A Searchable History of historical information about the Pacific Northwest and the world, from the beginning of time to the present day.
Click on a time span to see the overview of each document. You will find a link to download each document in both PDF and DOC formats at the end of the overview in each section.
Europe sought newer, easier routes to the East. Portugal dispatched Bartholomew Dias to explore the coast of West Africa. Spain sent explorers who reached the “New World” beginning with Christopher Columbus (four voyages) inaugurating the “Age of Discovery.” Portugal and Spain, both Catholic nations, encountered a world unnoted in the Bible. Pope Alexander VI, who realized their quest could lead to war, drew a “Line of Demarcation” dividing the New World between Portugal and Spain. England’s John Cabot took a northerly route to the New World (three voyages) perhaps naming “Newfoundland.”
Spain continued it exploitation with Hernan Cortes, Juan Ponce de Leon, Pedro de Alvarado, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto and Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Portugal’s Ferdinand Magellan attempted to sail around the world but he died when reaching the Philippines. His crew succeeded. France sent Jacques Cartier to find a shorter route to China as Spain reached the Philippines.
Muscovy Company was chartered in England to trade with Russia. Portugal created a business monopoly in the city of Macau, China. England took an interest in North America as the Muscovy Company financed two investigations by Martin Frobisher. Francis Drake explored the western shore of North America by sea for England. Mysterious Juan de Fuca claimed to discover a “Northwest Passage” to China through North America. France became interested in the lucrative fur trade and abundant fishing off Canada’s Grand Banks
England chattered the Virginia Company of London which established Jamestown colony. English merchants hired Henry Hudson to find a Pacific route to Asia. Pilgrims arrived in America.
Company of De Caen was Chartered by France and liquor was brought into l’Acadie (Canada) in large barrels. l’Acadie became known as New France. Cardinal Richelieu created fur trading monopoly in New France which brought wealth to the owners and vast changes to the Indians.
Massachusetts Bay Company was chartered bringing Puritans to America. Pierre Espirit Raddison with his brother-in-law Medard Chouart, Sieur des Grosseilliers explored and traded in the upper Mississippi River region bringing out a fortune in furs. Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) chartered by England. developed a system of trading posts. Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet traveled the Mississippi River almost to the Gulf of Mexico which was reached by Robert La Salle. York Factory was established by HBC whose trading posts were raided by French fur traders.
Trade expands the reach of nations: British Hudson’s Bay Company operates in Canada, British East India Company opens trade with Canton, China, British South Seas Company begins trade with South America. Independent French-Canadians traders open Fort Michilimackinac in Canada’s interior. Russian fur traders sweep across Siberia, Russia. Cayuse Indians acquire the horse. Vitus Bering conducts two tragic voyages for Russia to northern North America.
France and Great Britain fought the French and Indian War to control the Ohio River region while Spain claimed all of North America. Independent fur traders develop the Canadian fur trade as Americans Alexander Henry (The Elder) and Peter Pond investigate the Canadian interior to the Great Plains. English fur trading brothers Benjamin, Thomas and Joseph Frobisher operate out of Montreal. Scotsman Simon McTavish works the Niagara Falls region.
Attention of the British government again turned to North America as Chief Pontiac’s War erupted. Great Britain dominated her American colony passing the Townshend Acts resulting in the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, Declaration of Independence and the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
Spain became concerned with Russian activities in the northern reaches of North America. Explorer Juan Josef Perez sailed north to investigate naming Surgidero de San Lorenzo (Nootka Sound). Following Perez Bruno de Heceta claims what is now Washington for Spain, Ignacio Arteaga and Juan Francisco de la Bodega Y Quadra also expands Spain’s claim. Captain James Cook leads a scientific expedition to the North Pacific for Great Britain as far as the Arctic Ocean. Canadian free traders form the Michilimackinac Company in Canada to compete with Hudson’s Bay Company. Nine independent Canadian trading posts are established near the Straits of Mackinac west of Lake Superior.
American traders Peter Pond and Alexander Henry the Elder work the Lake Athabasca region of Canada. Canadian North West Company is chartered. Company employees, known as Nor’Westers include wintering partners who conduct trade with the Indians and voyageurs who provide transportation.
American Revolution ended but the nation’s boundaries remain undefined. United States Constitution is ratified and George Washington is elected president.Russia expands its fur trading operations when the Shelikof-Gollikof Company sends a three-ship expedition to the Aleutian Islands. Russian sea otter pelts are sold in China generating an insatiable demand.
Demand for sea otter pelts motivates private companies to open trade between China and the Pacific Northwest. John Henry Cox forms the Bengal Fur Company. British East India Company sends Captain John Meares on the Nootka to Prince William Sound. Richard Cadman Etches’ King George’s Sound Company purchases the King George captained by Nathaniel Portlock and Queen Charlotte under Lieutenant George Dixon to trade in Prince William Sound. Scoundrel Captain John Meares sails Felice Adventurer under a Portuguese flag from Canton, China to the Pacific Northwest.
Boston’s Barrel, Bulfinch and Company owns the Columbia Rediviva and Lady Washington. Captain Robert Gray and Captain John Kendrick were hired to gather sea otter pelts, trade these in China and return to Boston with Chinese goods. Kendrick and Gray deliver prime otter pelts to Whampoa, China.
War ships sail to the Pacific Northwest to enforce Spain’s claim. Chief Pilot Esteban Jose Martinez brought the Princesa north accompanied by Pilot Gonzalo Lope de Haro on the San Carlos. Fort San Miguel is built at San Lorenzo (Nootka Sound) to protect the new Spanish settlement of Santa Cruz de Nuca. Spanish meetings with British and American traders lead to the Nootka Sound Controversy as Martinez seizes three British ships and crews and removes them to San Blas, New Spain (Mexico). International tensions increased.
North West Company’s Alexander Mackenzie leads an expedition from Fort Chipewyan on Canada’s Lake Athabasca to reach the Pacific Ocean. Traversing the Peace and Great Slave rivers, Great Slave Lake, Great Bear and Mackenzie rivers he mistakenly reaches the Arctic Ocean. Suffering through rapids, ice, freezing weather, mosquitoes and mutiny Mackenzie leads his men across 1,080 miles of wilderness in forty-one days before returning to Fort Chipewyan.
Commandant Francisco de Eliza leads a fleet north to defend Spain’s claim of San Lorenzo (Nootka Sound). Eighty colonists reestablish the colony of Santa Cruz de Nuca. Soldiers commanded by Pedro d’Alberni rebuilt Fort San Miguel. Sailing expeditions were sent to investigate the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Barkley Sound, the Gulf Islands and the Gulf of Alaska.
Nootka Sound Controversy becomes the Nootka Sound Crisis as Spain and Great Britain prepare for war. Negotiations to resolve the crisis fail. Finally, the Nootka Sound Convention (1794) results in the Mutual Abandonment of Nootka Sound.
American Captain Robert Gray sails Columbia Rediviva from Whampoa, China loaded with Chinese goods to Boston generating a fortune and further interest in the China trade. John Kendrick sails the Lady Washington to the Queen Charlotte Islands where he generated ill will with the natives.
American Captain Robert Gray sails Columbia Rediviva from Boston back to the Pacific Northwest. He purchases land from the natives of Clayoquot Sound, names Adventure Cove and builds Fort Defiance there all while generating hostility with the natives. Gray sails south to trade discovering Grays Harbor and the Columbia River -- America’s only claim to what is now Washington State.
More Spanish expeditions arrive in the Pacific Northwest. Captain Alejandro Malaspina and Captain Jose Bustamante y Guerra conduct a scientific expedition. Jacinto Caamano attempts to find the fabled Northwest Passage. Lieutenants Dionisio Alcala Galiano and Cayetano Valdes investigate the Gulf of Georgia.
British Captain George Vancouver sails the Discovery to the Pacific Northwest accompanied by Chatham commanded by Lieutenant-Commander William R. Broughton. Vancouver, Broughton, Peter Puget, Joseph Whidbey and James Johnstone thoroughly investigate the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound naming hundreds of geographic features which remain on maps today. Vancouver charts the Strait of Georgia along with Spanish lieutenants Galiano and Valdes. Vancouver next conducts a thorough investigation of Alaska waters.
Alexander Mackenzie’s second overland expedition journeys through rapids and bad weather to find the Pacific Ocean. He traveles the Slave, Peace and Parsnip rivers, crossed the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains and journeys down the Tacouche Tess (Fraser) and Bella Coola rivers to the Pacific Ocean. He then travels the same route back to Fort Chipewyan.
North West Company developed a transcontinental transportation system. Its Eastern Division linked Grand Portage on Lake Superior with Hudson’s Bay using large canoes manned by Montreal Boatmen. Western division linked Grand Portage with the wilderness using small canoes manned by voyageurs. Supplies traveled west; furs were carried east.
