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Many Native Americans lived in
the Washington region when European explorers first visited the area.
Some of these groups lived west of the Cascades.
The Chinook, Nisqually, Quinault, and Puyallup hunted deer and
fished for salmon and clams. Others,
the Cayuse, Colville, Spokane, and Nez Percé, lived east of the Cascades
on the plains and valleys.
fur traders settled what is now Alaska during the mid-1700s.
In 1775, Spanish explorers landed near present-day Point Grenville
and claimed the Washington region for Spain.
Spain began exploration of Washington in an attempt to stop the
Russians from claiming land farther south.
Vancouver explored much of the Washington coast and Puget Sound between
1792 and 1794, claiming the land for England.
Other British explorers visited the area in the early 1800s from
Canada. The United States
also claimed rights to the area in 1792.
Robert Gray explored the Columbia River and claimed all land
surrounding the area. In
1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark also explored the area and gave
the U.S. a second claim to the Northwest.
American and British fur trading companies came to Washington in the early
1800s. In 1810, a trading
post was built near Spokane. In
1811, John Jacob Astor established Fort Okanogan, the first permanent
American settlement within what is now the state of Washington.
In 1818, the U.S. and England agreed that settlers from both
countries could move into Washington, which was then part of the Oregon
Country. In 1825, John
McLoughlin of the British Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort
Americans wanted all of the Oregon Country to belong to the United States.
In 1846, a treaty was signed with Great Britain creating the 49th
parallel as the border between Washington and Canada.
By 1850, more than 1,000 people lived in Washington.
This led to the creation of the Washington Territory in 1853.
leaders desiring to open more land for white settlement, wanted the Native
Americans to sign treaties in 1855. This
action led to a war that lasted until 1858, when the Indians surrendered
at Four Lakes and moved onto reservations.
During the 1860s, thousands of settlers moved to Washington as gold
was discovered in Idaho, Oregon, and British Columbia.
When large amounts of gold were not found in Washington, many
settlers stayed to become farmers and loggers.
1883, railroad connection with the East brought many new settlers to
Washington. Washington became
the 42nd state on Nov. 11, 1889, with Olympia as the state
capital. In 1890,
Washington’s population reached more than 350,000.
to irrigation projects during the 1890s, farmers moved to Washington to
plant fruit orchards and wheat fields.
Fishing, lumbering, and mining industries continued to increase as
well. Railroad expansion
allowed coastal cities to become great port centers, the largest among
them being Seattle. During
the Alaska gold rush (1897-1898), this great city grew immensely as it
became the chief supply center for the prospectors.
World War I (1914-1918), Washington supplied lumber, food, and ships.
Camp Lewis was established as a military training center.
After the war, many workers lost their jobs and unemployment rose
sharply. In the “Seattle
Revolution of 1919,” over 60,000 workers protested by walking off their
jobs. The Great Depression (1929-1939) also caused many industries
to decline and unemployment to increase.
The federal government provided thousands of jobs through
construction of the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams.
Many jobs were created as the United States entered World War II in 1941. Washington built airplanes and ships. Railroads and the wood product industry expanded. In 1943, Hanford Works (Hanford Project of the U.S. Department of Energy) was established. The first atomic bombs were made here; then in the 1960s, it began to produce electricity.
the war, thousands of people that had come to Washington to work on newly
built military bases, stayed. Many
people continued to move to Washington as its industries expanded and
increased. The construction
of several federal dams along the Columbia River led to development of
many hydroelectric projects by the U.S. and Canada in 1964.
The tourist industry was promoted in 1962 at a world’s fair held
in Seattle. The Space Needle
observation tower was built at this time.
the late 1960s, Washington’s population grew rapidly in Seattle and the
Puget Sound area. New
industries were expanded. The
Boeing Company, a builder of military aircraft, expanded its business into
the commercial jet and aerospace industries.
Electronic and computer software companies also moved into these
cities at this time.
growth and industrial change caused increased pollution along Puget Sound
and the Columbia River. Seattle
spent $130 million to clean Lake Washington and Elliott.
Logging known as clear cutting had destroyed much of Washington’s
forests. Since that time,
state leaders are striving to help the economy grow without destroying
much of its natural resources.