Oregon Territory

Oregon Territory

Overview
The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries (See Oregon Country
Oregon Country
The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed ownership region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from...

), the region was divided between the U.S. and Great Britain in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, as well as parts of Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 and Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries (See Oregon Country
Oregon Country
The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed ownership region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from...

), the region was divided between the U.S. and Great Britain in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, as well as parts of Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 and Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City
Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City was the first city in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains to be incorporated. It is the county seat of Clackamas County, Oregon...

, then Salem
Salem, Oregon
Salem is the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city. The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood...

, followed briefly by Corvallis
Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis is a city located in central western Oregon, United States. It is the county seat of Benton County and the principal city of the Corvallis, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Benton County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 54,462....

, and lastly as Salem, the seat of government for the State of Oregon.

Background



Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the region that became the Oregon Territory was explored by Europeans first by sea. The first documented exploration came in 1776 by the Spanish, with British and American vessels visiting the region within a few years. Later, land based exploration by Alexander Mackenzie and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, or ″Corps of Discovery Expedition" was the first transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Coast by the United States. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by two Virginia-born veterans of Indian wars in the Ohio Valley, Meriwether Lewis and William...

 along with the establishment of the fur trade in the region set up a variety of conflicting territorial claims by European powers and the United States.

These conflicts led to several treaties, including the Treaty of 1818
Treaty of 1818
The Convention respecting fisheries, boundary and the restoration of slaves between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, also known as the London Convention, Anglo-American Convention of 1818, Convention of 1818, or simply the Treaty of 1818, was a...

 that set up a "joint occupation" between the United States and the British over the region that included parts of the current U.S. states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Montana as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Formation





During the period of joint occupation, most activity in the region outside of the activities of the indigenous people came from the fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

, which was dominated by the British's Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

. Over time, some trappers began to settle down in the area and began farming, and missionaries started to arrive in the 1830s. Some settlers also began arriving in the late 1830s, and covered wagons crossed the Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a historic east-west wagon route that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between.After 1840 steam-powered riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers sped settlement and development in the flat...

 beginning in 1841. At that time, no government existed in the Oregon Country, as no one nation held dominion over the territory.

A group of settlers in the Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley is the most populated region in the state of Oregon of the United States. Located in the state's northwest, the region is surrounded by tall mountain ranges to the east, west and south and the valley's floor is broad, flat and fertile because of Ice Age conditions...

 began meeting 1841 to discuss organizing a government for the area. These earliest documented discussions, concerning forming a government, were held in an early pioneer and Native American encampment and later town known as Champoeg, Oregon
Champoeg, Oregon
Champoeg is a former town in the U.S. state of Oregon. Now a ghost town, it was an important settlement in the Willamette Valley in the early 1840s. It is positioned halfway between Oregon City and Salem and the site of the first provisional government of the Oregon Country...

. These first Champoeg Meetings
Champoeg Meetings
The Champoeg Meetings in Oregon Country were the first attempts at governing in the Pacific Northwest by United States European-American pioneers. Prior to this, the closest entity to a government was the Hudson's Bay Company, mainly through Dr...

 eventually led to further discussions, and in 1843 the creation of the Provisional Government of Oregon
Provisional Government of Oregon
The Provisional Government of Oregon was a popularly elected government created in the Oregon Country, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It existed from May 2, 1843 until March 3, 1849. Created at a time when no country had sovereignty over the region, this independent government...

. In 1846, the Oregon boundary dispute
Oregon boundary dispute
The Oregon boundary dispute, or the Oregon Question, arose as a result of competing British and American claims to the Pacific Northwest of North America in the first half of the 19th century. Both the United Kingdom and the United States had territorial and commercial aspirations in the region...

 between the U.S. and Britain was settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty
Oregon Treaty
The Oregon Treaty is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country, which had been jointly occupied by...

. The British gained sole possession of the land north of the 49th parallel
49th parallel north
The 49th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 49 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and all of Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of several North American locations named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast of North America between 1791 and 1794...

, with the United States receiving the territory south of that line.

The United States federal government left their part of the region unorganized for two years until news of the Whitman massacre
Whitman massacre
The Whitman massacre was the murder in the Oregon Country on November 29, 1847 of U.S. missionaries Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa Whitman, along with eleven others. They were killed by Cayuse and Umatilla Indians. The incident began the Cayuse War...

 reached the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and helped facilitate to organization of the region into a U.S. territory. On August 14, 1848, Congress passed the Act to Establish the Territorial Government of Oregon, which created what was officially the Territory of Oregon. The Territory of Oregon originally encompassed all of the present-day states of Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

 and Washington, as well as those parts of present day Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 and Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 west of the Continental Divide
Continental Divide
The Continental Divide of the Americas, or merely the Continental Gulf of Division or Great Divide, is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain...

