IV. Timeline

Year Events


Captain Robert Gray's trading expedition explores the mouth of the Columbia River, later used as the basis of U.S. claims to area.


The Lewis and Clark expedition sponsored by the U.S. government reaches the Oregon coast. The Corps of Discovery provides a wealth of information about western lands.


United States and Great Britain agree to joint occupation of land that later became the Oregon Territory.


First wave of settlers arrive the Oregon country. During the next decade, thousands of others follow in their wake - mostly headed to the Willamette Valley - establishing the Oregon Trail.


Pre-emption Act gave squatters a path to legal ownership of their claims. It permitted settlers to stake a claim of 160 acres (65 hectares) and after about 14 months of residence to purchase it from the government for as little as $1.25 an acre before it was offered for public sale.


The Oregon Treaty resolves decades of rival claims to the Pacific Northwest by establishing the border between the United States and Great Britain along the 49th parallel.


Oregon Territory established, which included the land that later comprised Washington state.


Bounty Land Act continued a tradition of compensating service in the military with land grants. This act benefited those who had recently participated in the war against Mexico, granting 80 or 160 acres to soldiers who had served four to nine months, or to veterans of wars since 1790 that had not previously received a land grant.


Donation Land Act (Oregon), granted every male citizen (or who had declared their intention to become a citizen) over the age of eighteen in the Oregon Territory who had cultivated land for the past four years a half-section, or 320 acres. In addition to conferring legal ownership to earlier squatters, the law encouraged settlement by granting 160 acres to those arriving in the territory between 1850 and 1853 (later extended to 1855). Married settlers could double their acreage by securing another claim in their wives' name.


In Washington Territory established from roughly the northern half of the Oregon Territory


Organic Act extends Donation Land Act to the Washington Territory. Within the next decade 985 bounties granted for 290,215 acres are granted in the territory under these provisions.


First land patents granted in Washington Territory (Thurston, Clark) counties.


Oregon admitted as a state.


Congress passes the Homestead Act. Under the terms of this act, by paying a small fee, U.S. citizens (or those who were intending to become citizens) who were either a head of a family, or single and over twenty-one years old, could claim 160 acres of public land available for entry. If married, a couple could double the claim to 320 acres. After living on the land for five years and carrying out certain "improvements," a homesteader gained a land patent or title from the General Land Office. Not until 1880 is homesteading on un-surveyed lands made legal, but often occurred because there was no prohibition against it. (Gates, 394)


Washington Territory reduced to boundaries of current state of Washington.


First land patents granted for claims in the Olympic Peninsula (10 in Jefferson County, 17 in Clallam County).


Timber Culture Act granted homesteaders and other entrants in certain states an additional 160 acres of land if they planted and cultivated at least 40 acres of trees within 10 years.


Desert Land Act. This act intended to promote agriculture in drier regions such as eastern Washington by offering cheap land for those able to irrigate and cultivate a portion of the claim. Eligible claimants could pay $0.25 an acre for up to 640 acres of non-timbered, non-mineral land not producing grass provided they could prove within three years that at least one-eighth of the acreage had been reclaimed. After fulfilling these terms, the claimant paid $1.00 more per acre and the title was theirs.


Passage of the Dawes Act opens thousands of acres of Native American reservations to settlement and homestead claims.


Washington admitted as a state.


Washington Agricultural College, later Washington State University founded under the provisions of the 1862 Morrill Act, which provided land grants to colleges offering instruction in agriculture and the mechanic arts.


John Rankin Rogers elected governor of Washington on the Populist ticket.


President Grover Cleveland in the last days of his term establishes the Olympic Forest Reserve, withdrawing 1.5 million acres of public land on the Olympic Peninsula.


Forest Homestead Act re-opened portions of national forests to homesteading.


Expanded Homestead Act, expanded claims to public land in some states to 640 acres.


President Theodore Roosevelt designates a large portion of the Olympic Forest Reserve a National Monument.


President Franklin Roosevelt establishes Olympic National Park.


Coastal strip added to Olympic National Park, displacing homesteaders established there.


Last title granted in Washington under the terms of the Homestead Act.

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