represented by A. Lee Lewis. Little legislation of any kind was effected, on account of the absence of so large a part of the population in California. For the same reason, the only general newspaper in the territory, the Oregon Spectator, was suspended during several months of 1849, covering the important period of the erection of a territorial government under the laws of the United States by Joseph Lane, appointed governor of Oregon by President Polk, and on its resuming publication it gave but briefly election and legislative news. From this meager statement, it appears, however, that the apportionment of representatives under the new order of things allowed one joint member for each branch of the legislature for Lewis, Vancouver, and Clatsop Counties, Samuel T. McKean of the latter in the council, and M. T. Simmons of Lewis in the lower house. 11 The territory having been laid off into three judicial districts, Lewis County being in he third, the first territorial legislature passed an act attaching it to the first district, in order that the judge of that district, Bryant, the other judges being absent, might repair to Steilacoom and try the Snoqualimich who had shot two Americans at Nisqually in the March previous, which was done, as I have fully related elsewhere; 12 this being the first court of which there is any record in Lewis County, and the first United States court north of the Columbia.

The member from the north side of the Columbia was absent from the long term held after the adjournment in July; and as McKean was more interested in Clatsop than Lewis or Vancouver, the settlers of the latter counties felt themselves but poorly represented, the most important act concerning their division of the territory being the change of name of Vancouver to Clarke County. 13 In the following year they were in no better ease, although they elected for the first time a full set of county officers. McKean was still their councilman, and another member from Clatsop their assemblyman, Truman P. Powers, a good and true man, but knowing nothing about the wants of any but his own immediate locality. However, by dint of lobbying, a new county was created at this session out of the strip of country bordering on Shoalwater Bay and the estuary of the Columbia; and in 1851 the three counties north of the river were able to elect a councilman, Columbia Lancaster, and a representative, D. F. Brownfield, in whom they put their trust as Americans. Alas, for human expectations! Both of these men, instead of attending to the needs of their constituents, entered into a squabble over the location of the seat of government, and with idiotic obstinacy remained staring at empty benches in Oregon City with three other dunces for two weeks, when they returned to their homes.

Now, the people south of the Columbia, whose representatives were ever on the alert to secure some benefits to their own districts, were not to be blamed for the state of affairs I have indicated in the remote region of Puget Sound, or for not embodying in their frequent memorials to congress the wants and wishes, never properly expressed in the legislative assembly. But with that ready jealousy the people ever feel of the strong, they held the territorial legislature guilty of asking everything for the Willamette Valley and nothing for Puget Sound. This feeling prepared their minds for the development of a scheme for a new territory, which was first voiced by J. B. Chapman, a lawyer, the founder of Chehalis City, 14 a trading politician and promoter of factions. He had lived in Oregon City or Portland, but conceived the idea of enlarging his field of operations, and in the winter of 1850-1 explored north of the Columbia for a proper field. On the 17th of February 1851, he wrote to A. A. Durham of Oswego, on the Willamette, that he found “the fairest and best portion of Oregon north of the Columbia,” and that no doubt it must and would be a separate territory and state from that of the south. “The north,” he said, “must be Columbia Territory and the south the State of Oregon. How poetical! from Maine to Columbia; and how meaning, of space!” 15 The letter was signed ‘Carman and Chapman,’ but no one ever heard of Carman, and Evans, who made special inquiry, thinks he was a myth.

Chehalis City being too remote, and wanting in population for the centre of Chapman’s designs, he removed soon after to the Sound, where he attempted to establish Steilacoom City, adjoining the Port Steilacoom, of Balch, but failed to secure his object of sup-planting the latter. In politics he was more successful, because he contrived to assume the distinction of originating the idea, which he had only borrowed from those who were nursing their wrath over wrongs, and of anticipating a contemplated movement by getting it into print over his signature.

