Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly vol. 1.djvu/124

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Joseph R. Wilson.

be extended eastward to the crest of the Rocky Mountains, the territory included between these two lines, the Pacific Ocean and the crest-line of the Rocky Mountains, will embrace the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, with a considerable part of the states of California, Wyoming, and Montana, together with the greater part of British Columbia. It is the settlement of the question of sovereignty over the region thus roughly defined that is the subject of this paper.

During almost the whole period when its sovereignty was in question this region was commonly known in this country and in Europe as Oregon, the Oregon Country, or the Oregon Territory, and the question of its sovereignty as the Oregon Question. The country took its name from a legendary name of the river that defines it, a name given the river even before it had been seen by any white man. For many years previous to 1792 the existence of such a river in this region had been conjectured by explorers along the coast from signs they had observed in an indentation in the coast line, and by explorers in the interior from reports of such a river that reached them through native tribes supposed to dwell near its sources. It is to Jonathan Carver, a native of Connecticut, that we owe, as it is still thought, the name Oregon. In his journal of travels in the regions of the Upper Mississippi he speaks of four great rivers, flowing in as many directions, which took their rise, as he had heard from native tribes, somewhere in the mountains to the west. One of these was, as Carver writes in his journal, "the river Oregon, or the River of the West, which falls into the Pacific Ocean." Already, in Carver's day, and before the time of his travels, maps had appeared with a river marked in the region of what is now the Columbia, which bore the name, among others, of the River of the West, or the Great River of