The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview
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Growing Pains: New Territories,
Gold Fever, and a Civil War

In the spring of 1861 came the mad rush up the Columbia, simultaneous with the booming of cannon on the coast of South Carolina. The Civil War was on in the East, and a new golden era had opened in the West.-- William Armistead Goulder, Reminiscences: Incidents of the Life of a Pioneer in Oregon and Idaho ( 1909)

During the decades of the 1850s and 1860s, Oregon became a state and two new territories emerged in the Pacific Northwest. Especially for Washington and Idaho, this was a time of severe growing pains created by a bedeviling combination of problems that ranged from social instability to rudimentary governments poorly equipped to deal with new challenges, and added to this mix was the lure of new wealth awaiting diligent agrarians and goldseekers alike. Finally, overshadowing all local matters in the early 1860s was the Civil War, which threatened the nation's very existence.


The Oregon Territory encompassed an enormous geographical area--approximately 350,000 square miles--that was never truly unified. People in the scattered and isolated settlements north of the Columbia River, in what was then termed Northern Oregon, believed that Willamette Valley farmers dominated territorial affairs and neglected the interests of others. Settlers met at Cowlitz Landing in August 1851 and at Monticello (now part of


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The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History


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