Spain ceded her claim to North America vacating her colony and fort at Nootka Sound and selling her continental claim to France. Spanish attention focused on exploiting the resources of Central America. President Jefferson purchased Louisiana Territory from France.
Colorful Manuel Lisa became an important trader on the Missouri River. Lisa formed the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company to go to Yellowstone Country and construct Fort Raymond, at the mouth of the Big Horn River.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the American “Core of Discovery.” They traveled up the Missouri River and made winter camp at two Mandan Indian villages where they were joined by Toussaint Charbonneau, Sacagawea and newborn Jean Baptiste. Thirty-three Corps of Discovery members set out up the Missouri, spring 1805. They reached the Three Forks of the Missouri River, continued across the Rocky Maintains at Lemhi Pass, reached the Bitterroot Valley, journeyed down the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers conquering Celilo Falls, and the Dalles Rapids (named Short Narrows, and Long Narrows by the expedition) and established winter camp at Fort Clatsop. In spring 1806 the expedition returned East. Lewis and Clark frequently separated to better investigation Louisiana. Both parties reunited on the Missouri River. Core of Discovery returned to the Mandan village.
Simon Fraser opened New Caledonia (north-central British Columbia) for the North West Company. From Fort Chipewyan Fraser proceeded by way of the Parsnip and Pack rivers to the Peace River where Rocky Mountain Fort was established. Other posts he established included Fort McLeod, Fort Nakasleh (later Fort St. James) and Fort Natleh (Fort Fraser) and Fort George (now known as Prince George). Simon Fraser was assigned to explore the Tacouche Tess (Fraser River) to the Pacific coast. He determined this was not the Columbia River as was assumed.
Manuel Lisa’s St. Louis Missouri Fur Company’s Fort Raymond at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers was visited by Andrew Henry who traveled with sixty trappers and established Henry’s Fort at the Three Forks of the Missouri River. Henry abandoned Henry’s Fort and built Fort Henry on the Snake River.
North West Company’s Columbia Brigade pushed up the North Saskatchewan River bound for Rocky Mountain House. Piegan Indians harassed the brigade. David Thompson tried a new route West up the Athabasca River. He opened Athabasca Pass and wintered at Boat Encampment before continuing on to navigate the Columbia River from source to mouth.
John Jacob Astor created the Pacific Fur Company. He planned two expeditions to the Pacific coast, one overland and the other by sea. Astor’s Land Expedition under Wilson Price Hunt was filled with hardship, suffering and death. Astor’s Sea Party aboard the Tonquin under Captain Jonathan Thorn resulted in Astoria being built at the mouth of the Columbia River before the Tonquin was destroyed in an explosion.
War of 1812 was a terrible blow for the Pacific Fur Company. News of the war was delivered to Astoria by North West Company’s John George McTavish. Astoria was sold to North West Company and renamed Fort George. British Captain William Black arrived aboard the warship Raccoon and captured the (already British) fort.
United States and Great Britain signed the Convention of 1818 which redrew the Canadian boundary East of the Rocky Mountains along the 49th parallel from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. Land West of the Rockies would be “Jointly Occupied” for ten years.
Company wars led to the folding of North West Company into Hudson’s Bay Company. George Simpson was assigned to the Columbia Department. Fort George (Astoria) remained the headquarters for the department. Dr. John McLoughlin was named Chief Factor of Fort George.
Fort Vancouver replaced Fort George as Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters for the Columbia Department Dr. John McLoughlin diversified operations to include lumbering, crop farming, sheep and cattle raising. Coastal trade was carried out by Hudson’s Bay Company’s Maritime Department. Competition came from American ships such as the Owyhee under Captain John Dominis. Sailors on Owyhee carried smallpox which devastated the native population as Indian villages became ghost towns.
General William H. Ashley hit on the idea of trappers in the field trading supplies with the natives for pelts. He established the Rendezvous system that required wagon routes be established from St. Louis to gathering places in the Rocky Mountains.
Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin claimed two square miles of land and water power at Willamette Falls. He next selected Champoeg (later French Prairie) in the Willamette Valley as the most desirable location for retired French-Canadian employees to settle.
Life in Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department and the United States’ Oregon seemingly remained as before as Native Americans continued to live in their established villages. Chiefs provided political and practical leadership with what was best for everyone in mind. Hunting and fishing grounds were visited by Indian men as they always had been. Trade was conducted with friendly villages and battles fought with ancient enemies. Indian women cared for their families and developed their artistic skills. Indian children were educated in the old ways and prepared for life as it had always been. However, native life had forever changed as the invaders traded animal pelts, fish, horses and dogs for tools that made construction easier, household goods that made life simpler, ideas that seemed more powerful, and most significant of all, diseases brought upon an unsuspecting people.
Annual Rendezvous became the method of supplying trappers in the field who worked the Wyoming and Montana area. Rocky Mountain Fur Company and other freight companies delivered caravans of goods from St. Louis to annual Rendezvous in the Rocky Mountains. Pacific Fur Trading Company carried goods from St. Louis to Santa Fe opening the Southwest.
Catholic priests had followed French-Canadian trappers into the wilderness since the earliest arrival of Europeans to North America. Indian Ignace La Mousse studied the Catholic faith and settled among the Flathead Indians of Montana. They sent four young men to St. Louis seeking “Black Robes.” Spokane Garry studied the Church of England faith in Winnipeg, Canada. Garry opened a makeshift school among his people. Catholic Father Norbert Blanchet and Father Modeste Demers opened a mission in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Washington’s Cowlitz Valley. The Methodist Church sent Rev. Jason Lee and his nephew Rev. Daniel Lee to serve the natives of the Willamette Valley. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions churches undertook yet another effort sending Rev. Samuel Parker, Dr. Marcus Whitman, Rev. Henry Spalding and William Gray to today’s Eastern Washington. Six Catholic Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur established a school in the Willamette Valley.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant William Slacum was authorized by President Andrew Jackson to report on affairs in Oregon. He met with Hudson Bay Company Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin and learned American Ewing Young, rather than selling his wheat harvest to the company, was distilling whiskey. Slacum proposed Young drive a herd of cattle north from California. The Willamette Cattle Company was born. Slacum visited the Methodist missionaries and listened to complaints regarding Hudson’s Bay Company. Slacum proposed a petition be written to congress. Rev. David Leslie and young Philip L. Edwards penned the Oregon Memorial.
Hudson Bay Company controlled the economy of its Columbia Department. Fort Vancouver was home to almost seven hundred residents and was most the important community on the entire Pacific coast. Hudson's Bay Company offered the best prices and variety for goods. Coins drained off into Company strongboxes while the little remaining went to American merchants. Hudson Bay Company became diversified. Retired French-Canadian traders were encouraged to settle on farms at French Prairie. Seven hundred head of cattle grazed on lands adjacent to Fort Vancouver. Sawmills were in operation near Fort Vancouver and on Mill Island. Company’s brig Llama delivered a load of sheep and cattle from California to Factor Dr. William Tolmie at Fort Nisqually. Cowlitz Prairie farmland provided enough produce to export the surplus to Columbia Department forts and posts.
Hudson’s By Company dominated its Columbia Department politically and economically. Canoe brigades carried supplies from, and furs to Lake Superior. Fur brigades penetrated the interior of the Columbia Department. Company sailing ships and the steamer Beaver ranged from Alaska to California and Hawaii; up rivers and throughout the inland waters. Decline in the beaver trade motivated Hudson’s Bay Company to create the Puget Sound Agricultural Company in an effort to diversify. French-Canadian shepherds, dairymen and farmers from Canada’s Red River Settlement were brought to Nisqually and Cowlitz farms. Americans worried that Hudson’s Bay Company would no longer need American wheat. Additional Catholic priests and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur assisted Father Blanchet in the Columbia Department. Their success in converting natives contrasted with the poor results obtained by protestant missionaries.
Willamette Valley Methodist missionaries greeted the “Great Reinforcement” when they arrived aboard the ship Lausanne. As Americans increased in number anti-British, anti-Hudson’s Bay Company feelings grew. Ewing Young, Oregon’s richest American, died without an heir. Americans seized on the need for a government. The arrival of U.S. Naval Lieutenant Charles Wilkes’ United States Exploring Expedition and the return of missionary Dr. Elijah White, this time as an official of the U.S. government, showed America was interested in Oregon. Residents of Champoeg and Chemeketa held a series of “Wolf Meetings” to address their political concerns which resulted in forming a Provisional (temporary) Government.
The trickle of wagon trains became a torrent as the Oregon Trail brought pioneers and measles, cholera, influenza, fevers, and venereal diseases to indigenous people with no immunity. Germs killed more Indians than raids, battles or wars although these too added greatly to native suffering.