. It extended from the 42nd parallel north
42nd parallel north
The 42nd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 42 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

 (the boundary of the Adams-Onis Treaty
Adams-Onís Treaty
The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty or the Purchase of Florida, was a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819 that gave Florida to the U.S. and set out a boundary between the U.S. and New Spain . It settled a standing border dispute between the two...

 of 1819), in the south to the 49th parallel. Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City was the first city in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains to be incorporated. It is the county seat of Clackamas County, Oregon...

, was designated as the first capital.

Government


The territorial government consisted of a governor
Governor of Oregon
The Governor of Oregon is the top executive of the government of the U.S. state of Oregon. The title of governor was also applied to the office of Oregon's chief executive during the provisional and U.S. territorial governments....

, a marshal, a secretary
Oregon Secretary of State
The Secretary of State of Oregon, an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of government of the U.S. state of Oregon, is first in line of succession to the Governor. The duties of office are: auditor of public accounts, chief elections officer, and administrator of public...

, an attorney, and a three-judge supreme court
Oregon Supreme Court
The Oregon Supreme Court is the highest state court in the U.S. state of Oregon. The only court that may reverse or modify a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of the United States. The OSC holds court at the Oregon Supreme Court Building in Salem, Oregon, near the capitol...

. Judges on the court also sat as trial level judges as they rode circuit across the territory. All of these offices were filled by appointment by the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

. The two-chamber Oregon Territorial Legislature
Oregon Territorial Legislature
Oregon’s Territorial Legislature was a bicameral legislative body created by the United States Congress in 1848 as the legislative branch of the government of the Oregon Territory...

 was responsible for passing laws, with seats in both the upper-chamber council and lower-chamber house of representatives filled by local elections held each year.

Evolution


Oregon City served as the seat of government from 1848 to 1851, followed by Salem
Salem, Oregon
Salem is the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city. The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood...

 from 1851 to 1855. Corvallis
Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis is a city located in central western Oregon, United States. It is the county seat of Benton County and the principal city of the Corvallis, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Benton County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 54,462....

 served briefly as the capital in 1855, followed by a permanent return to Salem later that year. In 1853, the portion of the territory north of the lower Columbia River
Columbia River
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, flows northwest and then south into the U.S. state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state...

 and north of the 46th parallel east of the river was organized into the Washington Territory
Washington Territory
The Territory of Washington was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from February 8, 1853, until November 11, 1889, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Washington....

. The Oregon Constitutional Convention
Oregon Constitutional Convention
The Oregon Constitutional Convention in 1857 drafted the Oregon Constitution in preparation for the Oregon Territory to become a U.S. state. Held from mid-August through September, 60 men met in Salem, Oregon, and created the foundation for Oregon's law. The proposal passed with a vote of 35 for...

 was held in 1857 to draft a constitution in preparation for becoming a state, with the convention delegates approving the document in September, and then general populace approving the document in November.

On February 14, 1859, the territory entered the Union as the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

 within its current boundaries. The remaining eastern portion of the territory (the portions in present-day southern Idaho and western Wyoming) was added to the Washington Territory.

Territorial evolution of Oregon

  • Territorial evolution of the United States
    Territorial evolution of the United States
    This is a list of the evolution of the borders of the United States. This lists each change to the internal and external borders of the country, as well as status and name changes. It also shows the surrounding areas that eventually became part of the United States...

    • International territory that would later become part of the Territory of Oregon:
      • Oregon Country
        Oregon Country
        The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed ownership region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from...

        , 1818–1846
        • Provisional Government of Oregon
          Provisional Government of Oregon
          The Provisional Government of Oregon was a popularly elected government created in the Oregon Country, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It existed from May 2, 1843 until March 3, 1849. Created at a time when no country had sovereignty over the region, this independent government...

          , 1843-1849 (extralegal)
    • U.S. territories that encompassed land that was previously part of the Territory of Oregon:
      • State of Deseret
        State of Deseret
        The State of Deseret was a proposed state of the United States, propositioned in 1849 by Latter-day Saint settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years and was never recognized by the United States government...

        , 1849-1850 (extralegal)
      • Territory of Washington, 1853–1889
      • Territory of Jefferson, 1859-1861 (extralegal)
      • Territory of Nebraska, 1854–1867
      • Territory of Dakota, 1861–1889
      • Territory of Idaho, 1863–1890
      • Territory of Montana, 1864–1889
      • Territory of Wyoming, 1868–1890
    • U.S. states that encompass land that was once part of the Territory of Oregon:
      • State of Oregon, 1859
      • State of Montana, 1889
      • State of Washington, 1889
      • State of Idaho, 1890
      • State of Wyoming, 1890

See also


  • Historic regions of the United States
    Historic regions of the United States
    This is a list of historic regions of the United States.-Colonial era :-The Thirteen Colonies:* Connecticut Colony* Delaware Colony* Province of Georgia* Province of Maryland...

  • Holmes v. Ford
    Holmes v. Ford
    Holmes v. Ford was an American court case in the Oregon Territory that freed a slave family in the territory in 1853. The decision re-affirmed that slavery was illegal in the territory as outlined in the Organic Laws of Oregon that were continued once the region became a U.S. territory. In the...