The first real movement made in the direction of a new territory was on the 4th of July 1851, when the Americans about the head of the Sound met at Olympia to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Chapman, being, as he asserts, the only lawyer among them, was chosen orator of the occasion, and in his speech referred to “the future state of Columbia” with an enthusiasm, which delighted his hearers. After the ceremonies of the day were over, a meeting, was held for the purpose of organizing for the effort to procure a separate government for the country north of the Columbia, Clanrick Crosby, the purchaser of the Tumwater property of M. T. Simmons, being chairman of the meeting, and A. M. Poe secretary. The meeting was addressed by I. N. Ebey, J. B. Chapman, C. Crosby, and H. A. Goldsborough. 16 A committee on resolutions was appointed, consisting of Ebey, Goldsborough, Wilson, Chapman, Simmons, Chambers, and Crockett. The committee recommended a convention of representatives from all the election precincts north of the Columbia, to be held at Cowlitz landing on the 29th of August, the object of which was to “take into careful consideration the present peculiar position of the northern portion of the territory, its wants, the best method of supplying those wants, and the propriety of an early appeal to congress for a division of the territory.”

To this motion the settlers on the Cowlitz made a quick response, holding a meeting on the 7th of July at the house of John R. Jackson, who was chairman, and E. D. Warbass secretary. At this meeting Chapman was present, and with Warbass and S. S. Ford reported resolutions favoring the object of the proposed convention. The committee of arrangements consisted of George Drew, W. L. Frazer, and E. D. Warbass, and the corresponding committee of J. B. Chapman and George B. Roberts.

When the convention assembled on the day appointed there were present twenty-six delegates. 17 The business the convention accomplished was the memorializing of congress on the subject of division, the instruction of the Oregon delegate in conformity with this memorial, the petitioning of congress for a territorial road from some point on Puget Sound to Walla Walla, and a plank road from the Sound to the mouth of the Cowlitz, with suitable appropriations. It also asked that the benefits of the donation land law should be extended to the new territory in case their prayer for division should be granted. It defined the limits of twelve counties, substantially in the form in which they were established by the Oregon legislature; and having made so good a beginning, adjourned on the second day to the 3d of May following, to await the action of congress in the interim, 18 when, if their prayer should have been refused, they were to proceed to form a state constitution and ask admission into the union! Such was the expression of the representatives 19 of Lewis County for every precinct represented was in the county of Lewis, Pacific and Clarke Counties having sent no delegates. The grievances suffered were in fact chiefly felt in the region represented at the convention.

Soon after the Cowlitz meeting occurred the conflict of the jurymen of Lewis County, before referred to, with their first federal officer, Judge Strong. In accordance with an act of the legislature authorizing and requiring the county judges, any two of whom should constitute a board of county commissioners for the selection of a county seat, the place of holding court was fixed at S. S. Ford’s claim on the Chehalis. But Judge Strong preferred holding court at Jackson’s house, twenty miles nearer to the Cowlitz landing, sending a peremptory order to the jurymen to repair to Highlands, which they, resenting the imperiousness of the judge, refused to do, but held a public meeting and talked of impeachment. Chapman, for purposes of his own, glossed over the offence given by Strong, both he and Brownfield, as well as Lancaster, siding with the federal officers against the people on the meeting of the legislature in December; and the affairs of the whole trans Columbia region, not attended to by J. A. Anderson of Clatsop and Pacific Counties, were suffered to pass without notice. 20

This, however, Anderson did for them: he presented a petition from J. B. Chapman and fifty-five others for the establishment of a new county, to be called Simmons, and the readjustment of the eastern boundary of Lewis County. The boundary of the new county was defined as described by the committee on counties of the August convention, but the council amended the house bill by substituting Thurston for Simmons; and the limits of Lewis on the east were removed fifteen miles east of the junction of the forks of the Cowlitz, running due north to the southern boundary of Thurston County.

In joint convention of both branches of the legislature, I. N. Ebey was elected prosecuting attorney for the third judicial district, receiving fourteen votes, and the ubiquitous Chapman two. 21 Ebey being popular, energetic, and devoted to the interests of his section, much comfort was derived from this legislative appointment. Meantime congress took no notice apparently of the memorial forwarded by the convention of August, nor did the citizens north of the Columbia assemble in May to frame a state constitution as they had threatened, yet as they could not seriously have contemplated. But as a means to a desired end, The Columbian, a weekly newspaper, was established at Olympia, 22 which issued its first number on the 11th of September, 1852; and was untiring in its advocacy of an independent organization. It was wisely suggested that, as many influential citizens would be assembled at the house of J. R. Jackson on the 25th of October to attend the sitting of the court, the opportunity should be seized to make arrangements for another convention, a hint which was adopted. On the 27th of September a meeting was held, and a general convention planned for the 25th of October, at Monticello. It was considered certain that all the inhabitants about Puget Sound would vote for a separate organization, but not quite so evident that those living upon the Columbia, and accustomed to act with the people south of it, would do so. By holding the convention at Monticello, it was hoped to influence the doubtful in the direction of their wishes.