Exuberant expansionist James K. Polk was elected President of the United States. He called for American jurisdiction over Oregon settlers. Oregon Country was plagued with nationalistic and racist feelings. Americans accused Hudson's Bay Company of plotting with foreign-born Catholics and Indians to undermine American settlement. Unfounded rumors of an Indian-Negro alliance alarmed white settlers. The Provisional Legislative Council passed Exclusionary Laws prohibiting the presence of Free Negroes in Oregon Country. When respected negro farmer George Washington Bush reached the Dalles he decided to move north of the Columbia River with friends to escape the Provisional Government.
Whitman’s Waiilatpu Mission was attacked on November 29, 1847. Thirteen people including the Whitmans were killed initially. Hudson’s Bay Company took responsibility for the protection of British and Americans alike. Fifty hostages were ransomed but several died in captivity. Cayuse War fever swept Oregon Country. Provisional Government formed a militia of “Oregon Rifles” who produced little to show for their efforts.
Organic Act creating Oregon Territory was signed by President Polk August 14,
1848. Joe Lane was named territorial governor. Colonel William Loring led the
Regiment of Mounted Riflemen over the Oregon Trail to provide protection to
travelers and settlers alike. USS Massachusetts steamed from California to the
Columbia River carrying Major John S. Hathaway’s First Regiment of the First
U.S. Artillery Companies L and M. Fort Steilacoom was built by Company M.
Word of gold in California increased the flood of immigrants west into a torrent. Residents of Oregon were some of the first to get rich -- or at least try.
California gold spawned get-rich-quick dreams in Oregonians who less than a decade before had been completely dependent on Hudson’s Bay Company for their protection and livelihoods. Married men, bachelors, boys, military deserters and frustrated missionaries were among the first of the 49ers. Very few made fortunes, some made enough money to invest in other schemes, most made very little. Many more made money mining the miners: farmers sold their harvests at fantastic prices, eggs sold for $1-$3 each, butter at $6 a pound, Long Beach oystermen could get almost any price they had the guts to ask. But the real money was made by Midwest timber barons who milled the seemingly endless old growth cedar and fir trees into dressed limber, piled it on fleets of ships and sailed to San Francisco to attempt to appease the insatiable appetite for building material.
Change was rapid. Oregon Territory’s government hanged five participants in the Whitman tragedy. Millard Fillmore became president on the death of Zachery Taylor. Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Law giving 320 acres of land to qualified (not Indian) settlers. Treaties written with six Indians tribes were almost immediately broken by resentful land grabbers. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify any of the treaties with Oregon Territory Indians to the confusion of Indians and settlers alike.
Improvements were made in Oregon Territory transportation. Steamboats plied the rivers and coastline, a mule-powered rail tram delivered goods through the Columbia River gorge past the Dalles and Cascades rapids. James Longmire opened a wagon route over Naches Pass to the land surrounding Puget Sound.
Settlers north of the Columbia River demanded a territory of their own. Congress passed the Organic Act creating Washington Territory March 2, 1853. Incoming President Franklin Pierce named his officials. Territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens also served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs and transcontinental railroad northern route surveyor along with Army Captain George B. McClellan.
Commander of the United States Pacific Military District Major Gabriel J. Rains led the U.S. Fourth Infantry to the Pacific District Headquarters at Columbia Barracks. They were joined by Major Granville Haller leading Company “I” and Major C.H. Larned with Company “A” traveling on the ship Fredonia.
Territorial Governor/Superintendent of Indian Affairs Isaac Stevens wrote four treaties imposing change on Western Washington natives. Anger and resentment were the result of the one-sided bargains. The Walla Walla Treaty provided the same result for Eastern Washington Indians. Uncoordinated hostilities erupted on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. Fear and suffering swept over Washington Territory impacting natives and immigrants alike. Civilian leaders clashed with military officers over strategy. Martial Law was imposed. The Governor and the Territorial Chief Justice ordered each other arrested. The governor pardoned himself. Still hostilities continued. Two trials resulted in Indian leader Leschi being hanged. His brother, Quiemuth, was murdered at night in the governor’s office. After three years of war the Indians’ world collapsed as they watched their horse herds shot on the Spokane Plains by Colonel George Wright’s soldiers.
Oregon became a state February 14, 1859 and Washington Territory expanded to
include all of Idaho, the Western quarter of Montana and the Northwest corner of
Wyoming including today’s Yellowstone Park.
Dispute over ownership of the San Juan Islands resulted in an international incident as the U.S. Army faced the British Navy in a standoff that resulted in the death of an American pig. The United States acquired the islands.
Wanapum Indians lived along the Columbia River below the mouth of the Snake River. For centuries they practiced a religion known as Washani (dancers). Smohalla the Dreamer was accepted as a prophet and holy man. He opposed Christianity and told natives that if they returned to their old ways the Changer would drive off the invaders. This was the foundation of the Indians’ Dreamer Religion.
Indian schools opened to impose American culture on native children in Washington Territory. Squaxin Island school educated Squaxin and Puyallup children. Puyallup School for Indian Education opened to provide a more convenient location. St. Anne’s Mission and Boys Day School opened on the Tulalip Reservation. First Indian Boarding School in the United States opened on the Yakima Indian Reservation.
Election of Abraham Lincoln brought Civil War to the nation. When Lincoln issued his call for support Washington Territory rallied. Women of the territory contributed clothing and hospital supplies in greater amounts than any other state or territory in the Union.
Rumors of gold on Nez Perce land in Eastern Washington Territory had been circulating for several years. These fables became reality on Oro Fino Creek. News of the gold strike spread like wildfire. Successive finds were made on many Idaho rivers. Gold seekers came to the placer camps of Washington Territory from the United States, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico and as far away Europe and China.
One of the beneficiaries of the gold strikes was the Oregon Steam Navigation Company (OSN). Captain Leonard White piloted OSN’s steamer Colonel Wright up the Snake River to supply the miners of Oro Fino. OSN purchased the Columbia River portages at the Dalles and Cascades and installed the Oregon Pony steam locomotive on the Oregon side. Walla Walla became the principal town of the Inland Empire.
Another beneficiary was Henry Plummer who headed a criminal syndicate he ironically named “The Innocents.” Plummer was elected sheriff for all mining camps east of the Bitterroot Mountains. He orchestrated a reign of terror relieving miners of their gold, stealing gold shipments and committing murders. Idaho Territory was created when the poorly written Organic Act was signed into law March 3, 1863. This legislation failed to extend the laws of Washington Territory over Idaho making it a lawless territory.
Asa Mercer at age twenty-two was the president of Washington Territory University in Seattle. He hit on the idea of bringing 500 war widows from the east coast to the isolated town as brides for the price of $300 each. Two trips to the east resulted in forty-six Mercer Girls agreeing to the scheme. Mercer was not celebrated as a hero by 454 brideless Seattleites. He quickly left town.
Confederate States of America signed a surrender agreement ending the Civil War April 9, 1865. Five days later President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. American politicians focused on rebuilding the nation.
The transcontinental railroad arrived in Sacramento, California linking the West with the East May10, 1869.Thanks to generous federal land grants transcontinental railroads could claim 320 acres with each mile of track laid. Efforts to link Oregon State and Washington Territory to Sacramento immediately began as schemes to lay track along both sides of the Willamette River kept rival companies in competition for years. Financier Jay Cooke agreed to fund the Northern Pacific Railway to connect Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior to Puget Sound.
Women’s voting rights had been discussed in the Washington Territory legislature in 1866 and 1869 to no avail. Abigail Scott Duniway published The New Northwest, a weekly women’s suffrage newspaper, in Portland. Suffragist Lizzy Ordway served as secretary of the Washington Women’s Suffrage Organization. Her efforts resulted in the territorial legislature granting women the right to vote in school elections. Fifteen Thurston County women were among the first to vote in America when they cast ballots in the school election November 1870. Lizzie Ordway was elected School Superintendent of Kitsap County.
Lumbering boomed in Washington Territory to meet local needs and California demands. Old growth stands of public forests were frequently raided by timber pirates. Steam powered sawmills efficiently, if dangerously, turned out dressed lumber to be carried south by fleets of sailing ships hauling lumber. Congress provided the Northern Pacific Railway a land grant along their right-of-way to use to finance construction bonds. Jay Cooke was hired to issue $100 million worth of bonds in America and Europe. Literature extolling extravagant promises regarding the Pacific Northwest accompanied the sale of bonds.
Northern Pacific Railway financier Jay Cooke went broke throwing the nation and the world into a financial panic. Bankers and merchants bought farmland at depressed prices. The Grange movement attempted to protect farmers. One scheme to combat the economic depression proposed that newly-mined silver be used to back money in addition to gold. “Free Silver” advocates thought more cash in circulation would end the panic but congress feared inflation and passed the “Coinage Act” making gold the standard. Depression tightened its grip on America.
