1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Oregon
|1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20
|See also Oregon on Wikipedia, the 9th edition, the 1922 update, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
OREGON, a North-Western state of the American Union, on the Pacific slope, lying between 42° and 46° 18´ N. lat. and 116° 33´ and 124° 32´ W. long. It is bounded N. by the state of Washington, from which it is separated in part by the Columbia river, the 46th parallel forming the rest of the boundary; E., by Idaho, from which it is separated in part by the Snake river; S., by Nevada and California, and W., by the Pacific Ocean. It has an extreme length, E. and W., of 375 m., an extreme width, N. and S., of 290 m., and a total area of 96,699 sq. m., of which 1092 sq. m. are water-surface.
Topography.—The coast of the state extends in a general N. and S. direction for about 300 m., and consists of long stretches of sandy beach broken occasionally by lateral spurs of the Coast Range, which project boldly into the sea and form high rocky headlands. With the exception of the mouth of the Columbia river, the bays and inlets by which the shore is indented are small and of very little importance. Parallel with the coast and with its main axis about 20 m. inland is an irregular chain of hills known as the Coast Range. It does not attain a great height, but has numerous lateral spurs, especially toward the W. Euchre Peak (Lincoln county), probably the highest point in the range in Oregon, rises 3962 ft. above the sea. In southern Oregon the general elevation of this range is greater than in the N., but the individual peaks are less prominent, and the range in some respects resembles a plateau. Its western slope is generally longer and more gentle than the eastern. A number of small streams, among them the Nehalem, Coquille and Umpqua rivers, cut their way through the Coast Range to reach the ocean. For the greater portion of its length in Oregon, in the northern half of the state, the Coast Range is bordered on the E. by the Willamette Valley, a region about 200 m. long and about 30 m. wide, and the most thickly populated portion of the state; here, therefore, the range is easily defined, but in the S., near the Rogue river, it merges apparently with the Cascade and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, lying partly in Oregon and partly in California, and extending from the northern extremity of the Sierra Nevada to the sea. The Klamath Mountains separate topographically southern Oregon from northern California. A number of ridges and peaks bearing special names, such as the Rogue river, Umpqua and Siskiyou Mountains, belong to this group. The Cascade Mountains, the most important range in Oregon, extend parallel with the coast and lie about 100 m. inland. The peaks of this system are much higher than those of the Coast Range, varying from 5000 to 11,000 ft., and the highest of them are cones of extinct volcanoes. Mount Hood (11,225 ft.), which is the highest point in the state, Mount Jefferson (10,200 ft.), the Three Sister Peaks, Mount Adams, Bachelor Mountain, and Diamond Peak (8807 ft.) all have one or more glaciers on their sides. The Calapooya Mountains, forming the water-parting between the Willamette and the Umpqua rivers, are a lateral spur of the Cascades, and extend westward as far as the Coast Range. The Cascade Mountains divide the state topographically into two sharply contrasted parts. West of this range the country exhibits a great variety of surface structure, and is humid and densely wooded; east of the range it consists of a broken tableland, arid or semiarid, with a general elevation of 5000 ft. This eastern tableland, though really very rugged and mountainous, seems to have few striking topographic features when compared with the more broken area to the W. In the north-eastern part of this eastern plateau lie the Blue Mountains, which have an average elevation of about 6000 ft. and decline gradually toward the N. A south-western spur, about 100 m. in length, and the principal ridge together enclose on several sides a wide valley drained by the tributaries of the John Day river. South of these mountains lies the northern limit of the Great Basin region. In Oregon this area extends from the Nevada boundary northward for about 160 m., to the head of the Silvies river, and embraces an area of about 16,000 sq. m. None of its streams reaches the sea, but all lose their waters by seepage or evaporation. On the E., N., and N.W. the Great Basin is bounded by the drainage systems of the tributaries of the Columbia river, and on the S.W. by the drainage system of the Klamath river. Its boundaries, however, cannot be definitely fixed, as they change with the periods of humidity and drought. Goose Lake, for example, lies in the Great Basin at some seasons; but at other times it overflows and becomes a part of the drainage system of the Sacramento river. Many of the mountains within the Basin region consist of great faulted crust blocks, with a general N. and S. trend. One face of these mountains is usually in the form of a steep palisade, while the other has a very gradual slope. Between these ridges lie almost level valleys, whose floors consist partly of lava flows, partly of volcanic fragmental material, and partly of detritus from the bordering mountains. During the wet season the valleys often contain ephemeral lakes, whose waters on evaporating leave a playa, or mud flat, often covered with an alkaline encrustation of snowy whiteness. Some large permanent lakes occupy the troughs between faulted blocks in southern Oregon. The greatest level, or approximately level, area in the Great Basin region of Oregon is the so-called Great Sandy Desert, a tract about 150 m. long and from 30 to 50 m. wide, lying in parts of Crook County, Lake and Harney counties. Its surface consists of a thick sheet of pumiceous sand and dust, from which arise occasional buttes and mesas. On account of the small amount of precipitation, the fissured condition of the underlying lava sheets, and the porous soil, the Great Sandy Desert has practically no surface streams even in the wet season, and within its limits no potable waters have been found. The most prominent mountain range in the Oregon portion of the Great Basin is the Steens Mountains in the S.E., which attain an altitude of about 9000 ft. above the sea and of 5000 ft. above Alvord Valley, which lies along the eastern base. This range is a large monoclinal block, with a trend almost N.E. and S.W., presenting a steep escarpment toward the E., and sloping very gradually toward the W. It exhibits much evidence of powerful erosion, having deep canyons in its sides, and it bears evidence of previous glaciers. The region adjoining the Great Basin on the E. is usually known as the Snake River Plains, and embraces an area of about 1200 sq. m. in Malheur county. Here the hills are deeply sculptured and the valleys much carved by streams which often flow through deep canyons. Where the streams cut their way through sheets of basaltic lava their banks are steep, almost vertical cliffs, but where they cut through sedimentary rocks the sides have a more gentle slope. When several alternate layers of hard and soft rock are cut through by a stream its banks sometimes have the form of steps. The destruction of the grasses on the hillsides by overgrazing in recent years has increased the flooding by temporary streams, and consequently has tended to deepen and increase the gulleys and channels of the mountains and valleys.
The state as a whole has an average elevation of 3300 ft.; with 20,300 sq. m. below 1000 ft.; 19,200 sq. m. between 1000 and 3000 ft; 33,500 sq. m. between 3000 and 5000 ft.; and 23,030 sq. m. between 5000 and 9000 ft.The most important stream is the Columbia river, which forms the northern boundary for 300 m. and receives directly the waters of all the important rivers in the state except a few in the S.W. Rivers. and a few in the extreme E. About 160 m. from its mouth are the Cascades, where the river cuts through the lava beds of the Cascade Mountains and makes a descent of about 300 ft. through a canyon 6 m. long and nearly 1 m. deep. The passage of vessels through the river at this point is made possible by means of locks. Fifty-three m. farther up the stream is a second set of rapids known as the Dalles, where the stream for about 2 m. is confined within a narrow channel from 130 to 200 ft. wide The largest tributary of the Columbia is the Snake river, which for nearly 200 m. of its course forms the boundary between Oregon and Idaho. It flows through a canyon from 2000 to 5000 ft. deep, with steep walls of basaltic and kindred rocks. The powerful erosion has often caused the columnar black basalt to assume weird and fantastic shapes. The chief tributaries of the Snake river in Oregon are the Grand Ronde, Powder, Burnt, Malheur and Owyhee rivers. The principal tributaries of the Columbia E. of the Cascade Mountains and lying wholly within the state are the John Day river, which rises in the Blue Mountains and enters the Columbia 29 m. above the Dalles after pursuing a winding course of about 250 m.; and the Deschutes river, which rises on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, and after flowing northward for about 320 m. enters the Columbia 12 m. above the Dalles. The Deschutes river drains a region which is less arid than the plateau farther E., and which contains a number of small lakes. A peculiar feature of the stream is the uniformity of its volume throughout the year; the great crevasses in the lava bed through which it flows form natural spillways and check any tendency of the stream to rise within its banks. The Willamette river, W. of the Cascade Mountains, is the most important stream lying wholly within the state. It rises on the western slope of the Cascades and enters the Columbia river about 100 m. above its mouth, having with its branches a length of about 300 m. In the western part of the state a number of short streams flow directly into the Pacific Ocean, the most important of these being the Rogue and the Umpqua rivers, which have their sources in the Cascades.