At the time appointed, the delegates assembled and organized by electing G. N. McConaha president and R. J. White secretary. After an address by the president, a committee of thirteen 23 was selected to frame another memorial to congress, which contained the following arguments: It was desired to have organized a separate territory, bounded on the south and east by the Columbia; and for these reasons: the territory was too large ever to be embraced within the limits of one state, containing as it did 341,000 square miles, with 640 miles of sea-coast, while the proposed territory would embrace about 32,000 square miles, that being believed to be of fair and just extent. Those portions of the undivided territory lying north and south of the Columbia must, from their geographical positions, become rivals in commerce. The southern portion, having now the greatest number of voters, controls legislation, from which fact it was evident that northern Oregon received no benefit from congressional appropriations, which were subject to the disposition of the legislature. The seat of government was, by the nearest practicable route, 500 miles from a large portion of the citizens of the territory.

A majority of the legislation of the south was opposed to the interests of the north. Northern Oregon possessed great natural resources and an already large population, which would be greatly increased could they secure the fostering care of congress. Wherefore they humbly petitioned for the early organization of a territory, to be called the Territory of Columbia, north and west of the Columbia River, as described. Then followed forty-four names of the most influential citizens of Lewis and Thurston Counties. 24

As before, the convention appointed a meeting for May, and adjourned; the memorial was forwarded to Lane, and the proceedings were made as public as the Oregon newspapers could make them.

But matters were already slowly mending north of the Columbia. There had been some valuable accessions to the population, as the reader of the previous chapter is aware; a good many vessels were coining to the, Sound for timber, 25 which gave employment to men without capital, and brought money into the country, and the influence of United States laws were beginning to be felt in the presence of a customs office as well as a district court. In May 1851 President Fillmore commissioned Simpson P. Moses of Ohio collector of customs, and W. W. Miller of Illinois surveyor of the port of Nisqually, on Puget Sound. These officials arrived in the months of October and November, Miller overland and Moses by the Nicaragua route, then newly opened. 26 With the latter came the family of the collector, two unmarried women named Relyea, 27 A. B. Moses, brother of the collector, and Deputy Collector Elwood Evans, who later became so well known in connection with the history of Washington and its preservation in a written form. 28 There came also, as passengers from San Francisco, Theodore Dubosq, J. M. Bachelder and family, and John Hamilton. 29

I have already in a previous volume related with what ardor Collector Moses adopted the anti Hudson’s Bay Company tone of the early settlers, and how he brought the government into debt many thousand dollars by seizures of British vessels 30 after the removal of the port of entry to Olympia. The seizure of the Beaver and the Mary Dare 31 occurred about the last of November, and on the 20th of January a special term of court was held at Olympia to try these cases, this being the first term of the federal court in Thurston County, Judge Strong presiding, Simon B. Mayre of Portland being attorney for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and David Logan of the same place acting for the United States district attorney, Ebey, in these cases. Quincy A. Brooks acted as clerk of the court, and A. M. Poe as deputy marshal. At this term were admitted to practice Brooks, S. P. Moses, Ebey, and Evans.

Evans describes, in a journal kept by him at that time, and incorporated in his Historical Notes on Settlement, the appearance of Olympia in the winter of 1851-2. There were “about a dozen one-story frame cabins of primitive architecture, covered with split-cedar siding, well ventilated, but healthy. There were about twice that number of Indian huts a short distance from the custom-house, which was in the second story of Simmons’ building, before described, on the first floor of which was his store, with a small room partitioned off for a post-office.”

It was during the month of November that the Exact arrived at Olympia with the gold-seekers for Queen Charlotte Island, after leaving the Alki Point settlers. The Exact brought, as settlers to Olympia, Daniel B. Bigelow, a lawyer and a Massachusetts man who crossed the continent that summer. His first case was a suit between Crosby and M. T. Simmons, growing out of a question of title to the Turn water claim, Bigelow representing Simmons and J. B. Chapman being Crosby’s attorney. James Hughes and family also arrived by the Exact.