German immigrant Henry Villard traveled to America to protect European investors in the Northern Pacific Railway. With Villard’s financing skills Northern Pacific Railway’s “Prairie Line” was built by Chinese laborers from Kalama on the Columbia River north to Tacoma. A large steam ferryboat connected Kalama with Portland.
During America’s Centennial year of 1876 five of twelve companies of Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Calvary were annihilated beside Montana Territory’s Little Big Horn River. Congress approved a systematic plan to end all native resistance. Nez Perce people were divided into two separate groups: “treaty Indians” who moved onto the reservation and “non-treaty” Indians who refused to give up their ancestral lands.
In violation of the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla, U.S. Indian policy now demanded non-treaty Nez Perce move to a reservation in Idaho Territory. A series of violent encounters with white settlers in the spring of 1877 resulted in Nez Perce Indians who resisted removal, including Chief Joseph's band and other Nez Perce bands, fleeing from the United States in an attempt to gain political asylum in Canada. Chief Joseph led at least 700 men, women and children over 1,500 miles on one of the most brilliant retreats in American history. The Nez Perce won many battles along the way fighting troops, but only when they came close or attacked the Indians. Cold, starving and exhausted Joseph surrendered to Colonel Nelson Miles of General Oliver Otis Howard’s command in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana just forty miles from the safety of the Canadian border.
Washington Territory Legislature passed women’s suffrage on November 23, 1883 providing women the vote on local issues. Only Wyoming and Utah territories had enacted women’s suffrage earlier. Members of Seattle’s small African-American community rejoiced as they became the first black women ever to vote in the United States. However, women could not participate in national elections as federal laws denied the right
Once again financial panic swept across American in 1884 as railroads were unable to repay the vast amount of money loaned to them. Foreigners began to lose confidence in the willingness of the United States to remain on the gold standard. American gold flowed overseas further denying American businesses access to money for loans.
Washington Territory was home to Chinese immigrants who worked on railroads and in coal mines. But as jobs ended with the depression Chinese took unwanted, low-paying work. Fish canneries employed Chinese labor as strike breakers which resulted in growing anti-Chinese sentiment. Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese from entering the United States. Chinese property was burned and workers were forced to leave Tacoma by train and Seattle by ship to be taken to San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C. Martial Law was imposed and federal troops dispatched to retain order as racism spread across Washington Territory. Laws depriving Chinese people of land ownership were passed by the territorial legislature.
Labor unions organized to defend workers against increasing mechanization and from immigrants who were a threat to take their jobs. Knights of Labor union was friendly to both skilled and unskilled laborers alike. American Federation of Labor organized nationwide along craft lines. Miners in Newcastle, Black Diamond, Franklin and Roslyn went on strike. Tacoma longshoremen refused to load lumber onto ships. These efforts resulted in gains for union members.
As stated in treaties, Indian children were sent to boarding schools to learn American values, beliefs and work skills. Discipline was severe and conversion to Christianity essential. Congress passed the 1887 Compulsory Indian Education Act providing funding for more Indian boarding schools. Parents who refused to send their children to school could be sent to jail. Indian children’s contact with their families often was limited to the summertime. Schools suffered epidemics that killed hundreds of Indian children.
Concerns regarding American politics resulted in utopian colonies being founded in Washington Territory. George Venable Smith in 1887 led the Socialists of Puget Sound Cooperative Colony in an experiment in co-operative living. They believed capitalism did not provide equal economic opportunities for everyone.
Washington Territory had sought to become a state since shortly after the Civil War began. Because the territory was Republican, Democrats in control of congress blocked each effort. Republicans took control in November 1888 and further delay was pointless. Four new states were added to the Union. Due to a clerical error Washington was the last to be admitted. Washington became the forty-second state. Women in the new state lost their right to vote, hold public office and serve on juries.
Canadian railroad builder Jim Hill dreamed of a privately-owned transcontinental rail line. He undertook his goal by linking together short line routes into his Great Northern Railway. He linked Seattle with the Canadian Pacific transcontinental rail terminal at New Westminster, B.C in 1891. Scheduled international train service from Seattle began using Jim Hill’s “Coast Line.” From Seattle Hill also laid track toward the Cascade Mountains to link with his mainline transcontinental track under construction from the east.
Washington State experienced a booming economy. Farmers led the way as farms blessed with good climate, rich soil. abundant rainfall and a long growing season became very productive. Oystermen began to harvest oysters with such abandon they depleted stocks and fish canneries did the same. Northern Pacific Railroad developed the land along the Yakima River when the railroad’s Yakima Land and Canal Company built the Sunnyside Canal and sold irrigatable land. But Washington’s principal industries were extractive in nature: lumber and mining returned huge profits for company owners.
Financial crisis again hit America as the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad went into bankruptcy. President Cleveland was sworn into office for a second, nonconsecutive, term. He did little to address the growing crisis. New York Stock Exchange crashed on June 27, 1893. Business activities slowed, Farm prices for crops and land dropped ever lower and unemployment swept across the nation. Men wandered the countryside looking for work. Public opinion began to slowly swing toward governmental activism and intervention to help the poor.
Violence erupted as strikers at the Pullman railroad car factory in Chicago spread to railroad unions across the nation. President Cleveland used United States Army troops to break the strike. Anarchists, who held that justice could prevail only through a complete elimination of all government, seized on the broken strike to advocate more violence. Washington State became the home of several Utopian socialist cooperative communities that sometimes advocated anarchy.
Gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon. Canadian and Alaskan gold seekers flooded the region. The steamboat Portland arrived in Seattle July 17, 1897 carrying happy sourdoughs with $750,000 in gold. The rush was on but there was no easy way to get to the Klondike. Seattle became the outfitting center as anything that would float was loaded with prospectors and supplies and sailed or pulled to Skagway or Dyea in Alaska. There the trek began to the riches 560 miles, a mountain range and a lake away. As more and more gold arrived legitimate and illegitimate fortunes were made without leaving Seattle. New wealth allowed Seattle to use water hoses to wash Denny Hill into Elliot Bay to reshape the port. Additional gold strikes further enriched Seattle and ended the economic depression.
U.S. Navy battleship Maine was sunk under mysterious circumstances in the harbor of Havana, Cuba February 15, 1898. William Randolph Hearst and his chain of newspapers assumed Spain had plotted the treachery. America declared war and a patriotic frenzy was ignited. First Washington Volunteers under Colonel J.H. Wholley answered the call. Seven officers and one hundred-forty of these men suffered casualties. The Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War. Critics accused the U.S. government of using the Maine as a pretext to gain an empire in the ten-week war.
Timber Barons focused on Pacific Northwest forests. Weyerhaeuser Timber Company began operation when Jim Hill signed papers transferring 900,000 acres of timber land from the Northern Pacific Railway land grant to Frederick Weyerhaeuser. Pope & Talbot began hiring its own logging crews to feed its huge sawmill at Port Gamble. John H. Bloedel and J.J. Donovan logged the Bellingham Bay region. Sol Simpson’s Logging Company hired Mark Reed who put Mason County on a solid economic footing. Roland H. Hartley founded the Hartley-Lovejoy Lumber Company in Everett. R.A. Long, the president of Long-Bell Lumber Company, was active in Kelso and elsewhere. James Patrick McGoldrick’s Lumber Company was the most extensive lumber operation in the Spokane area. Saw mills went up by the hundreds. Some thirty-five thousand loggers swarmed to the fir and pine forests of the Northwest.
Fort Spokane was transformed into a boarding school to educate up to 600 Indian students. The federal government built a new school building at Tulalip to educate pupils six to eighteen years old from many different reservations. Students experienced brutal treatment: they marched to meals, classes, work assignments and their dormitory; they were punished for speaking their native language and for practicing native customs. Many children bore the scars of their boarding school days for the rest of their lives.
Union movement in Washington expanded as prosperity returned. Defunct labor unions reorganized and received International Charters. Waitresses and retail clerks joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Tacoma Grain Handlers Union struck for recognition. King County Labor Council affiliated with the AFL. Strikes were violent as they represented the deep bitterness present on both sides of labor issues.
Washington State politicians advanced their populist agenda of “the people” over “the elite.” President William McKinley’s assassination and the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt advanced this cause as the new president preserved federal lands, regulated business and broke up huge companies (trusts). Even the death in office of Washington’s Populist governors John R. Rogers and Samuel Cosgrove did not slow the Progressive agenda. Reforms in state law added a Railroad Commission, State Tax Commission and Insurance Commissioner to protect the interests of the public.
