Oregon Territory


Situated between 42 and 46 north latitude, and 109 and 124 longitude west from Greenwich; and is bounded on the north by Washington Territory, from which it is separated in part by the Columbia river; east by the Rocky mountains, which separate it from the Northwest or Nebraska territory, south by Utah and California, and west by the Pacific.  Its superficial area is about 200,000 square miles.

Physical Aspect-- Most of the surface of this territory is mountainous and broken.  Westward if the Rocky mountains the country is divided into three sections, separated from each other by ranges, running nearly parallel with the shores of the Pacific, each of which have a distinction of soil, climate and productions.  The region between the Rocky and Blue mountains is rocky and sterile, traversed in various directions by stupendous spurs, and affords but little level ground.  The middle section generally consists of a light sandy soil, though in the valleys it is of rich alluvion, and barren on the hills.  The soil along the coast is less broken, and for the most part is well adapted for agricultural purposes, whenever it can properly be irrigated.

Mountains-- Along the easterly boundary lie the Oregon or Rocky mountains, several of the spurs of which traverse the upper region of this territory, and are of stupendous height.  About 250 miles at the westward is the Blue mountain range, which is irregular in its course, and occasionally  interrupted, but generally extends from a point east of north to the south of west.  About 80 to 110 miles from the coast, and about 200 miles westward of the Blue mountains, in the Cascade or President range, the highest peaks of which are called Mount Jefferson, Mount Rainer, Mount Baker, Mount St Helen's (an extinct volcano), Mount Pitt and Mount Hood.  Some of these are elevated from 12,000 to 17,000 feet above the level of the sea, and are perpetually crowned with snow.  In the south part of the territory is the Klamath range, which forms the north boundary of California.

Rivers and Harbors-- The chief river is the Columbia, which takes its rise near the sources of the Missouri, along the western dividing ridges of the Rocky mountains.  Its principal tributaries are, the Lewis or Saptin, Flathead or Clark's, Kootanie or Flatbow, Chute or Falls, John Day's, Willamette, and Okonagon.  The Klamath and Umpqua are considerable rivers, which empty into the Pacific.  The Columbia river and Puget's sound afford the only good harbors at present on the coast of Oregon.  The trade of that territory is principally through the former.  Puget's sound is one of the best harbors on the Pacific coast.  It has numerous narrow bays or inlets, all of them capable of floating the largest vessels, extending back into the surrounding country in every direction, and is accessible at all seasons of the year.

Climate-- The climate of the region between the coast and the first range of mountains though not regarded as unhealthy, is temperate during the year, and is not subject to the extremes of heat and cold that are experienced in corresponding parallels on the eastern coast.  The mean annual temperature is about 54F.  The rain begins to fall in November, and usually continues at frequent intervals till March.  Snow sometimes falls, but rarely endures more than two or three days.  From the proximity to the mountain winds frosts sometimes occur in August.  The climate of the middle region, though colder than that along the coast, is favorable to the growth of the small grains and grass.  In the higher mountain regions the climate is severe, the temperature often varying 40 between sunrise and noon. Here it seldom rains, and dews are rarely known.  On the most elevated parts deep snows occur, and Abide during the year.

Productive Resources-- The chief products are, horses, mules, neat cattle, sheep, swine, furs, wool, lumber, wheat, rye, oats, barley, potatoes, and Indian corn.  Oregon is peculiarly adapted to grazing, butter and cheese making, for the cattle range all winter, and feed upon the grass, which is never entirely killed by frost, nor covered by snow.  The mineral resources of the country are as yet unknown.

Commerce-- Since the discovery of gold in California, a great demand has arisen for the agricultural productions and lumber (which can be furnished to an almost unlimited extent) of Oregon, and as a consequence, a commercial trade has sprung up.  Commercial intercourse is also maintained with the Sandwich islands, and the Russian settlements on the north

Education-- A female seminary is established at Portland, and three academies at Oregon City, and well regulated schools in all the principal settlements.

Population-- In 1850 was 13,293.

History-- Oregon embraces Oregon as claimed by Spain, prior to 1820, or a part of the territory claimed by Russia, prior to 1824, or a portion of the country claimed by Great Britain prior to 1846.  Although this coast was explored by the Spaniards, in about the year 1542, and by Sir Francis Drake, in 1578, it would appear that no one penetrated far into the interior before 1792, when Captain Robert Gray, of Boston, MA, entered Oregon, or the Columbia river, in the ship " Columbia Redivina," and gave to this river the present name it bears, after that of his vessel.  In 1805, Lewis and Clarke were sent out by the United States government, with the express object of exploring the sources of the Missouri, and the region beyond the Rocky mountains, and descended the river Columbia to the Pacific, and returned the following year by the same streams.  In 1808, a trading house was established by the "Missouri Fur Company" on Lewis river, the first white settlement of any kind ever made on the water of the Columbia.  In 1810, a private expedition, called the "Pacific Fur Company," was undertaken, at the expense and under the direction of John Jacob Astor, of New York, who in 1811, established a colony of 120 men, near the mouth of the latter, and called the principle depot "Astoria" after his own name.  Two years after, settlements were made on the Willamette and Lewis rivers, and other places in the interior.  Soon after the commencement of the war between Great Britain and the United States, in 1813, Astoria was sold to the Hudson Bay Company, but was restored to the original proprietors in 1818, agreeably to the first articles of the Treaty of Ghent.  The sovereignty of Oregon was for a long time subject to a tedious and vexatious controversy by France, Spain, Great Britain and Russia, with our government.  In the convention of 1818, between the United States and Great Britain, the right of both parties to the country was mutually conceded.  After much controversy the northern boundary was finally established at 49 in 1846, and a territorial government was organized, under an act of Congress, in 1848.  In March, 1853, the territory was divided, the southern portion retaining the original name, and the northern part was organized as Washington territory.