In Southern Oregon, especially in the Great Basin region, there are numerous lakes. Malheur Lake, in Harney county, during the wet season is about 25 m. long and has an average width of Lakes. 5 or 6 m. It is not over 10 ft. deep in any part, and is only a few inches in depth a mile from the shore. In the summer most of its bed is a playa or mud flat. Almost continuous with this body of water on the S.W. is Harney Lake, roughly circular in form and about 7-8 m. in diameter. The waters of both lakes arc alkaline, but Malheur Lake is often freshened by overflowing into Harney Lake, while the latter, having no outlet, is growing continually more alkaline. East of the Steens Mountains there is a chain of very small lakes, such as the Juniper, Manns and Alvord lakes, and also a playa known as the Alvord Desert, which in the spring is covered with a few inches, or perhaps 1 or 2 ft., of water, and becomes a lake with an area of 50 or 60 sq. m. In the summer the dry bed is smooth and very hard, and when the skies are clear the monotony of the landscape is sometimes broken by a mirage. In Lake county, occupying fault-made troughs, are several large bodies of water—Lake Abert (about 5 m. by 15 m.), Warner Lake (50 m. long, 4-8 m. wide). Summer Lake (a little smaller than Abert), and Goose Lake, the one last named lying partly in California and draining into the Sacramento system. The Upper and the Lower Klamath lakes of Klamath county are noted for their scenic beauty. Near the north-western boundary of Klamath county is the famous Crater Lake, whose surface is 6239 ft. above the sea. This lake lies in a great pit or caldera created by the wrecking in prehistoric times of the volcano Mount Mazama, which according to geologists once had an altitude of about 14,000 ft. above the sea and of 8000 ft. above the surrounding tableland; the upper portion of the mountain fell inward, possibly owing to the withdrawal of interior lava, and left a crater-like rim, or caldera, rising 2000 ft. above the surrounding country. The lake is 4 m. wide and 6 m. long, has a depth in some places of nearly 2000 ft., and is surrounded by walls of rock from 500 to 2000 ft. high. In spite of its great elevation the lake has never been known to freeze, and though it has no visible outlet its waters are fresh.
Fauna and Flora.—Large game has disappeared from the settled areas, but is still fairly abundant on the plains of the east and among the mountains of the west. In the mountain forests of south-western Oregon bears, deer, elk, pumas, wolves and foxes are plentiful. Among the south-eastern plateaus antelope are found at all seasons, and deer and big-horn (mountain sheep), and occasionally a few elk, in the winter. Bears, wolves, lynxes and foxes are also numerous in the east, and there the coyote is found in disagreeable numbers. The pocket-gopher and the jack-rabbit are so numerous as to be great pests. The principal varieties of game-birds arc ducks, geese, grouse and California quail. Sage-hens are occasionally seen on the dry plateaus and valleys, especially in Harney county. The Oregon robin (Merula naevia) and the Oregon snowbird (Junco Oregonis) arc common in Oregon and northward. On the rocky headlands and islands of the coast nest thousands of gulls, cormorants, puffins, guillemots, surf-ducks (Oedemia), dotterels, terns, petrels and numerous other birds. There, too, the Steller's sea-lion (Eumetopias stelleri) spends the mating season. The marine fauna is abundant and of great economic importance. The river fauna of the coast is of two distinct types: the type of the Columbia fauna in rivers north of the Rogue; and another type in the Klamath and its tributaries. Typical of the Columbia river is Catastomus macrocheilus and of the Klamath, C. rimiculus. Lampreys, sticklebacks, cattoids, sturgeons—the white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) is commonly known as the “Oregon sturgeon”—trout and salmon are the principal anadromous fish, the salmon and trout being the most important economically. The best varieties of the salmon for canning are: the king, Chinook or quinnat (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha). far better than any other variety; and the steel-head, blue back or sukkegh (O. nerka).
The total woodland area of the state according to the United States census of 1900 was 54,300 sq. m. or 56.8 % of the land area. The Federal government established in 1907 and 1908 thirteen forest reserves in the state, ten of which had an area of more than 1,000,000 acres each; their total area on the 1st of January 1910 was 25,345 sq. m. From the coast to the eastern base of the Cascade Mountains the state is heavily timbered, except in small prairies and clearings in the Willamette and other valleys, and the most important tree is the great Douglas fir, pine or spruce (Pseudotsuga Douglasii), commonly called Oregon pine, which sometimes grows to a height of 300 ft., and which was formerly in great demand for masts and spars of sailing-vessels and for bridge timbers; the Douglas fir grows more commercial timber to the acre than any other American variety, and constitutes about five-sevenths of the total stand of the state. Timber is also found on the Blue Mountains in the north-east and on a number of mountains in the central and south-eastern parts of the state. East of the Cascades the valleys are usually treeless, save for a few willows and cottonwoods in the vicinity of streams. Over the greater part of this region the sage-brush is the most common plant, and by its ubiquity it imparts to the landscape the monotonous greyish tint so characteristic of the arid regions of the western United States. West of the Cascades most of the trees of commercial value consist of Douglas fir. Cedar and hemlock also are commercially valuable. There are small amounts of sugar pine, yellow pine, red fir and silver fir (Abies grandis and A. nobilis) and spruce; and among the broad-leaved varieties the oak, ash, maple, mahogany-birch or mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolia), aspen, cottonwood and balsam are the most common. East of the Cascades the forests consist for the most part of yellow pine. In the south-east the hills and lower slopes of the mountains are almost bare of trees. At higher altitudes, however, the moisture increases and scattered junipers begin to appear. Blending with these at their upper limit and continuing above them are clumps of mountain mahogany, which sometimes attains a height of 20 or 30 ft. Above this belt of mahogany, pines and firs are sometimes found. In this region the mountains have an upper, or cold, timber line, the height of which depends upon the severity of the climate, and a lower, or dry, timber line, which is determined by the amount of rainfall. These upper and lower limits of the timber belt are sometimes very sharply defined, so that tall mountains may be marked by a dark girdle of forest, above and below which appear walls of bare rock. In a very arid region the dry timber line may rise above the cold timber line, and in such a case the mountain will contain no forests. Of this phenomenon the Steens Mountains furnish a conspicuous example. It was estimated that the forests of Oregon contained in 1900 about 150,000,000,000 ft. of Douglas fir or spruce, 40,000,000,000 ft. of yellow pine and 35,000,000,000 ft. of other species—chiefly cedar, hemlock and spruce. In the most heavily wooded region along the Pacific coast and the lower course of the Columbia river are forests of the Douglas fir with stands of 100,000 ft. of timber per acre. The value of the lumber and timber products increased from $1,014,211 in 1870 to $6,530,757 in 1890, to $10,257,169 in 1900, and to $12,483,908 in 1905.
Climate.—Perhaps no state in the union has such great local variations in its climate as has Oregon. Along the coast the climate is humid, mild and uniform, and, as has often been remarked, very like the climate of the British Isles; in the eastern two-thirds of the state, from which the moisture-laden winds are excluded by the high coastwise mountains, the climate is dry and marked by great daily and annual ranges of temperature. The mean annual temperature varies with the elevation and the distance from the sea, being highest along the western slope of the Coast Range at altitudes below 2000 ft., and lowest in the elevated regions E. of the Cascade Mountains. The temperatures along the coast are never as high as 100° F. or as low as zero. In the valleys between the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains the range of temperature is much greater than it is along the coast; the absolute maximum and minimum being respectively 102° and -2° at Portland, in the N.W., and 108° and -4° at Ashland, in the S.W. Owing to its greater elevation the southern portion of Oregon experiences greater extremes of temperature than the northern. In that part of the state E. of the Cascades the climate is of a continental type, with much greater ranges of temperature than in the W., although in a few low valleys, as at the Dalles, the extremes are somewhat modified. While flowers bloom throughout the year at Portland, frosts have occurred in every month of the year at Lakeview, in the Great Basin. At Astoria, near the mouth of the Columbia river, the mean annual temperature is 52° F., with extremes recorded of 97° and 10°; but at Silver Lake, in the Great Basin region, while the mean annual temperature is 44°, the highest and lowest ever recorded are respectively 104° and -32°. These records afford a striking illustration of the moderating influence of the ocean upon climate.