The rumor which led the Portland company to charter this vessel to take them to Queen Charlotte Island was first brought to Puget Sound by one McEwen, mate of the sloop Georgiana from Australia. McEwen exhibited gold in chunks which had been chiselled out of quartz-veins in rock on the island, and created thereby such an excitement that a company was immediately raised to visit the new gold region, Goldsborough at the head. On the 3d of November the adventurers sailed from Olympia in the Georgiana, with tools and provisions, and arrived on the 18th in the harbor on the east side of the island, called Kornshewah by the natives, though their true destination was Gold Harbor on the west side. On the following day the sloop was blown ashore and wrecked, when the Haidahs, a numerous and cruel tribe, plundered the vessel, took the company prisoners, and reduced them to slavery. Their final fate would probably have been death by starvation and ill treatment, but for a fortunate incident of their voyage.

On coming opposite Cape Flattery, the sloop was boarded by Captain Balch of the Demaris Cove, who on learning her destination promised to follow as soon as he should have met the George Emory, then due, with the collector of Puget Sound on board. In pursuance of this engagement, the Demaris Cove ran up to the island in December, where she learned from the Indians of the wreck of the Georgians, and being in danger from the natives, Balch at once returned to the Sound to procure arms and goods for the ransom of the prisoners.

On hearing what had happened, Collector Moses, after conferring with the army officers at Fort Steilacoom, chartered the Demaris Cove and dispatched her December 19th for Queen Charlotte Island, Lieutenant John Dement of the 1st artillery, with a few soldiers, A. B. Moses, Dubosq, Poe, Sylvester, and other volunteers, accompanying Captain Balch. On the 31st the schooner returned with the ransomed captives, to the great joy of their friends, who held a public meeting to express their satisfaction, giving unstinted praise to the collector for his prompt action in the matter. 32

But if the persons concerned approved of the action of the collector, the government did not, and refused to, pay the expenses of the rescue, which Moses in a letter to Secretary Corwin of the treasury assumed that it would do; and the collector of Puget Sound was reminded somewhat sharply that it was not his business to fit out military expeditions at the expense of the United States, the first cost of which in this case was seven or eight thousand dollars. 33 But congress, when memorialized by the legislature of Washington at its first session, did appropriate fifteen thousand dollars, out of which to pay the claims of Captain Balch and others, as in justice it was bound to do. Had the collector waited for the governor to act, another month would necessarily have been consumed, during which the captives might have perished.

On the meeting of the Oregon legislature, ten days after the Cowlitz convention, Lancaster, the councilman whose term held over, did not appear to take his seat, but resigned his office at so late a moment, that although an election was held, Seth Catlin being chosen against A. A. Denny, it was too late to be of use to the region he represented; but F. A. Chenoweth and I. Ebey being members of the lower house in addition to Anderson of Clatsop and Pacific, there was a perceptible change from the neglect of former legislatures, and it is probable, if no action had been taken looking to a separate territory, that the Puget Sound country would have obtained recognition in the future. But the Oregon legislators were not averse to the division, the counties south of the Columbia having, as the northern counties alleged, diverse commercial interests, and being at too great a distance from each other to be much in sympathy. But the legislature adopted without demur a resolution of Ebey’s that congress should appropriate thirty thousand dollars to construct a military road from Steilacoom to Walla Walla. Four new counties were established, Jefferson, King. Pierce, and Island. Two joint representatives were allowed, one for Island and Jefferson, and one for King and Pierce. Pacific County was also separated from Clatsop for judicial purposes, and the judge of the 3d district required to hold two terms of court annually in the former. 34

On the 10th of January Chenoweth introduced a resolution in the house in regard to organizing a territory north of the Columbia. On the 14th Ebey reported a memorial to congress as a substitute for the resolution, which he asked the assembly to adopt, and which passed without opposition or amendment, the only question raised in connection with the subject being the division by an east and west line, some members contending that Oregon should include Puget Sound and all the country west of the Cascade Mountains, while the country east of that range should form a new territory-an opinion long held by a minority in view of the admission of Washington as a state. Such a division at that time would have made Portland the capita1. 35