Motivated women of Washington state’s suffrage movement worked to enlist male voters to amend the state constitution to include women’s voting rights. Strategist Emma Smith DeVoe directed a collaborative state-wide campaign. Wealthy mine owner May Arkwright Hutton was a more aggressive leader. Washington’s suffrage movement received national attention for its success. Both women became increasingly estranged, however their leadership struggles did not stop the efforts of women to gain the vote.
Industrial Workers of the World union (IWW) grew increasingly aggressive and militant. Abuse by employment agencies in hiring transient workers brought the IWW to Spokane where “Free Speech” rallies were held. Speakers stood on soapboxes advocating union membership to crowds of “Wobblies” brought in to demonstrate. Nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Gurley Flynn led the effort. Demonstrators were arrested and filled the city and county jails; nearby Fort Wright was filled with prisoners. Spokane taxpayers began to resent the cost of feeding, housing, and policing IWW protestors. Public opinion shifted to support the Industrial Workers of the World.
The nations of Europe had long shared a twisted and tangled history. The Ottoman Empire was rooted in the old Roman Eastern Empire. Austria-Hungary Empire had sprung from the Western Roman Empire. German Empire was created in 1871 from a portion of the Austria-Hungary Empire. Europe’s “Central Powers” was formed when the Ottoman Empire joined in an alliance with the Austria-Hungary Empire and German Empire. The British Empire, French Empire and the Russian Empire united to form the “Triple Entente.” Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian conspirators. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia July 28, 1914. Russia came to the support of its ally Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia. Germany and France declared war on each other. Great Britain declared war on Germany. The United States remained neutral.
Prohibition of the manufacture and sale of liquor became the law in Washington January 1, 1916. Illegal alcohol was manufactured, transported and sold in the state by Bootleggers. Canada, which did not outlaw liquor, provided alcohol to be smuggled into Washington along the coves and islands of North Puget Sound. Rumrunners using high-powered boats eluded Coast Guard cutters.
Congress declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. Liberty Bonds were sold to finance the war effort. Men 18 to 45 were drafted into the military. Citizens of Pierce County voted to buy 68,721 acres for a military base, Camp Lewis, where the U.S. Army’s 13th Division trained for action in Europe. American industry came under federal control. U.S. Government’s Emergency Fleet Corporation took over bargaining with unions. Shipbuilding expanded to provide Europe with war material, supplies and soldiers. Profits for companies increased dramatically but wages remained frozen.
Spanish Flu raced across America and around the world. Churches, theaters and many stores closed; placards marked homes with the flu; voters went into polling booths wearing masks in November 1918. Spanish Flu took a larger toll of lives worldwide than the war itself.
The “Great War” came to an inconclusive end as Germany signed an armistice November 11, 1918. In the over four year long war, 2.8 million Americans fought for fourteen months. Significantly they had been exposed to European culture. They returned home to ticker-tape parades and harsh economic times as business retreated from war production. Wage controls remained in place.
Following the war effort patriotism was high in America. Businesses had provided the means to wage war. Unions opposing war had struck over wages and working conditions. After the war, political conservatism replaced the Progressive Era. Company closings threw union members out of work. Returning soldiers could not find jobs. Shipyard workers in Seattle and Tacoma called a General Strike February 6, 1919. National newspapers blamed “Reds” (Communists). The General Strike lasted five days -- the “Red Scare” lasted five decades.
Communism had taken root with the fall of the Russian Empire (1917). Working class leaders there took over the means of production and sought revenge on the ruling class. America’s financial titans had dominated the nation’s economy but American workers had been left behind. America was feared to be the next logical target for revolution. Fear of the Russian Revolution and wartime patriotism fueled the “Red Scare.” National newspapers targeted communists, socialists, anarchists, aliens, radicals and other dissidents. Politicians traded on people’s fears.
To many Americans it seemed the old controls were gone. Returning troops brought home European ideas. Although Prohibition was the law, Bootleg liquor served in illegal speakeasies replaced abundant European wines and liquor. Women armed with the vote provided by the Ninetieth Amendment made demands to be heard. Women’s clothing styles changed as “flappers” exposed more skin. Music became increasingly raucous and dancers moved closer together. The “Roaring Twenties” was a classic example of the rich getting richer. As workers organized into unions the world of America’s financial titans was threatened.
President Warren Harding set out on a cross-country tour. He visited Alaska before stopping in Seattle. After giving a speech at the University of Washington he went to bed early. Not feeling well, the president called for his doctor. He continued his trip by train to San Francisco where he suddenly suffered cardiac arrest and died August 2, 1923. Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn into office.
America was divided. Urban America powered by electricity enjoyed the prosperity that war had provided. The stock market continued an unprecedented ascent. But rural America remained trapped in time. Electricity was not available; old kerosene or coal oil lamps lit their world. Only slowly would tractors replace horses. Even worse, farm prices declined as the great demand for crops to feed Europe ended with the armistice. Conditions were ripe for a rural revolt.
Big private electric utilities operated at huge profits in Washington but providing electricity to rural residents was expensive. The cities of Tacoma and Seattle established public utility companies and forced rate reductions through competition. A bitter, intense, hard-fought campaign was waged between those who saw electricity as a financial opportunity and those who saw it as a public service.
Drought swept across America’s Great Plains beginning in the mid-1920s. Light snows in the mountains and early thaws in the spring were factors. Coastal winds carried water vapor out to sea instead of inland. Crops burned in the fields; farm mortgages were foreclosed by banks; farmers move into cities.
Dow-Jones Industrial Average of stock prices fell for the first time in over a decade. Several of the nation’s largest bankers met to address the crisis but stocks continued to sell at a record pace. On October 29, 1929 stocks fell from an earlier high of 381 to 41. The New York stock exchange closed October 31, 1929. The Great Depression was on.
Record breaking heavy rains, blizzards, tornadoes and floods swept the nation’s heartland the winter of 1930-31; then for almost a decade the rains stopped. Drought added to the nation’s misery as crops burned in the fields. Weather across the mid-Western states turned violent: black blizzards swept across the Dust Bowl of the Great Plains. Plagues of grasshoppers destroyed millions of acres of land. Rural families were forced to look for migrant work along the Pacific coast. Drought destroyed crops in Eastern Washington but the workers in Western Washington’s timber industry suffered an even greater loss of income during the Great Depression.
Election of 1932 was a one-sided victory as Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt carried 42 of 48 states. Democrats expanded their control in the national House of Representatives by 54 votes and took control of the national Senate with 64 of 96 seats. Washington elected Democrat Homer T. Bone to the U.S. Senate. All five newly elected congressmen were Democrats. Governor Clarence D. Martin was a Democrat as were 70 of 99 state representatives and 25 of 46 state senators.
Washington’s legislature went into session January 9, 1933. So abrupt was the switch from a Republican majority to Democrat that only a few legislators had any previous experience. Freshman Representative Warren G. Magnuson championed the Progressive political agenda including a pension for retirees, relief for the unemployed and a sales tax.
Franklin Roosevelt was sworn into office March 4, 1933 and Congress went into session. Roosevelt closed all banks. The Gold Standard to support cash was dropped and Federal Reserve Bank notes backed by the federal government were issued. Radio “Fireside Chats” to restore calm in the public were begun by the president. An assortment of agencies to address the depression and to employ workers was passed by congress. Huge projects like Boulder (Hoover) Dam and Grand Coulee Dam were undertaken.
Adolf Hitler consolidated political power in Germany and became dictator in March 1933. His invasion of Poland September 1, 1939 led to France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand declaring war.
Labor began to organize. Strikes by sailors and maritime workers, longshoremen and warehousemen, and teamsters rocked the maritime shipping industry on the Pacific coast. Other union workers joined in the fight for control of their own destiny: brewers and milk truck drivers; dressmakers; sawmill and timber workers. Labor wars with management in the 1930s were intense and brutal. Communisis were said to be leading the strikes. Strike-breakers, police and National Guard troops were used to break some strike efforts. At the same time there were internal battles for control of the unions themselves. Union locals struggled to elect competing leaders. The Committee for Industrial Organizations (CIO) split from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Regardless, union workers continued their fight for solidarity.
Still the Great Depression continued.
As war spread throughout Europe and Asia, the federal government took steps to convert the nation into a war machine. Men between the ages of 21 and 35 were eligible to be drafted. War Bonds and War Stamps helped offset the enormous cost of the war. Federal officials developed an array of mobilization agencies to not only purchase war goods but also to closely direct manufacturing. The Battleship Washington, BB-56, was launched. Boeing built B-17 bombers at a rapidly increasing rate. Boeing workers made tremendous advances in air technology and construction practices as B-29s came on line. Physicists believed bringing Atomic theory into reality was near at hand.