As is the case in all the Pacific states, the amount of rainfall decreases from N. to S., and is greatest on the seaward slopes of the hills and mountains. As the winds from the ocean are deprived of their moisture on reaching the Coast and Cascade ranges, the amount of annual precipitation, which in the coast counties varies from 75 to 138 in., constantly diminishes toward the E. until in the extreme south-eastern part of the state it amounts to only about 8 in. No other state, except perhaps Washington, has such a great variation in the amount of its rainfall. Precipitation on the Coast Range at altitudes above 2000 ft. amounts to about 138 in. annually; in the valleys E. of this range it varies from 20.2 in. at Ashland to 78.2 in. at Portland. On the western slope of the Cascades it varies from 50 in. in the S. to 100 in. in the N.; in the Columbia Valley the amount is from 10 to 15 in.; in the valleys and foothills of the Blue Mountains, 12 to 25 in.; and in the plateau region of central and south-eastern Oregon, 8 to 22 in. In the region W. of the Cascade Mountains there is a so-called wet season, which lasts from October to March, and the summers are almost rainless. In the rest of the state there is a maximum rainfall in the winter and a secondary wet season in May and June, with the rest of the summer very dry. During the winter the prevailing winds are from the S. and bring moisture; during the summer they are from the N.W. and are accompanied by cloudless skies and moderate temperatures. Winds from the N.E. bring hot weather in the summer and intense cold in the winter.
Soils.—The state has almost as great a variety of soils as of climate. In the Willamette Valley the soils are mostly clay loams, of a basaltic nature on the foothills and greatly enriched in the river bottom lands by washings from the hills and by deposits of rich black humus. In south-western Oregon, in the Rogue and Umpqua valleys, the characteristic soil is a reddish clay, though other varieties are numerous. In eastern Oregon the soils are of an entirely different type, being usually of a greyish appearance, lacking in humus, and composed of volcanic dust and alluvium from the uplands. They are deep, of fine texture, easily worked and contain abundant plant food in the form of soluble compounds of calcium, sodium and potassium. At times, however, these salts are present in such excess as to render the soils too alkaline for plant growing. Where there is no excess of alkali and the water supply is sufficient, good crops can be grown in this soil without the use of fertilizers.
Agriculture and Stock-Raising.—Oregon has some of the most productive agricultural lands in the United States, but they are rather limited in extent, being confined for the most part to the valleys west of the Cascade Mountains and the counties bordering on the Columbia river east of those mountains. The other parts of the state are generally too dry or too mountainous for growing crops, but contain considerable areas suitable for grazing. In 1900 only about one-sixth of the total land surface was included in farms, and a trifle less than one-third of the farm land was improved. There were 35,837 farms, and their average size was 281 acres. Of the whole number 33.0% (11,827) contained less than 100 acres each, 30.5% (11,055) contained from 100 to 175 acres each, and 10.4% (3727), devoted mainly to stock-raising, contained 500 acres or more each. Nearly four-fifths of the farms (28,636) were operated by owners or part owners, 3729 were operated by share tenants, 2637 by cash tenants and 835 by owners and tenants or managers. The principal crops are wheat, oats, hay, fruits, hops, potatoes and miscellaneous vegetables. Sheep and cattle are raised extensively on ranches in the semi-arid regions, large herds of cattle are kept on lands too wet for cultivation in the western counties, and stock-raising and dairying have become important factors in the operation of many of the best farms. The acreage of wheat was 810,000 in 1909 and the crop was 16,377,000 bushels. The oat crop was 10,886,000 bushels. The barley crop was 1,984,000 bushels. The nights are so cool that Indian corn is successfully grown only by careful cultivation, and the crop amounted to only 552,000 bushels in 1909. The hay crop, 865,000 tons in 1909, is made quite largely from wild grasses and grains cut green; on the irrigated lands alfalfa is grown extensively for the cattle and sheep, which are otherwise almost wholly dependent for sustenance upon the bunch grass of the semi-arid plains. Both cattle and sheep ranches in the region east of the Cascade Mountains have been considerably encroached upon by the appropriation of lands for agricultural purposes, and the cattle, also, have been forced to the south and east by the grazing of sheep on lands formerly reserved for them; but the numbers of both cattle and sheep on the farms have become much larger. The whole number of sheep in the state was 2,581,000 in 1910. The number of cattle other than dairy cows was 698,000 and that of dairy cows 174,000. The dairy business is a promising industry in the farming regions, especially in the Willamette Valley. The number of horses in 1910 was 308,000. The small number of swine (267,000 in 1910) is partly due to the small crop of Indian corn. Fruit-growing has been an increasingly important industry in the region between the Cascade and Coast Ranges and (to a less degree) east of the Cascade Range; and the cultivation of apples is especially important. The cultivation of hops was begun in Oregon about 1850; the soil and climate of the Willamette Valley were found to be exceedingly favourable to their growth, and the product increased to 20,500,000 lb in 1905, when the state ranked first in the Union in this industry.
The agricultural resources of the state may be considerably increased by irrigation east of the Cascade Mountains. The irrigated areas, which are widely distributed, increased from a total of 177,944 acres in 1889 to 388,310 acres in 1902. In 1894 Congress passed the “Carey Act” which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, with the approval of the President, to donate to each of the states in which there are Federal desert lands as much of such lands (less than 1,000,000 acres) as the state may apply for, on condition that the state reclaim by irrigation, cultivation and occupancy not less than 20 acres of each 160-acre tract within ten years, and under the operation of this Act the state chose 432,203 acres for reclamation, mostly in the basin of the Deschutes river. Furthermore there is a state association engaged in irrigation projects, and the United States Reclamation Service, established by an Act of Congress in 1902, has projects for utilizing the flood waters of the Umatilla, Malheur, Silvies and Grande Ronde rivers, the waters of the Owyhee and Wallowa rivers and Willow Creek, and the waters of some of the lakes in the central part of the state. Two of these projects had been begun by 1909: the Umatilla project in Umatilla county, to irrigate 20,440 acres with water diverted from the Umatilla river by a dam (98 ft. high, 3500 ft. long) 2 m. above Echo, with a reservoir of 1500 acres, was authorized in 1905 and was 85½% finished in 1909; the Klamath project, to irrigate 181,000 acres in Klamath county, Oregon (about 145,000 acres) and Siskiyou and Modoc counties, California, by two canals from Upper Klamath Lake and by a storage dam (33 ft. high, 940 ft. long) in the Clear Lake reservoir of 25,000 acres, was authorized in 1905 and was 38% completed in 1909. It has been estimated that the irrigated and irrigable area under private canals is about 80,000 acres, and that that still indisposed of in 1909, irrigated by the state under the Carey Act, amounted to 180,000 acres.
Fisheries.—The Columbia river has long been famous for its salmon, and as the supply seemed threatened with exhaustion for several years following the maximum catch in 1883, the state legislature in 1901 passed an act establishing a close season both early in the spring and late in the summer and prohibiting any fishing, except with hook and line, at any time, without a licence. In 1908 two laws proposed by initiative petition were passed, stopping all fishing by night and fishing in the navigable channels of the lower river, limiting the length of seines to be used in the lower river and abolishing the use of gear by fishermen of the upper river — the mouth of the Sandy river, in Multnomah county, being the dividing line between the upper and lower Columbia. Several hatcheries have been established by the state authorities of Oregon and Washington and by the Federal government for propagating the best varieties: the Chinooks (O. tschawytscha), the bluebacks (O. nerka) and, when the bluebacks became scarce, silver sides (O. kisutch). The total catch of salmon on the Oregon side of the Columbia river in 1901 was 16,725,435 lb; from this it rose to 24,575,228 lb in 1903, but fell to 18,151,743 lb in 1907 and 18,463,546 in 1908. Salmon are caught in smaller quantities in the coast streams: 4,371,618 lb in 1901 and 8,043,690 lb in 1906, but only 6,738,682 lb in 1907 and 6,422,511 lb in 1908. Some catfish, shad, smelt, halibut, herring, perch, sturgeon, flounders, oysters, clams, crabs and crawfish are also obtained from Oregon waters.