But Lane had not waited to hear from the Oregon legislative assembly concerning the division of the territory. Immediately on receiving the memorial of the Monticello convention, which Was about the beginning of the second session of the thirty-second congress, he presented it in the house by a resolution requesting the committee on territories to inquire into the expediency of dividing Oregon, and framing a new territory north of the Columbia, by the name of Columbia Territory, which resolution was adopted. On the 8th of February 1853, the house proceeded to the consideration of the bill prepared by the committee. The bill did not confine the new territory to the limits described in the memorial, but continued the line of partition from a point near Fort Walla Walla, along the 46th parallel, to the Rocky Mountains, making a nearly equal division of the whole of Oregon. The arguments used by Lane in favor of the bill were the same as those given in the memorial, with the addition of some explanations and statements more effective than veracious, but which may have been necessary to success; as, for instance, the statement that the population of the proposed territory was as great as that of the whole of Oregon at the time of its organization into a territory, 36 whereas it was about one third.

Stanton of Kentucky moved to substitute the name of Washington for that of Columbia, to which Lane agreed, notwithstanding it was an ill advised change. The vote of the house was taken on the 10th, the bill passing by a majority of 128 to 29. The senate passed it on the 2d of March without amendment, the president signing it the same day. 37 Thus painlessly was severed from the real Oregon that northern portion over which statesmen and pioneers had at one time so hotly contended with Great Britain.

Information of this act did not reach those interested until near the last of April. About the middle of May it became known that I. I. Stevens of Andover, Massachusetts, had been appointed governor, Edward Lander of Indiana chief justice, John B. Miller of Ohio and Victor Monroe of Kentucky associate justices, and J. S. Clendenin, of Louisiana United States district attorney. Miller falling ill, Moses Hoagland of Millersburg, Ohio, was appointed in his place, but did not accept, O. B. McFadden of Oregon being subsequently appointed to his district. J. Patten Anderson of Mississippi was appointed United States marshal, and directed to take the census. 38 I. N. Ebey was appointed collector of Puget Sound, in place of S. P. Moses, removed; 39 and not long afterward A. B. Moses was appointed surveyor of the port of Nisqually, in place of Miller, removed.

The marshal was the first of the federal officers to arrive, reaching Puget Sound early in July, accompanied by his family. He was soon followed by Judge Monroe, and in September by Judge Lander, C. H. Mason, secretary of the territory, and District Attorney Clendenin and family. Governor Stevens did not reach Olympia until about the last of November, his proclamation organizing the government being made on the 28th of that month. Before proceeding to discuss his administration, the rapid changes taking place in the territory compel a brief review of its progress in a material point of view.

The most important thing to be done for a new country is the laying-out and improvement of roads. No country ever suffered more from the absence of good roads than Oregon, and the pioneers of the Puget Sound region realized fully the drawback they had to contend against to induce immigrants from the border states to come to the shores of their new Mediterranean after having reached the settled Valley Willamette. The only way in which they could hope to secure large families of agricultural people and numerous herds of cattle, with work-oxen and horses, was to have a road over the Cascade Mountains on the north side of the Columbia as good as the one around the base of Mount Hood on the south side. As early as 1850 it was determined at a public meeting to make the effort to open a road over the mountains and down the Yakima River to Fort Walla Walla, to intersect the immigrant road from Grand Rond. A sum of money was raised among the few settlers, and a company of young men, headed by M. T. Simmons, was organized to hew out a highway for the passage of wagons to the Sound. 40Another incentive to this labor was the alleged discovery of gold on the Yakima and Spokane Rivers by J. L. Parrish and W. H. Gray, while making a tour through the eastern division of Oregon. The undertaking of opening a road through the dense, forests and up and down the fearfully steep ridges proved too great for the means and strength of Simmons’ company, and only served to fix the resolve to complete the work at some future time.

There was, previous to 1852, no road between Olympia and Tumwater, or between Tumwater and Cowlitz landing. The first mail contract over this route was let July 11, 1851, and the mail carried on horseback, in the pockets of A. B. Rabbeson, 41 Simmons being postmaster at Olympia, and Warbass at the Cowlitz, or Warbassport. The road was so much improved in 1852 that a mail-wagon was driven over it that year. 42 yet with great difficulty being avoided as much as possible by passengers. 43 In 1853 an express line was established over the route by John G. Parker and Henry D. Colter carrying mail and light packages on horseback, 44 nor was there much improvement in this route for another two or three years.

