Oregon History

The history of Oregon stretches back further than the arrival of settlers from Europe and the eastern United States. Native American tribes, including the Chinook, the Klamath, the Nez Pierce and the Bannock make up the earliest Oregon history on record. Although James Cook made his way to the Oregon coast as early as 1778, it was not until after the Lewis and Clark expedition, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, that settlers from the eastern United States began coming to Oregon to stay.

The Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest played an important role in Oregon history. Until they were eventually routed and forced onto reservations, many Native American tribesmen and women aided settlers and experienced conflicts, as well.

In the mid 19th century, settlers began coming to the then Oregon Territory to stay via the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail saw the highest number of travelers in the 1850’s, after the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 gave settlers the option of coming to Oregon and claiming free land. 320 acres could be claimed by any single adult person, and 640 acres could be claimed by a married couple. This act was the beginning of the history Oregon Territory as we know it today.

Later, when Civil War broke out in the east, the Oregon Territory and some areas of California sent troops to the North to aid in the fighting. These areas were considered United States property. The First Oregon Calvary served the fighting and the North until the year 1865.

Perhaps one of the biggest events in Oregon history was the arrival of the Pacific Railroad. Oregon state history reflects the boom in business experienced by the towns of Portland and Ashland when the railroad arrived, connecting the northern Oregon Territory to California and the east. The state of Oregon was officially admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859 and became a state at that time.

It was later in 1943 that yet another technological advance brought further economic development to Oregon. The building of the Bonneville Dam in 1943 on the Columbia River was one of the biggest economical advances in the history of Oregon. Today, Oregon state history continues to reflect its economic past. The economy of Oregon has long relied on the natural resources that characterize the state. Oregon state history also lives on in the presence of the Native American Reservations that can still be found throughout the state and are controlled by Native American tribes forced there in the 19th century.

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