Minerals.—Gold was discovered in the Rogue and Klamath rivers in the S. part of Oregon in 1852, and placer-mining was prosecuted here without interruption until 1860, when the metal was found in larger quantities on the streams in Baker and Grant counties in the north-eastern part of the state. Quartz-mining has since very largely taken the place of placer-mining, but the two principal gold-producing districts are still that traversed by the Blue Mountains in the north-eastern quarter and that drained by the Rogue river in the south-western corner, a continuation of the California field. The value of the total output of the state was $2,113,356 in 1894, but only $865,076 in 1908. Silver is obtained almost wholly in the form of alloy with gold, and in 1908 the value of the output was only $23,109. Lignitic coal was discovered on or near the coast of Coos Bay as early as 1855, and this is still the only productive coalfield within the state, although there are outcroppings of the mineral all along the Coast Range N. of the Rogue river, along the W. foothills of the Cascade Range and in the Blue Mountains; this coal is suitable for steam and heating purposes but will not coke. The quantity of the output was 86,259 short tons in 1908. Copper ores are known to be quite widely distributed in the mountain districts, but there has been little work on any except some in Josephine and Grant counties; in 1908 the state's output amounted to 291,377 lb of copper. Iron ore, platinum, lead, quicksilver and cobalt have been obtained in the state in merchantable quantities, and there is some zinc ore in the Cascade Range. In Union county is a great amount of blue limestone, and there is limestone, also, in Baker, Grant, Wallowa, Jackson and Josephine counties. Sandstone is abundant, and there is some granite, in the Coast Range. A variegated marble is obtained in Douglas county, and other marbles are found in several counties. Clays suitable for making brick and tile are found in nearly every part of the state: in 1908 the clay products of the state were valued at $555,768. Soapstone is abundant in both the E. and W. counties. Ochre, or mineral paint, and mineral waters, too, are widely distributed. There is some roofing slate along the Rogue river, natural cement, nickel ore, bismuth and wolframite in Douglas county, gypsum in Baker county, fire-clay in Clatsop county, borate of soda on the marsh lands of Harney county, infusorial earth and tripoli in the valley of the Deschutes river, chromate of iron in Curry and Douglas counties, molybdenite in Union county, bauxite in Clackamas county, borate of lime in Curry county, manganese ore in Columbia county, and asbestos in several of the southern and eastern counties. The total value of all mineral products in 1908 was $2,743,434.
Manufactures.—Manufacturing is encouraged both by the variety and abundance of raw material furnished by the mines, the forests, the farms and the fisheries, and by the coal and water-power available for operating the machinery. The total value of manufactures increased from $10,931,232 in 1880 to $41,432,174 in 1890, or 279% in ten years, and although progress was slow from 1890 to 1900 there was a rapid advance again from 1900 to 1905, when the value of factory products increased from $36,592,714 to $55,525,123. The manufactures of greatest value are lumber and timber products ($12,483,908 in 1905). Portland and Astoria are the chief manufacturing centres; in 1905 the value of the factory products of these two cities was 57.2% of that of the factory products of the entire state.
Transportation and Commerce.—For 110 m. from the mouth of the Columbia river to Portland, 12 m. up the Willamette river, is a channel which in 1909 was navigable (20-22 ft. deep) by large ocean going vessels, and which will have a minimum depth of 25 ft. at low water upon the completion of the Federal project of 1902. From the mouth of the Willamette river vessels of light draft ascend the Columbia (passing the Cascade Falls through a lock canal, which was opened in 1896 and has a depth of 8 ft., a width of 92 ft. and two locks, each 462 ft. long) to the mouth of the Snake river (in the state of Washington), up that river to the mouth of the Imnaha, in Wallowa county, on the eastern boundary of Oregon, and, when the water is high, up the Imnaha river to the town of Imnaha, 516 m. from the sea. The Willamette river is navigable to Harrisburg, 152 m. above Portland, but boats seldom go farther up the river than Corvallis, 119 m. above Portland, and the depth at low water to Corvallis is only 3 ft. On the coast, Coos Bay, a tidal estuary, is the principal harbour between the mouth of the Columbia and San Francisco; it admits vessels drawing 14 to 16 ft. of water, and both the north and south forks of the Coos river are navigable for vessels of light draft (the depth at low water is only 1.5 ft.) 14 m. from the mouth of that river, and 8.5 m. on each fork. Farther north, Yaquina Bay and Tillamook Bay also admit small steamboats. The Coquille river is navigable for about 37 m., the Yaquina river for 23 m. with a depth of 13 to 15 ft., the Siuslaw river for 6 m. (for vessels drawing less than 6 ft., 15 m. farther for very light draft vessels) and a few other coast streams for short distances. The beginning of railway building in Oregon was delayed a few years by a contest between parties desiring a line on the east side of the Willamette river and parties desiring one on the west side. Finally, on the 14th of May 1868, ground was broken for the proposed line on the west side, and two days later it was broken for one on the east side; that on the east side was completed for 20 m. south of Portland in 1869 and that on the west side was completed to the Yamhill river in 1872. In 1870 the mileage was 159 m. The principal period of railway building was from 1880 to 1890, during which 931.97 m. were built and the state’s mileage increased from 508 m. to 1,439.97 m. In 1909 the total mileage was 2089.46 m. There is a state railway commission. The principal railways are: that of the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company (controlled by the Union Pacific), which crosses the north-eastern corner of the state and then runs along the bank of the Columbia river to Portland; three lines of the Southern Pacific in the Willamette Valley, the main line connecting Portland with San Francisco; the Astoria & Columbia River, connecting Portland and Astoria; the Coos Bay, Roseburg & Eastern Railroad & Navigation Company (owned by the Southern Pacific), connecting Coos Bay with one of the Southern Pacific lines; and the Corvallis & Eastern (owned by the Southern Pacific), connecting Yaquina Bay with all three lines of the Southern Pacific. Throughout the Cascade Mountain Region and the great semi-arid region cast of those mountains, which together embrace more than two-thirds of the state’s area, there is not a railway.
The state carries on an extensive commerce with the Orient and with the Canadian provinces. Its exports are principally lumber, wheat, live-stock, fish and wool; its imports are largely a variety of products of the Oriental countries. There are four customs districts: southern Oregon, with Coos Bay as the port of entry; Willamette, with Portland as the port of entry; Oregon, with Astoria as the port of entry; and Yaquina, at the mouth of the Yaquina river.
Population.—The population of Oregon was 13,294 in 1850; 52,465 in 1860; 90,923 in 1870; 174,768 in 1880; 317,704 in 1890; 413,536 in 1900, an increase of 30.2% in the decade; and 672,765 in 1910, a further increase of 62.7%. Of the total population in 1900, 347,788, or 84.1%, were native-born, 65,748 were foreign born, 394,582, or 95.4%, were of the white race, and 18,954 were coloured. Of those born within the United States only 164,431, or less than one-half, were natives of Oregon, and of those born in other states of the Union 128,654, or about seven-tenths, were natives of one or another of the following states: Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, California, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Washington, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Nearly three-fourths of the foreign-born were composed of the following: 13,292 Germans, 9365 Chinese, 9007 Scandinavians, 7508 Canadians, 5663 English and 4210 Irish. The coloured population consisted of 10,397 Chinese, 4951 Indians, 2501 Japanese and 1105 negroes.