Radio pioneer Edward R. Murrow began broadcasting live from London. He described in detail the devastation as German bombers attacked the city. Throughout the war Ed Murrow and the “Murrow Boys” reported events live from the European Theater.
War came to America. Imperial Japan bombed America’s Pacific fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Congress declared war on Japan the next day. West coast American Japanese came under suspicion. Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, December 11; America responded by declaring war the same day. America became involved in a two-front war.
Americans became immersed in the war effort as companies scheduled three eight-hour shifts seven days a week. Washington shipyards exploded with activity. PACCAR was contracted to produce Sherman Tanks; ALCOA produced aluminum for airplanes. “Rosie the Riveter” proved that women could do a “man’s job” and could do it as well. The Great Depression was over.
Rationing of goods such as rubber, clothing, sugar, coffee, canned goods and gasoline restricted consumption. The West coast was declared a combat zone. Executive Order 9066 resulted in 110,000 West Coast American Japanese being placed into internment camps. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team composed of Japanese internees became the most highly decorated unit in the U.S. Army.
Construction began on a secret facility as thousands of workers disappeared into the Washington desert. Water from the Columbia River and electricity from Grand Coulee Dam were used to develop three atomic bombs. No one knew if they would work or what the result would be if they did.
After the loss at Pearl Harbor, America conducted a defensive war in the Pacific 1941-42. Bataan and Corregidor fell as Imperial Japan advanced toward Australia. The Battle of Midway June 1942 resulted in a decisive Allied victory. The defense of Alaska became a military priority. America entered World War II in Europe when U.S. troops landed in North Africa November 8, 1942. The Allies next invaded southern Italy and advanced north 1943-45.
America’s war continued on two fronts in 1944-45. D-Day was launched June 6, 1944. Germany began a counter-offensive that resulted in the Battle of the Bulge, the Western Front’s largest battle. After an Allied victory, troops began a great thrust into Germany. At the same time, the Allies went on the offensive in the Pacific Theater attacking the Solomon Islands. America’s only remaining battleship in the Pacific, the Washington, continued the fight for five weeks. Japan’s sea and air supremacy came to an end. President Franklin Roosevelt died as the end of World War II approached. Vice President Harry S. Truman took office April 12, 1945. Germany surrendered May 7, 1945. Two atomic bombs, one produced at Hanford, Washington, were dropped on Japanese cities. Japan’s surrender was announced August 15, 1945. America’s “Greatest Generation” had survived the Great Depression and World War.
Americans strived to discover what “normal” would be in the Atomic Age. The United States possessed the atomic bomb and was the world’s only Superpower. The United Nations came into existence. The G.I. Bill provided veterans money for schooling; the Marshall Plan, funded by America, rebuilt Europe; the first “flying saucer” was reported near Mount Rainier; British Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted an “iron curtain” divided Europe into capitalism and communism. The “Cold War” replaced the hot war and the “Red Scare” resurfaced. State Representative Albert Canwell led a legislative committee in an effort to find communists working in state government.
Fear of communism spread in America. Following the lead of Washington legislator Albert Canwell (R-Washington), U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) expanded the Red Scare nationally. McCarthy claimed communists had infiltrated the U.S. government and were plotting revolution. The trial and execution of American Communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg fanned the flames of the Red Scare. “McCarthyism” swept the nation as ordinary citizens joined “Far Right” anti-communists to oppose the United Nations, the addition of social welfare programs and expansion of public health services. McCarthy also investigated the U.S. Army for communists. He was eventually censured by the senate.
Progress was evident on both sides of the state. In addition to generating electricity, Grand Coulee Dam stored water for irrigation. Grant, Adams and Franklin counties held a “Columbia Basin Water Festival” to celebrate 66,000 newly irrigated acres. Governor Arthur B. Langlie gave the opening speech in Pasco May 22, 1952. Moses Lake, Quincy, Soap Lake and Ephrata held celebrations. Thousands of people moved into the former desert to start farms. West of the mountains President Dwight Eisenhower signed the act creating the national interstate highway system and construction began on Interstate-5.
Southern states ensured public facilities remained racially segregated by passing “Jim Crow” laws to preserve racial discrimination. Southern Democrats deprived African-Americans of their vote by restricting voter registration and election laws. Even outside the South discrimination in housing and jobs was well documented. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education May 17,1954 that a “separate but equal” policy in education resulted in the unconstitutional segregation of schools. The 1957 Civil Rights Act was passed by congress to assure the right to vote for federal officials. In Washington State, Robert Satiacum and James Young of the Puyallup tribe believed their right to fish was guaranteed by the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty. They netted fish in the Puyallup River November 11, 1954 in violation of federal and state policy. They were arrested and convicted of illegal fishing.
Bonneville Power Administration was created in 1937 to market electricity generated by Bonneville Dam. BPA now markets all electricity generated in the Pacific Northwest. In an effort to meet the growing need for electricity in Washington, the legislature allowed Public Utility Districts (PUDs) to form Joint Operating Agencies and sell construction bonds. Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) was formed by PUDs to build atomic power generating plants to produce electricity.
Americans were frightened October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth. Undecipherable radio signals traveled back to earth. The “Space Race” was on. America’s effort to launch an embarrassingly small payload failed on live television. Explorer-1 was successfully launched January 31, 1958 but failure continued to plague the U.S. space program. Congress passed the National Defense Education Act authorizing funding four years of college for mathematics and science students needed to program newly-developing computers. The success of this program resulted in Neil Armstrong being the first person to walk on the moon July 20, 1969.
Cuba became a concern to Americans as an invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro failed at the Bay of Pigs. Soviet nuclear missiles were placed to defend Cuba from America; additional missiles were en route to Cuba. President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade to stop the Soviet convoy. In the weeks that followed, both nations stood at the brink of nuclear holocaust. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to turn the convoy around and remove the nuclear missiles from Cuba in return for assurances the United States would not invade Cuba. World War III had been averted.
America remained behind in the Space Race. Project Mercury launched its third monkey into the atmosphere, but Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth April 12, 1961. Astronaut John Glenn followed February 20, 1962; then disaster hit when Apollo I burst into flames killing three astronauts.
Real estate in Seattle was racially divided. Seattle’s School Board was sued and Civil Rights marchers demanded “open housing” to end racial segregation. Protestors “sat in” the mayor’s office and City Council Chambers. Seattle City Council committed to creating a human rights commission. Indian “fish-ins” were held on the Nisqually River to preserve rights granted by the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty. Attorney Jack Tanner and lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supported Indian rights.
Medical advances changed American lives -- none more than the development of a birth control pill. Several improvements to kidney dialysis machines were developed by University of Washington doctors. Heart Defibrillators were improved by UW Dr. Karl William Edmark.
America intensified its war effort as fear grew that the fall of Vietnam to communists would take with it all of Southeast Asia. College students protested against the escalating war and the draft. Photographs and television portrayed war violence on the nightly news showing burning villages and bodies floating down the Mekong River. The massacre of the village of My Lai enraged Americans. War protestors responded with their own increasing violence. Popular music supported the anti-war movement.
1967 saw race riots erupt across the nation. Demonstrators shouted “Burn Baby Burn!” as cities went up in flames. Thousands were jailed; rioters demanded society transform civil rights, voting rights, Indian rights and stop the escalating war. However, in contrast to the protests and rioting, a “Summer of Love” also swept the nation in 1967. “Hippies” talked of “Flower Power” and lived an alternative-lifestyle sharing “Beat” music, drugs and free love. 1968 saw almost half a million young people attend the four-day Woodstock Music Festival featuring the best Rock musicians of the day.
Gun violence became the change agent of American history. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dalles, Texas and Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn into office November 22, 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed April 4, 1968. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was gunned down June 6, 1968. President Johnson, in the face of vehement protests, declined to seek re-election. Killing in Vietnam continued at an escalating rate. The Chicago Democratic National Convention was plagued by rioters as protest movements united. Republican Richard Nixon narrowly won the presidency.
Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon July 20, 1969.
America faced profound changes in the 1970s. Civil rights, voting rights,
fishing rights and human rights all took precedence over the old social order.
Enormous changes took place in national and state politics. The vice president
was removed from office for taking bribes. The president, faced with
impeachment, resigned. America experienced its first non-elected president. The
Equal Rights Amendment failed but congress passed Title IX to eliminate gender
discrimination in schools and colleges. Washington State Senate Majority Leader
August Mardesich resigned when he was caught taking bribes to pass legislation.
The state house of representatives was led by co-speakers. Atomic scientist and
non-politician Dixie Lee Ray was elected the state’s first women governor.
The high cost of war led to runaway inflation. Economic hard times and unemployment enveloped our region. A billboard read: “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights.” Lack of state funding for education caused teachers to strike across the state. Washington Education Association affiliates closed schools or were locked out as legislators struggled to define and fund “Basic Education.”