In 1853 it was again resolved to open the road for the immigration to come into the new territory over the Cascade Mountains. A general meeting of citizens was held at Olympia May 14th to discuss the subject in all its bearings, when G. N. McConaha, Whitfield Kirtley, Charles Eaton, John Edgar, and E. J. Allen were chosen road-viewers to report upon the practicability of the undertaking. 45 At the end of three weeks a report was made of the route from Olympia to the summit of the Cascade Range, and by the middle of July volunteers were at work upon the survey, who so far succeeded in their design as to cut a way by which thirty-five wagons reached the shores of the Sound that autumn, 46 bringing between one and two hundred men, women, and children, to populate the rich valleys of White and Puyallup rivers. 47

John Thomas and John Nelson 48 founded the White River settlement. Owing to the peculiar system of drainage of these rivers, to which I have referred, by which the same stream has several names, it is necessary to remark in this place that White River settlement means that portion of the common valley between the Dwamish and Black sections. Above the junction of Black and White Rivers is what is known as the Slaughter settlement, which was founded by C. E. King, W. H. Brannan, Joseph Brannan, Joseph Lake, Donald Lake, H. Meter, E. Cooper, W. A. Cox, D. A. Neely, M. Kirkland, and S. W. Russell.

The Black River Valley was settled in 1854 by O. M. Eaton, H. H. Tobin, and Mr Fanjoy, who built a sawmill at the entrance of Cedar River, 49 which was burned by Indians the following year. William N. Kincaid 50 settled in the Puyallup 51 Valley, together with Isaac Woolery, A. H. Woolery, W. Boatman, J. H. Bell, T. R. Wright, I. H. Wright, G. Hayward, A. Benson, I. McCarty, I. Lemmon, Thomas Owen, Daniel Lane, Thomas Hadley, H. Whitesell, R. More, R. Nix, A. S. Persham, and D. Warner. A settlement had been commenced at the mouth of the Puyallup River in the spring of 1852, when Nicholas Delin took a claim at the head of Commencement Bay, just east of the present town site of New Tacoma. 52 In October Peter Judson of the immigration settled on the town site, which had been previously taken and abandoned by Jacob Barnhart.

James Biles settled at Tumwater. Tyrus Himes 53 took a claim six miles east of Olympia. James Allen settled in Thurston county. 54 John L. Clarke and J. H. Cleale 55 took up their residence in Olympia. Most of the immigration chose claims in the fall of 1853. Those who followed the next year also immediately selected land, these two immigrations being the last that were permitted to take donation claims. The Indian war of 1855-6, and the insecurity of life in isolated settlements for a number of years, caused the abandonment of the greater part of the farms just opened, and it was not until 1859 that settlement was reestablished in the valleys where the first direct overland immigration made their choice. 56

Owing to the many hindrances to growth which the territory encountered, and which I shall attempt to set forth in this volume, the Pioneer Association of Washington 57 set its limit of pioneer settlement at 1860, at about which time these difficulties began finally to disappear. It will be observed that there were no large annual accessions to this territory as there had been south of the Columbia, and that although it commenced its existence after the other had conquered many obstacles, and with seemingly superior advantages, its situation proved unfavorable to rapid development.

In November 1853 a steam-packet, the Fairy, was placed upon the Sound by her owner and master, D. J. Gove, to ply between the settlements; 58 and the first of a line of clipper-built lumbermen, the Live Yankee, for the trade between the Sound and San Francisco, was being constructed at Bath, Maine, during the summer, while a constantly increasing fleet of American vessels visited these waters. Schools had been opened in several neighborhoods, but for obvious reasons there was no system of education established. Of ministers there were enough, but not much church going, and as yet no churches nor sectarian institutions of any kind except the Catholic Indian Mission near Olympia. But with a population of less than 4,000, not quite 1,700 of whom were voters, the ambitious young commonwealth was already talking of a railroad from the Skookum Chuck coalfields, discovered in 1850, to Olympia, and J. W. Trutch was engaged in surveying a route 59 in the autumn of 1853. In this chaotic but hopeful condition was the new territory of Washington, when on the 26th of November 1853; Governor I. I. Stevens arrived at Olympia to set in motion the wheels of government.



Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top