The Indians are remnants of a large number of tribes, most of which are aboriginal to this region, and they represent ten or more distinct linguistic stocks. Most of them have been collected under five government schools; the Clackamas, Cow Creek, Calapooya, Lakmiut, Mary's River, Molala, Nestucca, Rogue River, Santiam, Shasta, Tumwater, Umpqua, Wapato and Yamhill, numbering 145 in 1909, under the Grande Ronde school, on the Grande Ronde reservation in Polk and Yamhill counties; the Klamath (658), Modoc (216), Paiute (103), and Pit River or Achomawi (56), under the Klamath school on the Klamath reservation (1362.8 sq. m.) in Klamath and Lake counties; the Alsea, Coquille, Kusan, Kwatami, Rogue River, Skoton, Shasta, Saiustkea, Siuslaw, Tututni, Umpqua and several other small tribes, numbering 442 in 1909, under the Siletz school, on the Siletz reservation (5 sq. m.) in Lincoln county; the Cayuse, Umatilla and Wallawalla, numbering 1205 in 1908, under the Umatilla school, on the Umatilla reservation (124.73 sq. m.) in Umatilla county, and the Paiute, Tenino, Warm Springs and Wasco Indians, numbering 765 in 1909, under the Warm Springs school on the Warm Springs reservation (503.29 sq. m.) in Wasco and Crook counties. Most of the Indians are engaged in farming and stock-raising, but a few still derive their maintenance mainly from fishing and hunting.
Roman Catholics are the most numerous religious sect in the state (in 1906 out of a total of 120,229 communicants of all religious bodies, they numbered 35,317). The rural population (i.e. population outside of incorporated places) is very sparse, only about 2½ in 1900, to the square mile, and while it increased from 203,973 in 1890 to 229,894 in 1900, or only 11.3%. the urban (i.e. population of places having 4000 inhabitants or more) together with the semi-urban (i.e. population of incorporated places having less than 4000 inhabitants) increased during the same decade from 113,731 to 183,642, or 61.5%. The principal cities are Portland, Astoria, Baker City and Salem, which is the capital.
Administration.—The state is still governed under its original constitution of 1857, with the amendments adopted in 1902, 1906 and 1908. This constitution may be amended: by a majority of the popular vote at a regular general election, if the amendment has been passed by a majority vote of all the elected members of each house of the legislature; or by an initiative petition; or by a constitutional convention, which may not be called, however, unless the law providing for it is approved by popular vote. The right of suffrage is conferred by the constitution upon all white male citizens twenty-one years of age and over who have resided in the state during the six months immediately preceding the election, and upon every white male of the required age who has been a resident of the state for six months, and who, one year before the election, has declared his intention of becoming a citizen and who has resided in the United States for one year and in the state for six months prior to the election. Idiots, insane persons and persons convicted of serious crimes are disfranchised. The clause excluding negroes and Chinese from the suffrage has never been repealed, although it has been rendered nugatory by the Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Another provision which has been annulled by amendment to the Federal Constitution, but which still remains in the state constitution, is a clause forbidding free negroes or mulattoes, not residing in the state at the time of the adoption of the constitution, to enter the state or to own real estate or make contracts and maintain suits therein, and bidding the legislature provide for the removal of such negroes and mulattoes and for the punishment of persons bringing them into the state, or employing or harbouring them. The constitution provides that no Chinaman, not a resident of the state at the time of the adoption of the constitution, shall ever hold any real estate or mining claim, or work any mining claim in the state.
The chief executive functions are vested in a governor, who is elected for a term of four years, and who must be at least 30 years old and must have been a resident of the state for three years before his election. He is not eligible to the office for more than eight years in any period of twelve years. He has the right of pardon and a veto of legislative acts, which may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the members present of each house of the legislature. The other important administrative officers are the secretary of state (who succeeds the governor if he dies or resigns—there is no lieutenant-governor), treasurer, attorney-general, superintendent of public instruction and labour commissioner. No public officer may be impeached, but for sufficient cause the governor may remove a justice of the supreme court or a prosecuting attorney from office, upon a joint resolution of the legislature adopted by a two-thirds vote in each house. A public official may be tried for incompetence, corruption or malfeasance according to the regular procedure in criminal cases, and if convicted he may be dismissed from office and receive such other penalties as the law provides.
The legislative department (officially called “the legislative assembly”) consists of a Senate of thirty members chosen for four years, with half the membership retiring every two years, and a House of Representatives with sixty members elected biennially. A senatorial district, if it contains more than one county, must be composed of contiguous counties, and no county may be divided between different senatorial districts. The sessions of the legislature are biennial. Bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may offer amendments. Until 1902 the legislature was the sole law-making body in the state, but on the 2nd of June of this year the voters adopted a constitutional amendment which declared that “the people reserve to themselves power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislative assembly, and also reserve power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any act of the legislative assembly.” This provision for the initiative and the referendum was made effective by a legislative act of 1903. Eight per cent of the number of voters who at the last preceding election voted for a justice of the supreme court, by filing with the secretary of state a petition for the enactment of any law or constitutional amendment—the petition must contain the full text of the law and must be filed at least four months before the election at which it is to be voted upon—may secure a vote on the proposed measure at the next general election, and if it receives the approval of the voters it becomes a law without interposition of the legislature, and goes into effect from the day of the governor’s proclamation announcing the result of the election. A referendum of legislative enactments may be ordered in two ways: the legislature itself may refer any of its acts to the people for approval or rejection at the next regular election, in which case the act may not be vetoed by the governor and does not go into effect until approved at the polls; or 5% of the number of voters at the last election for a supreme court justice may by petition order any act, except such as are “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety,” to be referred to the voters for their approval or rejection. Such a petition must be filed within ninety days after the adjournment of the session in which the act was passed. The secretary of state is required to mail to every voter whose address he has a pamphlet containing the text of the laws to be voted upon at the ensuing election. Along with the text of the law, the state will print arguments in its favour if any are submitted by the persons initiating the measure and the cost of the extra printing is paid by the initiators. In like manner, any one who will defray the expense of the printing may submit arguments in opposition to any proposed measure, and these will be included in the pamphlet and distributed by the state at its own expense. This “text-book” for the voters contained 60 pages in 1906 and 126 pages in 1908.
The power of the initiative was first exercised by the people of Oregon in 1904, when they proposed and enacted a local option liquor law and a direct primary law. As a result of the first of these measures, in 1908 nineteen of the thirty-three counties of the state had prohibited the sale of intoxicants since 1905. The most important effect of the direct primary law has been the choice of United States senators by what is practically a popular vote. Candidates for the United States Senate are voted for in the primaries, and between 1904 and 1909 candidates for the state legislature were required to say whether or not they would support the people’s choice for United States senator regardless of their own preferences. In the state election in June 1908 a Democrat received the highest popular vote for the senatorship, and as a majority of the legislature of 1909 had committed itself to vote for the people’s choice, he was elected by that body, although five-sixths of its members were Republicans. This was an anomaly in American politics. In June 1906 five laws and five amendments to the constitution, proposed by initiative petitions, and one law on which the referendum was ordered by petition, were submitted to a popular vote. An amendment giving women the right to vote was defeated, and among those adopted was one providing for the initiative upon special and local laws and parts of laws, and another giving cities and towns the exclusive right to enact or amend their own charters, subject only to the constitution and the criminal laws. Oregon was thus the first American state to grant complete home rule to its municipalities. At the election in June 1908 the number of initiative and referendum measures amounted to nineteen, and the ballot required forty-one separate marks and was over 2½ ft. long.
The measures to be voted on consisted of eleven laws or constitutional amendments proposed by initiative petition, four constitutional amendments referred to the people by the legislature, and four laws upon which the voters had ordered a referendum. Among the measures defeated were the fourth woman’s suffrage amendment voted down in Oregon, a single-tax bill and an “open town” bill designed to defeat the purpose of the local option liquor law. Among the measures adopted were: a law (of doubtful constitutionality) requiring legislators to vote for the people’s choice for a United States senator—this was adopted by a vote of 69,668 to 21,162; a corrupt practices act, regulating the expenditure of moneys in political campaigns and limiting a candidate’s expenses to one fourth of one year’s salary; an amendment permitting the establishment of state institutions elsewhere than at the capital; an amendment changing the time of state elections from June to November; an amendment permitting the legislature to pass a law providing for proportional representation, i.e. representation for each political party in proportion to its numerical strength, by providing for first and second choice in voting—the system of preferential voting adopted in Idaho in 1909; and the “recall,” by which the voters may remove from office after six months’ service by a special election any local official.