Crime was rampant. Seattle’s police department was criticized for its use of physical violence against demonstrators and deadly force against minorities. An investigation further revealed forty officers took bribes; several hundred police officers were named as unindicted co-conspirators. Pierce County’s sheriff was convicted to taking bribes from a local crime syndicate. “D,B. Cooper” carried out the first airplane hijacking. California’s “Hillside Strangler” visited Bellingham with deadly result. Serial killer Ted Bundy terrorized Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado.
Historic artifacts were discovered. Makah Indian’s Ozette Village of six longhouses and their contents shrouded in mud was unearthed revealing relics from a time before European contact. Ozette is one of the most significant archeological sites in North American. Sequim was the location of mastodon tusks and bones preserved in wet peat for 13,000 to 14,000 years. These remains displayed signs of human activity.
Washington entrepreneurs enjoyed amazing success. Stanford University student Craig McCaw expanded his family’s Centralia cable television system when he added paging to the company. Lakeside School sophomore Paul Allen became acquainted with eighth grader Bill Gates. They created Microsoft at ages 22 and 19. The software giant opened in Redmond in 1979.
Professional sports raised spirits in Washington. The Seattle Supersonics
began to play basketball in 1967 and the Seattle Pilots brought professional
baseball to Seattle for one year, 1969. Seattle Seahawks started to play
football in 1976 and Mariner Baseball arrived in 1977. Racehorse Seattle Slew
won the Triple Crown in 1977. The Seattle Supersonics became National Champions
Washington U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson was a leading Progressive. The list of accomplishments he passed and funded is unprecedented. For instance, he created the National Health Institute (the world's largest medical research facility), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the National Health Service Corps to provide doctors in underserved communities. He protected consumers with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Fair Credit Advertising Act, Door to Door Sales Act, and laws that required warnings on cigarettes. He regulated automobile safety, required manufacturers to live up to the promises in their warranties, and set safety standards for children's toys. The Flammable Fabrics Act required children’s sleepwear be flame resistant. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act required all food products be accurately labeled with their ingredients and quantity. Magnuson played a major role in establishing public television, gave 18-year-olds the right to vote and created Amtrak. He eliminated 1882 "Chinese exclusion" provisions from U.S. immigration law. To protect Puget Sound, he made supertankers off-limits and prohibited construction of new oil ports in state waters east of Port Angeles. He also passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act to preserve local seal, sea lion, sea otter and whale populations.
Mount St. Helens violently exploded removing 1313 feet of mountain top and blowing 8.8 billion cubic yards of pulverized rock, dirt and ice into the air Sunday, May 18, 1980. An ash plum rose fifteen miles into the atmosphere as thousands of miles surrounding the mountain were covered with a layer of ash.
Washington’s Democratic Party was in disarray. Senate Majority Leader Gordon Walgren and Co-Speaker of the House of Representatives John Bagnariol were named in a federal racketeering indictment involving gambling and political corruption. Both men were sentenced to five years in federal prison.
The political landscape changed November 4, 1980. Ronald Reagan led the Republican Party to a national landslide victory. Republican John Spellman became governor of Washington. U.S. Senator Warren G. “Maggy” Magnuson, the most powerful man the U.S. Senate, was defeated by Republican challenger Slade Gordon. Democratic U.S. Senator Henry M. Scoop” Jackson died in office; Republican Governor John Spellman appointed Republican Daniel J. Evans to the senate seat September 1, 1983.
Washington Women made their presence known. Barbara J. Rothstein became the first woman justice for the U.S. Federal District Court for Western Washington. Governor Dixy Lee Ray appointed Justice Carolyn R. Dimmick to the Washington State Supreme Court. Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, a graduate of Sunnyside High School and the University of Washington, participated in five space flights.
Teachers demanding full funding for Basic Education went on strike. Superior Court Judge Robert Doran ruled Basic Education must be fully funded regardless of economic conditions. Encouraged Washington Education Association affiliates responded with local strikes. Governor Booth Gardner named a Blue Ribbon Commission to draft education reforms. “Full funding” became teaching “core competencies” and “pay-for-performance.” Teacher strikes continued.
Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS -- pronounced whoops) was formed by Public Utility Districts (PUDs) to build atomic powered electricity generating plants. WPPSS sold construction bonds. Construction costs soared from $4.1 billion to $23.8 billion and construction was terminated. WPPSS defaulted on its $2.25 billion debt. Bondholders recovered only 40% of their investment in the biggest municipal bond failure in history.
Several bodies were discovered along the Green River. A police Task Force was formed to investigate. As more victims were found, a tip was received that led to the home of Gary Ridgeway. Police found nothing. More than two dozen additional young women disappeared generating public fear and anger. Police retrenching led to dozens of Green River Task Force members being reassigned as the killings continued.
Companies headquartered in Washington did well. Starbucks began as a local coffee shop and expanded to over 30,000 locations worldwide. Costco became the first company to grow from zero to $3 billion in sales in under six years. Microsoft dominated the world’s personal computer market. McCaw Cellular Communications was valued at more than $11.5 billion when it was sold. Boeing built the American portion of the International Space Station to link with the Soviet Mir station.
Bangor, Washington received its first nuclear-powered Trident submarine. Trident’s serve as an undetectable intercontinental nuclear missile launch platform. Approximately 2,000 thermonuclear warheads were based at Bangor making Kitsap County third in the world in nuclear weaponry. Anti-nuclear weapon activists blocked “White Trains” loaded with nuclear weapons on their way to Bangor.
Iraq invaded Kuwait. The United Nations Security Council authorized military intervention in Iraq August 29, 1990. Army reservists were called to active duty across the United States as protestors took to the streets. President George H.W. Bush ordered Operation Desert Storm (First Gulf War) launched against military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. A cease fire was declared after 100 hours of devastation. Iraq threatened to build nuclear weapons. President George W. Bush announced a Second Gulf War and ordered more than 100 airstrikes on Iraq before announcing an invasion March 20, 2003. Peace has yet to return to Iraq.
The Communist government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) began to experience politically independent pressure as nationalist movements emerged in several of the republics. A coup to overthrow the Soviet Union president failed, but as the world watched in amazement the government disintegrated. President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned December 25, 1991 ending the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Green River killer continued his rampage as the police Task force dwindled to one investigator and the discovery of victims stopped. In 1998 a body demonstrated the Green River killer remained active.
Native Americans exerted their treaty rights. Tacoma’s city and port and the city of Fife had expanded onto Puyallup Indian reservation land. The Puyallup Tribe sent eviction letters to farmers and landowners. Negotiations resulted in the tribe acquiring a $162 million settlement. In a court case Washington State treaty tribes retained the right to harvest shellfish even on private property. Makah Indians, reviving a protected ancient tradition, conducted a successful whale hunt December 1994.
Teacher strikes continued culminating in a stateside strike. Governor Booth Gardner and legislators took up education reform but ignored education funding. Commissions and Task Forces proposed that student learning goals and teacher accountability were the real issues facing education. Local school districts saw their funding slashed as corporate lobbying for billions of dollars in tax breaks and other benefits began. WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) testing was imposed to acquire a high school diploma. Problems of wide variations in individual schools’ performances and inconsistencies in test scoring soon surfaced. Controversy forced WASL testing to end in 2009.
King, Pierce and Snohomish county voters approved tax increases for a mass transit plan. Sound Transit “Sounder” commuter trains used existing standard-gauge railroad tracks to connect cities from Everett to Tacoma. “Link” light-rail tracks are being constructed to connect the suburbs.
Trade agreements became the focus of President Bill Clinton. Barriers to international trade with America were eased or removed. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partnered the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) partnered the Pacific Rim nations. Seattle was selected as APEC’s permanent United States headquarters. World Trade Organization (WTO) established January 1, 1995 lowered tariffs and trade barriers resulting in an expanded world marketplace. However, concerns about trading fairness and corporate-led globalization were aroused. Seattle was selected to host the third WTO Ministerial Conference in 1999. Protestors such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Global Trade Watch and others including anarchists prepared. As trade meeting were held, riots broke out on the streets. WTO meetings were disrupted. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a state of emergency. Seattle police, King County deputies and National Guardsmen attacked protestors in what became known as the “Battle of Seattle.” In the aftermath, several investigations were opened into police misconduct. Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper resigned. Court trials resulted in Seattle settling with protestors.
Boeing Company acquired its rivals. Rockwell’s Aerospace and Defense was purchased. Boeing Company merged with McDonnell Douglas making Boeing the number one commercial airline company and the number one defense contractor in the United States. Boeing launched its first satellite into orbit in 1999.
