World History

Oregon State History – Exploration, Settlement, Economy

Native Americans

People have lived in Oregon for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived in this country, there were numerous Native American tribes. Major tribes include the Nez Perce, Chinook, Klamath, Paiute, Molalla, and Cayuse. These tribes lived in cedar plank houses and used dugout canoes to navigate the waterways. Fishing was the main source of food for many of them.

Information about Oregon State:

Capital Salem
Population 4,240,137 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Portland, Eugene, Salem, Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton
Borders  California, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Pacific Ocean
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $316,593.2 million (2022 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Agriculture including wheat, fishing, dairy products, Christmas trees, and cattle
Timber, paper products, electronics, computers, and tourism

Flag of Oregon State:

Europeans Arrive

In the 15th century, European explorers like Sir Francis Drake discovered the Oregon coast but never set foot on land. Spain and England both claimed ownership of the land. In 1792, American explorer Captain Robert Gray encountered the Columbia River and named it after his ship.

Lewis and Clark

In 1803, the United States purchased a large swath of land from France known as the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson sent explorers Lewis and Clark to map the new area. They traveled beyond the confines of their newly purchased location to the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. They stayed there and built a small fort called Fort Clatsop.

In the years that followed, more explorers and trappers arrived from the United States and Great Britain. Both countries claimed ownership of the land. In 1818, the two countries agreed to joint occupation of the region.

Oregon State Symbols

  • Oregon State Nickname: Beaver State
  • Oregon State Slogan: We Love Dreamers; Things Look Different Here (1987-2003); Pacific Wonderland (on its license plate 19594)
  • Oregon State Motto: Alis volat Propriis (She flies with her own wings) (1987)
  • Oregon State flower: Oregon Grape
  • Oregon State bird: Western Meadowlark
  • Oregon State fish: Chinook salmon
  • Oregon State tree: Douglas Fir
  • Oregon State mammal: American Beaver
  • Oregon State foods: Pear, Hazelnut

The Oregon Trail

Beginning in the 1840s, settlers from the East began traveling into Oregon Country via the Oregon Trail. Over the next 20 years, hundreds of thousands of people migrated west, many of them settling in Oregon. Eventually, so many Americans lived in the region that Britain abandoned the country. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 made the area part of the United States.

Becoming a State

The Oregon Territory was established in 1848. It was a vast territory that later included Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and parts of Montana. Eventually, as Oregon continued to grow, it separated from the rest of the territory, and on February 14, 1859, Oregon was admitted to the United States as her 33rd state.

The Geography of Oregon State:

  • Total Size of Oregon: 95,997 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of Oregon: Pacific Ocean at Sea Level (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of Oregon: Mt. Hood at 11,239 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Clackamas-Hood River (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point of Oregon: Located in Crook County approx. 25 miles south-southeast of Prineville (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of Oregon: 36 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of Oregon: Crater Lake, Malheur Lake, Upper Klamath Lake, Columbia River, Snake, Willamette River, Pacific Ocean

Nez Perce War

After the discovery of gold in the 1850s, more people moved to Oregon. The amount of land available for Native Americans to live was dwindling. Tribes like the Nez Perce were forced to move to smaller and smaller reservations. Gold was discovered on the Nez Perce Reservation in 1863.

They were told they would have to move again. After a minor conflict broke out in 1877, the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, attempted to flee to Canada. The US military pursued them. They fought troops along the way and fought several battles during the 1,400-mile retreat. These battles are called the Nez Perce Wars. Eventually, the Nez family lost Perth and had to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Famous People of Oregon State:

James Beard Famous chef called the Father of American Cooking
Beverly Cleary Author of children’s books including the Ramona Quimby series
Jacoby Ellsbury Professional baseball player
Matt Groening Cartoonist and creator of The Simpsons TV series.
Tonya Harding American figure skater
Philip Knight Co-founder of the shoe company Nike.
Steve Prefontaine Track and field athlete
River Phoenix Actor
Linus Pauling Nobel Prize winning chemist
Brent Musburger Sportscaster
Chief Joseph Leader of the Nez Perce during the Nez Perce War
Kevin Love Professional basketball player

Interesting Facts of Oregon State:

Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States.

At 1949 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.

The back of the Oregon flag features a beaver. This is the only US state flag with a different image on the back.

The University of Oregon’s mascot is a dachshund. Go duck!

Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state. Boo Boo!

It is the only state with the official state nut, the hazelnut.

Portland is known as the city of roses.

The Oregon Trail ran from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City. He is 3,000 miles long and was used by people in the 19th century to travel west. No one knows exactly what the word Oregon means. It was used by Native Indians to represent rivers.

Timeline Overview:

1500s – Spanish and English ships sailed the Oregon coast and claimed the land.
1792 – American Captain Robert Gray explores the Columbia River and names it after his ship.
1805 – Explorers Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.
1811 – The first settlement is established at Fort Astoria.
1818 – Britain and America agree to joint occupation of the area.
1840s – Settlers begin arriving via the Oregon Trail.
1845 – City of Portland incorporated.
1846 – The Oregon Treaty grants the United States control of the Oregon Country from Great Britain.
1848 – Oregon Territory is formed.
1851 – Salem becomes the capital.
1859 – Oregon becomes the 33rd state.
1872 – Modoc Indian War.
1877 – The Nez Perce War breaks out and Chief Joseph becomes leader of the Nez Perce.
1937 – The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River is completed.
1999 – The bulk carrier New Carissa runs aground in the Bay of Coos, spilling 70,000 gallons of oil into the sea.