Judiciary.—The judicial department of the state consists of a supreme court, circuit courts, county courts (held by a county judge in each county) and the courts of local justices of the peace. The supreme court consists of five (before 1909 the number was three) justices elected for a term of six years, and its jurisdiction extends only to appeals from the decisions of the circuit courts. The judges of the circuit courts were formerly supreme court justices on circuit; they also are chosen for six years, and they have cognizance over all cases, including appeals from inferior courts, not specifically reserved by law for some other tribunal. The judges of the county courts are elected for four years, and their courts have jurisdiction over probate matters, civil cases involving amounts not exceeding $500, and criminal cases in which the offence is not punishable by death or imprisonment in the penitentiary. Each county is divided into a number of districts or precincts, for each of which there is a justice of the peace, elected biennially and having jurisdiction in minor cases.
Local Government.—For the purposes of local government the state is divided into thirty-four counties. The constitution provides that no county may have an area of less than 400 sq. m., and that no new county may be created unless its population is at least 1200. County affairs are administered by the county judge acting with two commissioners. Any portion of a county containing as many as 150 inhabitants may be incorporated as a town or city, and as such it possesses complete self-government in all purely local matters, even having the power to revise its own charter. A constitutional amendment of 1906 forbids the formation of corporations by special laws (formerly the constitution provided that corporations "shall not be created by special laws except for municipal purposes") and says: "The legislative assembly shall not enact, amend or repeal any charter or act of incorporation for any municipality, city or town." The initiative and the referendum are employed in municipal ordinances as well as in state laws; towns and cities make their own provisions as to “the manner of exercising the initiative and referendum powers as to their own municipal legislation”; but “not more than 10% of the legal voters may be required to order the referendum nor more than 15% to propose any measure by the initiative, in any city or town.”
Miscellaneous Laws.—The value of the homestead exempt from judicial sale for the satisfaction of liabilities is limited to $1500; the homestead must be owned and occupied by some member of the family claiming the exemption and may not exceed in area one block in a town or city or 160 acres outside of a municipality. The exemption is not valid against a mortgage, but the mortgage must be executed by both husband and wife, if the householder is married. The debtor claims the exemption where the levy is made, but if the sheriff deems the homestead greater in value than the law allows, he may choose three disinterested persons to appraise it and sell any portion that may be adjudged in excess of the legal limit. The constitution provides that the property and pecuniary rights of every married woman, at the time of her marriage, or afterwards, acquired by gift, devise or inheritance, shall not be subject to the debts or contracts of the husband; and that laws shall be passed providing for the registration of the wife’s separate property. Marriages between whites and persons of negro descent, between whites and Indians, and between first cousins are forbidden or are void. One year’s residence is necessary to secure a divorce, for which the causes recognized are a conviction of felony, habitual drunkenness for one year, physical incapacity, desertion for one year and cruelty or personal indignities.
Education.—The public school system (organized 1873) is administered by the state superintendent of public instruction, who exercises a general supervision over the schools, and by the state board of education, which prescribes the general rules and regulations for their management. For the support of the schools there is a school fund, amounting on the 1st of April 1909 to $5,861,475, and consisting of the moneys derived from the sale of lands donated by the Federal government and of small sums derived from miscellaneous sources. The fund is administered by a board consisting of the governor, the secretary of state and the state treasurer, and the income from it is apportioned among the counties according to the number of children of school age. The counties are also required to levy special school taxes, the aggregate annual amount of which shall be equivalent to at least seven dollars for every child between the ages of four and twenty years. If the total annual fund for a school district amounts to less than $300, the district must levy a special tax to bring the fund up to that sum. Each school district in the state is required to have a school term of six months or more. Special county taxes are levied for the maintenance of public school libraries also. For all children between the ages of nine and fourteen inclusive, school attendance is compulsory.
The total number of teachers in the public schools in 1908 was 4243; the total school enrollment, 107,493; the average daily attendance 94,333. In 1908 there was paid for the support of common schools $3,061,994; the average monthly salary of rural teachers was $49.60, and of school principals, $80.87. The proportion of illiterates is low: in 1900 of the total population 10 years of age or over only 3.3 % was illiterate; of the male population of the same age 3.9 %, of the female 2.3 % and of the native white population only 0.8 % were illiterate.
In addition to the public schools, the state maintains; the University of Oregon at Eugene (q.v.) the State Agricultural College (1870), at Corvallis (pop. 1900, 1819), the county-seat of Benton county, and the State Normal School (1882) at Monmouth (pop. in 1900, 606), in Polk county. Among the institutions not receiving state aid are Albany College (Presbyterian, 1867), at Albany; Columbia University (Roman Catholic, 1901), at Portland; Dallas College (United Evangelical, 1900), at Dallas; Pacific University (Congregational, 1853), at Forest Grove; McMinnville College (Baptist, 1858), at McMinnville; Pacific College (Friends, founded in 1885 as an academy, college opened in 1891), at Newberg; Philomath College (United Brethren, 1866), at Philomath; and Willamette University (Methodist Episcopal, 1844), at Salem.
Charitable and Correctional Institutions.—The state supports the following charitable and correctional institutions: a soldiers’ home (1894) at Roseburg and a school for deaf mutes (1870), an institute for the blind (1873), a reform school, an insane asylum and a penitentiary at Salem, the capital of the state. These institutions (except the penitentiary, of which the governor of the state is an inspector) are governed each by a board of three trustees, the governor of the state and the secretary of state serving on all boards, and the third trustee being the state treasurer on the boards for the state insane asylum, the state reform school and the institute for the feeble-minded, and the superintendent of public instruction on the boards for the school for deaf mutes and the institute for the blind.
Finance.—The constitution forbids the establishment or incorporation by the legislative assembly of any bank or banking company; and it forbids any bank or banking company in the state from issuing bills, checks, certificates, promissory notes or other paper to circulate as money. Except in case of war the legislative assembly may not contract a state debt greater than $50,000. To pay bounties to soldiers in the Civil War a debt of $237,000 was contracted; but in 1870 only $90,000 of it was still outstanding. An issue of bonds (to be redeemed from the sale of public lands) for a privately built canal at Oregon City was authorized in 1870. About $175,000 more of debt was incurred by Indian wars in 1874 and 1878; in the latter year the public debt amounted to more than $650,000, but about $350,000 of this was in 10% warrants for road-building, &c.; the bonds and warrants (with the exception of some never presented for redemption) were speedily redeemed by a special property tax. Revenues for the support of the government are derived from the following sources: the general property tax, the poll tax (the proceeds of which accrue to the county in which it is collected), the inheritance tax, corporation taxes, business taxes and licenses and fees. By far the most important source of revenue is the general property tax, which is assessed for state, county and municipal purposes. The amount of revenue to be raised for state purposes each year by this tax is computed by a board consisting of the governor, the secretary of state and the state treasurer, and it is apportioned among the counties on the basis of their average expenditures for the previous five years. At the close of the year 1907 the state was free from bonded indebtedness; receipts into the treasury during the year were $2,851,471, and the expenditure was $2,697,645.