Boeing expanded into the information and communication industries before acquiring Hughes space operations. Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. Boeing merged the company’s space, defense, government and intelligence and communications divisions into one business unit called Integrated Defense Systems headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
Microsoft founders invested in the public. Bill and Melinda Gates began their philanthropic foundation with a gift of $5 billion in Microsoft stock that generated an endowment of $21.8 billion -- the largest transparently operated philanthropic trust in the world. The focus of the foundation was on global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington and Oregon. Paul Allen founded his investment company, Vulcan Inc., to direct funding toward media companies, museums, theaters and galleries and medical research facilities. He also purchased the Portland Trailblazers basketball team and the Seattle Seahawks football team.
Washington’s Primary Election laws were ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in California Democratic Party v. Jones (2000). Washington voters passed an initiative to allow voters to select any candidate from any political party in Primary Elections. Each party’s candidate with the highest number of votes advanced to the General Election. The Republican and Democratic parties filed suit. Washington legislators passed two different primary election proposals and let Democratic Governor Gary Locke veto one. What remained was an Open Primary where voters could select from all candidates for all offices regardless of political party. The top two candidates regardless of political party moved to the General election ballot. Opponents to the plan sued in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party ruled this process was constitutionally permissible May 19, 2008.
Sound Transit’s first commuter train departed from Tacoma 6:20 a.m. September 18, 2000. Other elements of the $3.9 billion transportation system included “Link” light rail service connecting the suburbs, “Sound Express” buses and expanded “High Occupancy Vehicle” (HOV) lanes on the freeway.
Olympia was rocked by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake at 10:54 a.m. February 28, 2001. This was one of the largest recorded earthquakes in Washington state history and lasted approximately forty-five seconds. The quake’s epicenter was Anderson Island about eleven miles northeast of Olympia. The Nisqually earthquake caused approximately $305 million of insured losses and a total of $2 billion worth of damage in the state. President George W. Bush declared a natural disaster.
Almost twenty years after the first known Green River murder Detective Dave Reichert (who was appointed sheriff of King County and became a Congressman) began renewed investigations into the murders. DNA technology linked Gary Ridgway with the victims. Ridgway was arrested and jailed without bail November 30, 2001. He pled guilty to forty-eight charges of aggravated first-degree murder. By confessing he avoided the death penalty. In later interviews he said he was responsible for 65 and then 71 deaths. He may have killed as many as 90 young women.
Professional sports suffered a turbulent existence. Seattle was granted a Major League Soccer franchise, Seattle FC, in 2002 that went on to become the only MLS expansion team to win the U.S. Open Cup in its first season. The Seattle Supersonics basketball team was sold and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. Seattle’s Seahawks football team made two Superbowl appearances in 2014 and 2015. The first game ended in victory over the Denver Broncos but the second game ended on the one yard line with a New England Patriot interception.
Teachers in the State of Washington continued to strike for school funding. Voters passed two initiatives in support of education: one to reduce class size, expand teacher training and build facilities, and a second to provide a cost-of-living pay raise for public school employees. However, controversy in the legislature kept the pay raises from being implemented. Democratic Governor Gary Locke proposed to suspend the education initiatives indefinitely. As school funding took a hit at all levels, teachers held the largest rally in Olympia in state history. Legislators removed the 60% approval requirement for school levies to pass and redefined the “Basic Education” to be funded. Education advocates sued the state. Superior Court Judge John Erlick in McCleary v. State of Washington ruled the state was not fully funding education. This was upheld by the State Supreme Court January 5, 2012. Legislators responded to the ruling by threatening to cut education spending even more. The State Supreme Court found the legislature to be in contempt of court September 11, 2014. The final apportionment in education funding, teachers’ salaries, was fully funded in 2019.
Searchable Pacific Northwest History provides a huge variety of topics to be studied.
I have chosen to use a chronological format that includes a series on indentions something like an outline so additional material could be easily added and existing material shifted to a new location. This also allows the reader to “copy and paste” material from this document into a new document of their own making using the “document search navigator” on their computer. This access allows anyone to construct an historic document of their own in “outline” form.
With the exception of the sections on Geology and Native Americans in Book One, this document is in chronological order by century, decade, year, month and occasionally week. The expanse of time covered in the first two sections makes centuries and even millennia irrelevant. In the remaining chronology events listed out of sequence in an effort make a point are placed in parenthesis ( ) and non-sequential dates in brackets [ ]. Quotations are in bold print and footnoted.
To construct an historic document of your own requires a two-step process:
We have provided a TEMPLATE of the “outline” formatting required for the new document.
a. Download this TEMPLATE and Save it onto your computer.
b. OPEN the TEMPLATE.
Download the MS Word version of this book (see list of books below). Information COPIED from Searchable Pacific Northwest History and PASTED onto the TEMPLATE will result in a new document being generated in chronological order and “outline” form.
For instance, after generating a formatted TEMPLATE on a computer, a student might search the activities of Juan Ponce de Leon. Opening Searchable Pacific Northwest History and placing LEON into the search navigator shows Leon is found 37 times. The first instance is in the Synopsis “1500-1599 (PAGES 136-164)” on page 6-7 tells were to begin the search. The paragraph “CONQUISTADOR JUAN PONCE de LEON BECOMES GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO” on page 153 begins his exploits. This paragraph can be COPIED and PASTED onto the TEMPLATE. The next paragraph where “LEON” is found is “SPANISH CONQUISTADOR JUAN PONCE de LEON EXPLORES (TODAY’S FLORIDA)” on page 154. This too can be copied and pasted into the TEMPLATE following the first paragraph.
Further examination of the historic document would result in other relevant information being discovered. Adding this material to the “outline” template would produce a document featuring the exploits of Juan Ponce de Leon in chronological order.
Computers have changed the way we can look at history. The study of our past has always been constricted by the space available to present it. The person, topic, or event being studied was confined by the physical limits of books. This constricting of the past is even greater in a history book dedicated to a very broad subject. Each topic must be compressed to fit the space available. These restrictions are no longer necessary with the advent of computers and the internet.
The historic material that I have included has had a direct impact on the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. I have tried to focus on topics that people who live here, regardless of decade or century, would discuss with their family and friends. My hope is that because it was a topic of conversation and interest to people residing here at one time it may yet be so today.
History happens chronologically and in context. However, it is not taught that way. Rather, attention is focused on dates, names and selected topics. For instance, the exploration of Captain George Vancouver might be presented without any mention of the discoveries of Spanish explorers although both investigations occurred simultaneously and sometimes mutually. Also, American sea traders were operating in the same waters while Alexander Mackenzie was actively conducting his overland expeditions to find the Pacific Ocean. Events do not occur in isolation.
The topics of missionaries to the Pacific Northwest and Hudson’s Bay Company might be presented without acknowledging both entities were dealing with the same Native Americans at the same time. These interactions had a unique impact on the Indians. Or, similarly Northwest Indian wars and Indian treaties are presented without mentioning the treaties came before the wars. Presenting history one topic at a time, while necessary until now, makes historic context almost impossible.
Presenting history one topic at a time also presents a false image of the time necessary to accomplish a task. When students are introduced to the Oregon Trail, attention is perhaps paid to the preparations essential for the journey and the sacrifices necessary. The route West is depicted passing by a series of prominent land features, hardships for the travelers may be indicated, and Oregon is reached three paragraphs or three pages after setting out depending on the detail of the text. There is no feeling for the nine months the journey on foot took to complete. The neglect of the amount of time necessary to accomplish a goal is so frequent in history books that this could, perhaps, account for the instant gratification so often demanded today.
Those of us who enjoy reading history are intrigued with adding new information to what we have previously discovered. Each addition provides an opportunity to gain new insight. We are aware that previous generations faced challenges and mysteries much like our own. Discovering how these demands were met, successfully or unsuccessfully, in the past can guide us as we seek answers to our own personal and collective dilemmas. Most history instructors strive to teach their students about history. My goal is to enable students to learn from history. As President Harry Truman noted: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
The complete 5 book series on Kindle (updated on 12/1/22):
Searchable Pacific NW History (Kindle)
Book One - Origins:
Book Two - Discovery:
Book Three - Exploration:
Book Four - Settlement:
Book Five - Development:
I was born in Western Washington and raised in a small village on the shore of the Salish
Sea. My professional life was dedicated to teaching primarily Washington State History and
United States History at the junior high school level. Of course, I coached for several
years. I was active in my local education association serving as president, treasurer and
negotiator representing teachers. I also was active in local and state politics. After
retiring from teaching I was elected Washington State Senate Sergeant-at-Arms for two
I began A Searchable History as a lecture series to supplement the Washington State History textbooks available for junior high student use. I discovered that an understanding of the present is predicated on an understanding of the past. When I was introduced to the computer my research grew exponentially. This document is the result of my life-long interest in history.