Washington History

Early history

A totem pole with the Thunderbird on top.

According to beautyphoon.com, the area where Washington is located has been inhabited for centuries. The oldest find in the area is the so-called Kennewickman, which is about 9,300 years old. This is the oldest complete human skeleton on the American continent. We know that there have been massive earthquakes in the area. The last major earthquake in the area was in 1700. Different peoples lived in the area, who had more or less the same culture as the peoples of Oregon and British Columbia. These peoples are known for the totem poles, which are still common in the area. They also had mythology that was almost the same, almost all peoples believed in the Thunderbird. The peoples lived mainly from fishing and hunting whales. Other peoples lived by hunting wild animals and gathering food. When the Europeans visited the area, they brought European diseases with them, including smallpox. In 1770, there was a major outbreak of smallpox, which dramatically reduced the number of Native Americans.

European colonization

Trade with indigenous peoples in 1841

We do not know exactly when the first Europeans arrived in the area. The first European we know for sure is the Spaniard Drune de Heceta in 1775. He described the area and claimed it for the Spanish throne. However, the Spaniards were not interested in the area, partly because they already had other, more valuable areas in America. The famous British explorer James Cook visited the area in 1778 and the area was further explored by Charles William Barkley in 1787. In the following years the area was claimed by both the Spaniards and the British. Both countries surveyed the area. For example, the Spaniard Manuel Quimper traveled to the area in 1790 and the British George Vancouverdid this in 1792. In 1790, Spain gave up its claims to the area, after which the British claimed the area alone. Russians from Russian America (present-day Alaska) were also active in the area, and the Americans also discovered the area during the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. In 1818 the Americans and British decided to jointly colonize the area. Called the Oregon Territory, this area consisted of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and southwestern Canada. Both the British and the Americans were allowed to trade and explore further in the area. Finally, US President James Knox Polk negotiated with the residents of Washington to divide the area by extending the straight border between the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, Christian missionaries were also active in the area, including Marcus Whitman ‘s Oregon Trail. During this expedition, Whitman and his missionaries were murdered by native tribes.

Washington as territory

Seattle in 1887

After the treaty with the British, the American portion of Oregon territory was reclassified. President Millard Fillmore signed the law establishing Washington Territory in 1853. This territory included Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana. In 1863, the area was made smaller by the foundation of Idaho Territory. In the meantime, more and more people moved to Washington. This made the area eligible to become a state. The first constitution was created in 1878, but it was not adopted until 1889. That same year, on November 11, 1889, Washington acceded as the 42nd state. The state was especially important in agriculture and timber construction. Later, fishing and mining also became important.

Washington as a state

In the 20th century, Seattle became an important city for trade between Alaska and the rest of the country. A lot of industry also came to Washington during this period. Major dams were built in the state during the Great Depression, including the Grand Coulee Dam in 1941. During World War II, many combat aircraft were built in the state. Washington also became the place where atomic bombs were made. Washington was one of the leading states in the fight against racial segregation. Washington was ahead of many issues, such as women’s suffrage and abortion.

Washington History