History.—As to the European who first saw any portion of the present Oregon there is some controversy and doubt. It is known that within thirty years after the discovery of the Pacific Ocean the Spaniards had explored the western coasts of the American continent from the isthmus to the vicinity of the forty-second parallel of north latitude, and it is possible that the Spanish pilot Bartolomé Ferrelo (or Ferrer), who in 1543 made the farthest northward voyage in the Pacific recorded in the first half of the 16th century, may have reached a point on the Oregon coast. The profitable trade between the Spanish colonies and the Far East, however, soon occupied the whole attention of the Spaniards, and caused them to neglect the exploration of the coast of north-western America for many years. In 1579 the Englishman, Francis Drake, came to this region seeking a route home by way of the Northwest Passage, and in his futile quest he seems to have gone as far north as 43°. He took possession of the country in the name of Queen Elizabeth and called it Albion. Near the end of the century persistent stories of a Northwest Passage caused the Spanish rulers to plan further explorations of the Pacific coast, so as to forestall other nations in the discovery of the alleged new route and thus retain their monopoly of the South Sea (Pacific Ocean). In 1603 Sebastian Vizcaino, acting under orders of the viceroy of Mexico, reached the latitude of 42° N., and Martin Aguilar, with another vessel of the fleet, reached a point near latitude 43° which he called Cape Blanco and claimed to have discovered there a large river. For the next century and a half Spain again neglected this region, until the fear of English and Russian encroachment caused her to resume the work of exploration. In 1774 Juan Perez sailed up the coast as far as 54° N. lat., and on his return followed the shore line very closely, thus making the first real and undisputed exploration of the Oregon coast of which there is any record. In the following year Bruno Heceta landed off what is now called Point Grenville and took formal possession of the country, and later, in lat. 46°9´, he discovered a bay whose swift currents led him to suspect that he was in the mouth of a large river or strait. In 1778 Jonathan Carver (q.v.) published in London Travels throughout the Interior Parts of North America, in which, following the example of the Spaniards, he asserted that there was a great river on the western coast, although, so far as is known, no white man had then ever seen such a stream. Whether his declaration was based on stories told by the Indians of the interior, or upon reports of Spanish sailors, or had no basis at all, is not known; its chief importance lies in the fact that Carver called this undiscovered stream the Oregon, and that this name was eventually applied to the territory drained by this great western river. The name, like the whole story, may have been of Spanish or Indian origin, or it may have been purely fanciful.
The Spaniards made no effort to colonize north-western America or to develop its trade with the Indians, but toward the end of the 18th century the traders of the great British fur companies of the North were gradually pushing overland to the Pacific. Upon the sea, too, the English were not idle. Captain James Cook in March 1778 sighted the coast of Oregon in the lat. of 44°, and examined it between 47° and 48° in the hope of finding the Straits of Juan de Fuca described in Spanish accounts. Soon after the close of the War of Independence American merchants began to buy furs along the north-west coast and to ship them to China to be exchanged for the products of the East. It was in the prosecution of this trade that Captain Robert Gray (1755-1806), an American in the service of Boston merchants, discovered in 1792 the long-sought river of the West, which he named the Columbia, after his ship. By the discovery of this stream Gray gave to the United States a claim to the whole territory drained by its waters. Other explorers had searched in vain for this river. Cook had sailed by without suspecting its presence; Captain John Meares (c. 1756-1809), another English navigator, who visited the region in 1788, declared that no such river existed, and actually called its estuary "Deception Bay"; and George Vancouver, who visited the coast in 1792, was sceptical until he learned of Gray's discovery.
Spanish claims to this part of North America did not long remain undisputed by England and the United States. By the Nootka Convention of 1790 Spain acknowledged the right of British subjects to fish, trade and settle in the parts of the northern Pacific coast not already occupied; and under the treaty of 1819 (proclaimed in 1821) she ceded to the United States all the territory claimed by her N. of 42°. But even before these agreements had been reached, Alexander Mackenzie, in the service of the North-west Company, in 1793 had explored through Canada to the Pacific coast in lat. about 52° 20´ N., and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, American explorers acting under the orders of President Jefferson, in 1805–1806 had passed west of the Rocky Mountains and down the Columbia river to the Pacific Ocean. Both British and American adventurers were attracted to the region by the profitable fur trade. In 1808 the North-west Company had several posts on the Fraser River, and in the same year the American Fur Company was organized by John Jacob Astor, who was planning to build up a trade in the West. In 1811 the Pacific Fur Company, a kind of western division of the American Fur Company, founded a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia which they called Astoria, and set up a number of minor posts on the Willamette, Spokane and Okanogan rivers. On hearing of the war between England and the United States, Astor's associates, deeming Astoria untenable, sold the property in October 1813 to the North-west Company. In the following month a British ship arrived, and its captain took formal possession of the post and renamed it Fort George.
Soon after the restoration of peace between England and the United States by the treaty of Ghent (1814), there arose the so-called “Oregon question” or “North-western boundary dispute,” which agitated both countries for more than a generation and almost led to another war. As that treaty had stipulated that all territory captured during the war should be restored to its former owner, the American government in 1817 took steps to reoccupy the Columbia Valley. The British government at first protested, on the ground that Astoria was not captured territory, but finally surrendered the post to the United States in 1818. The United States was willing at the time to extend the north-western boundary along the forty-ninth parallel from the Lake of the Woods to the Pacific, but to this the British government would not consent; and on the 20th of October 1818 both nations agreed to a convention providing for the “joint occupation” for ten years of the country “on the north-west coast of America, westward of the Stony [Rocky] Mountains.” In the following year, as already stated, Spain waived her claim to the territory north of 42° in favour of the United States. In 1821, however, Russia asserted her claim to all lands as far south as the fifty-first parallel. Against this claim both England and the United States protested, and in 1824 the United States and Russia concluded a treaty by which Russia agreed to make no settlements south of 54° 40´, and the United States agreed to make none north of that line. From this time until the final settlement of the controversy the Americans were disposed to believe that their title was clear to all the territory south of the Russian possessions; that is, to all the region west of the Rocky Mountains between 42° and 54° 40´ N. lat. In 1827 the agreement of 1818 between Great Britain and the United States as to joint occupation was renewed for an indefinite term, with the proviso that it might be terminated by either party on twelve months’ notice.
For the next two decades the history of Oregon is concerned mainly with the British fur traders and the American immigrants. The Hudson’s Bay Company absorbed its rival, the North-west Company, in 1821, and thus secured a practical monopoly of the fur trade of the North and West. Its policy was to discourage colonization so as to maintain the territory in which it operated as a vast game preserve. Fortunately for the Americans, however, the company in 1824 sent to the Columbia river as its chief factor and governor west of the Rocky Mountains Dr John McLoughlin (1784–1857), who ruled the region with an iron hand, but with a benevolent purpose, for twenty-two years. On the northern bank of the Columbia in 1824–1825 he built Fort Vancouver, which became a port for ocean vessels and a great entrepôt for the western fur trade; in 1829 he began the settlement of Oregon City; and, most important of all, he extended a hearty welcome to all settlers and aided them in many ways, though this was against the company’s interests.
In 1832 four Indian chiefs from the Oregon country journeyed to St Louis to obtain a copy of the white man’s Bible; and this incident aroused the missionary zeal of the religious denominations. In 1834 Jason Lee (d. 1845) and his nephew, Daniel Lee, went to Oregon as Methodist missionaries, and with McLoughlin's assistance they established missions in the Willamette valley. Samuel Parker went as a Presbyterian missionary in 1835, and was followed in the next year by Marcus Whitman and Henry H. Spalding (c. 1801–1874), who were accompanied by their wives, the first white women, it is said, to cross the American continent. Whitman settled at Wai-i-latpu, about 5 m. W. of the present Walla Walla and 25 m. from the Hudson’s Bay Company's Fort Walla Walla; and Spalding at Lapwai, near the present Lewiston, Idaho. Roman Catholic missions were established near Fort Walla Walla in 1838. In this year Jason Lee returned to the Eastern states and carried back to Oregon with him by sea over fifty people, missionaries and their families. It is significant, if true, that part of the money for chartering his vessel was supplied from the secret service fund of the United States government.
As early as 1841 the Americans in Oregon began to feel the need of some form of civil government, as the regulations of the Hudson’s Bay Company were the only laws then known to the country. After several ineffectual attempts a provisional government was finally organized by two meetings at Champoeg (in what is now Marion county, north-east of Salem) on the 2nd of May and on the 5th of July 1843. The governing body was at first an executive committee of three citizens, but in 1845 this committee was abolished and a governor was chosen. In the “fundamental laws” of the provisional government were incorporated a number of Articles from the Ordinance of 1787, among them the one prohibiting slavery. The new government encountered the opposition of the missionaries and of the non-American population, but it was soon strengthened by the “Great Immigration” in 1843, when nearly nine hundred men, women and children, after assembling at Independence, crossed the plains in a body and settled in the Columbia Valley. After this year the flow of immigrants steadily increased, about 1400 arriving in 1844, and 3000 in 1845. Signs of hostility to the Hudson’s Bay Company now began to appear among the American population, and in 1845 the provisional government sought to extend its jurisdiction north of the Columbia river, where the Americans had hitherto refrained from settling. A compromise was finally reached, whereby the company was to be exempt from taxes on all its property except the goods sold to settlers, and the officers and employees of the company and all the British residents were to become subject to the provisional government. Meanwhile the western states had inaugurated a movement in favour of the immediate and definite settlement of the Oregon question, with the result that the Democratic national convention of 1844 declared that the title of the United States to “the whole of the territory of Oregon” was “clear and unquestionable,” and the party made “Fifty-four forty or fight” a campaign slogan. The Democrats were successful at the polls, and President Polk in his inaugural address asserted the claim of the United States to all of Oregon in terms suggesting the possibility of war. Negotiations, however, resulted in a treaty, drafted by James Buchanan, the American Secretary of State, and Richard Pakenham, the British envoy, which the president in June 1846 submitted to the Senate for its opinion and which he was advised to accept. By this instrument the northern boundary of Oregon was fixed at the forty ninth parallel, extending westward from the crest of the Rocky Mountains to the middle of the channel separating Vancouver's Island from the mainland, “and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Fuca’s Straits, to the Pacific Ocean.”
Although President Polk immediately urged the formation of a territorial government for Oregon, the bill introduced for this purpose was held up in the Senate on account of the opposition of Southern leaders, who were seeking to maintain the abstract principle that slavery could not be constitutionally prohibited in any territory of the United States, although they had no hope of Oregon ever becoming slave territory. Indian outbreaks, however, which began in 1847, compelled Congress to take measures for the defence of the inhabitants, and on the 14th of August 1848 a bill was enacted providing a territorial government. As then constituted, the Territory embraced the whole area to which the title of the United States had been confirmed by the treaty of 1846, and included the present states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and parts of Wyoming and Montana. Its area was reduced in 1853 by the creation of the Territory of Washington. The discovery of gold in California drew many Oregon settlers to that country in 1848–1850, but this exodus was soon offset as a result of the enactment by Congress in 1850 of the “land donation law,” by which settlers in Oregon between 1850 and 1853 were entitled to large tracts of land free of cost. The number of claims registered under this act was over eight thousand.
In 1856 the people voted for statehood; and in June 1857 they elected members of a constitutional convention which drafted a constitution at Salem in August and September 1857; the constitution was ratified by popular vote in November 1857; and on the 14th of February 1850 Oregon was admitted into the Union with its present boundaries. The new state was at first Democratic in politics, and the southern faction of the Democratic party in 1860 made a bid for its support by nominating as their candidate for vice-president, on the ticket with John C. Breckinridge, Joseph Lane (1801–1881), then a senator from Oregon and previously its territorial governor. The Douglas Democrats and the Republicans, however, worked together as a union party, and Lincoln carried the state by a small majority. The so-called union party broke up after the Civil War, and by 1870 the Democrats were strong enough to prevent the ratification by Oregon of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. In 1876, after the presidential election, two sets of electoral returns were forwarded from Oregon, one showing the choice of three Republican electors, and the other (signed by the governor, who was a Democrat) showing the election of two Republicans and one Democrat. The popular vote was admittedly for the three Republican electors, but one of the Republican electors (Watts) was a deputy-postmaster and so seemed ineligible under the constitutional provision that “no…person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall be an elector.” Watts resigned as deputy postmaster, and the secretary of state of Oregon, who under the state law was the canvassing officer, certified the election of the three Republican electors. On the 6th of December the three met. Watts resigned, and was immediately reappointed by the other two. The Democratic claimant, with whom the two Republican electors whose election was conceded, refused to meet, met alone, appointed two other Democrats to fill the two “vacancies,” and the “electoral college” of the state so constituted forthwith cast two votes for Hayes and one for Tilden. The Electoral Commission decided that the three votes should be counted for Hayes—if the one Democratic elector had been adjudged chosen, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, S. J. Tilden, would have been elected. The political complexion of the state has generally been Republican, although the contests between the two leading parties have often been very close. The Indian outbreaks which began in 1847 continued with occasional periods of quiet for nearly a generation, until most of the Indians were either killed or placed on reservations. The Indians were very active during the Civil War, when the regular troops were withdrawn for service in the eastern states, and Oregon’s volunteers from 1861 to 1865 were needed for home defence. The most noted Indian conflicts within the state have been the Modoc War (1864–73) and the Shoshone War (1866–68). During the Spanish-American War Oregon furnished a regiment of volunteers which served in the Philippines.
|Governors of Oregon|
|Under the Provisional Government.|
|Under the Territorial Government.|
|Knitzing Pritchett (sic) (acting)||1850|
|John P. Gaines||1850–1852|
|George Law Curry (acting)||1853|
|John W. Davis||1853–1854|
|George Law Curry||1854–1859|
|Under the State Government.|
|John Whiteaker, Dem.||1859–1862|
|Addison Crandall Gibbs, Rep.||1862–1866|
|George Lemuel Woods, Rep.||1866–1870|
|La Fayette Grover, Dem.||1870–1877|
|Stephen Fowler Chadwick (acting)||1877–1878|
|William Wallace Thayer, Dem.||1878–1882|
|Zenas Ferry Moody, Rep.||1882–1887|
|Sylvester Pennoyer, Dem.||1887–1895|
|William Paine Lord, Rep.||1895–1899|
|Theodore Thurston Geer, Rep.||1899–1903|
|George Earle Chamberlain, Dem.||1903–1909|
|Frank W. Benson, Rep.||1909–1911|
|Oswald West. Dem.||1911–|
- The constitution set 30 as the maximum number of senators, 60 as the maximum number of representatives, and provided for 16 senators and 34 representatives in 1857-1860. It provided for an enumeration and a reapportionment each tenth year after 1865.
- Before 1904, under a law of 1901, the people voted for candidates for the United States Senate, but the legislative assembly was in no way bound to carry out the decision of the popular vote; and in 1904 the legislature chose as United States senator a candidate for whom no votes had been cast in the popular election.
- It is to be noted that the Republican party had not favoured requiring a pledge from members of the legislature that they would vote for the people's choice for senator; that the Democratic candidate for senator (Gov. G. E. Chamberlain) was a prominent advocate of the initiative, the referendum and the direct election of United States senators; and that a wing of the Republican party worked for the choice of the Democratic candidate by the people in the hope that the (Republican) legislature would not ratify the popular choice and so would nullify the direct primary law.
- At times the two law-making bodies—the legislature and the people—have come into conflict. In 1906, for example, the people by the initiative secured a law forbidding public officers from accepting free passes from railways. In 1907 the legislature repealed all laws on this subject and required railways to furnish free transportation to certain officials. Upon this measure, however, the people ordered a referendum and it was rejected at the polls. In 1908 the people voted against increasing the number of supreme court judges; in 1909 the legislature increased the number.
- Some early writers assert that Drake even reached the lat. ot 48° N. and anchored in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
- There have been many ingenious, but quite unsatisfactory, efforts to explain the derivation of the word Oregon. They are enumerated at length in Bancroft’s History of Oregon, vol. i. pp. 17–25. It seems that after the publication of Carver’s book the word Oregon did not appear again in print until William Cullen Bryant employed it in his poem Thanatopsis, in 1817. It was applied to the territory drained by the Columbia river for the first time, perhaps, by [[w:Hall J. Kelley|]], a promoter of immigration into the North-west, who in memorials to Congress and numerous other writings referred to the country as Oregon.
- For many years it was generally believed that the administration at Washington was prevented from surrendering its claims to Oregon, in return for the grant by Great Britain of fishing stations in Newfoundland, by Marcus Whitman, who in 1842-1843 made a journey across the entire continent in the depth of winter to dissuade the government from this purpose. This story seems to have no foundation in fact; it was not Whitman, but the great influx of settlers in 1843–1844 that saved Oregon, if, indeed, there was then any danger of its being given up. (See Whitman, Marcus.)
- held office only three days, May 16-19.
- Secretary of State; succeeded G. E. Chamberlain, who resigned to become a member of the U.S. Senate.