Washington History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

People arriving over the Bering Strait from Mongolia about 13,000 years ago first inhabited the Pacific Northwest. The native tribes were known for intricately carved totem poles. (The highest totem pole in the world – 105 feet high – is located in Tacoma.) Before the arrival of the Europeans, it is estimated that there were 125 distinct Northwestern tribes. The sea provided abundant food supplies, and cedars provided material for longhouses, large canoes, and even clothing (made from the bark). Complex cultures developed with such abundance. In 1775, the Spanish captain Don Bruno de Eceta landed on the coastline and claimed that everything ended up to the Russian possessions in the north for Spain.

. In 1790 Spain opened the territory to trappers and explorers from other countries, mainly Great Britain and the United States.

British Captain James Cook charted part of the coastline in 1778 looking for the Northwest Passage. American Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia Estuary in 1792 and named it after his ship. He subsequently established a trade in sea otter leather.

American President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark overland to search for the Northwest Passage, and although they found the passage did not exist, they laid claim to the territory. Their expedition, along with Captain Gray’s explorations, gave the United States a share of the land.

In 1819 Spain ceded their earlier claim United States, although the British disputed it, and the area existed for several decades under joint control. President James C. Polk campaigned in 1844 under the slogan “54-40 or fight, ‘arguing that the northern limit of American territory should be on the southern edge of Russian territory at latitude 54º40.'” The dispute was finally settled in 1846 with the Treaty of Oregon, and the northern boundary was established at the 49th parallel, the modern border between Canada and the United States.Many

settlers following the Oregon Trail migrated north and settled in Washington in the Puget Sound area.The first settlement was in 1846.In 1853, part of the Oregon The territories were named the Washington Territory. It became the 42nd state in 1889, with its capital at Olympia, and remains the only state named after a US president.

Washington scenery, climate and economy

As the Cascade Mountains run parallel to the coast the entire length of the state, Washington is divided into two distinct climates. The western third has a temperate rainforest climate, while the eastern two thirds of the state is warmer and drier.

In addition to its modern high-tech industries, the economy of the state’s western third was based primarily on lumber (especially Douglas Fir) and fishing. The Columbia area has the richest salmon fishing in the Northwest. The mineral smelter (gold, silver, copper and lead) was located in Tacoma.

Washington Timeline

1500s – 1700s

  • (1543) Spain claimed the Pacific Northwest
  • (1579) Sir Francis Drake claimed the Washington coast for England
  • (1592) Juan de Fuca discovered the Strait of Juan de Fuca
  • (1774) Juan Pérez led the first Spanish expedition to the Northwest Coast, discovered the Olympic Mountains
  • (1775) Bruno de Ezeta landed on the Washington coast, claimed area for Spain
  • (1778) James Cook explored and charted the Northwest Coast
  • (1792) George Vancouver explored and named Puget Sound; Spain established the first non-Indian settlement in Washington at Neah Bay


  • (1805-1806) Lewis and Clark reached Washington
  • (1811) John Jacob Astor built Fort Astoria, part of the Pacific Fur Company at the Columbia Estuary
  • (1825) Forts Vancouver and Colvile established by the Columbia Hudson Bay Company
  • (1841) Charles Wilkes led a United States naval expedition to explore Washington
  • (1842) John C. Frémont witnessed the eruption of Mount St. Helens
  • (1847) Keyuse Indians attacked the Whitman Mission at Walla Wall
  • (1851) First settlers reached the Seattle site
  • (1853) Washington Territory
  • (1855-58) Yakima Indian Wars occurred
  • (1858) Cascade Railroad Company began operating in Columbia Gorge; Indian wars are over
  • (1860) Gold and silver discovered in Okanogan
  • 1886 Coal Mining City of Roslin founded
  • 1889 Washington becomes the 42nd state
  • (1897-99) Klondike Gold Rush brought thousands to Seattle
  • (1899) Mount Rainier National Park established


  • (1909) Yukon-Pacific Alaska Exposition held in Seattle
  • (1910) Women won the right to vote in Washington
  • (1933) Construction of Grand Coulee Dam started
  • (1937) Bonneville Dam on Columbia completed
  • (1941) Grand Coulee Dam completed
  • (1962) World’s Fair held in Seattle
  • (1974) Expo ’74 World’s Fair held in Spokane
  • (1975) Microsoft founded
  • (1976) First female governor, Dixie Lee Ray, elected
  • (1980) Mount St. Helens erupted


  • (2001) Communist Party office closed in Seattle
  • (2003) Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, confessed to killing 48 women
  • (2006) State Court upheld same-sex marriage ban
  • (2007) Boeing unveiled environmentally friendly 787 Dreamliner aircraft
  • (2010) Three US soldiers based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord accused of fatally killing three Afghan civilians
  • (2011) Amanda Knox returned to Washington from Italy after being cleared of 2007 killing Meredith Kercher
  • (2012) The gunman who shot the Rainier Volcano Ranger Park, Margaret Anderson, found dead
  • (2012) Three experienced skiers killed in an avalanche in the Cascade Mountains


Spokane, the gem of Washington cities, sits at its base in the Columbia Mountains with the upper branch of the Rocky Mountains looming to the northeast.

Located in the far eastern reaches of the state, Spokane is a gateway to nature. Within easy reach of 76 lakes, 33 golf courses, five major National Parks and spectacular Colombia.

Spokane itself is one of the larger cities in the state of Washington and a center for both cultural and commercial pursuits.

With dozens of city parks, a charming downtown historic district, nearby casinos and glorious summer weather, Spokane is the perfect place for an exciting and relaxing Washington vacation.

The Spokane River and its scenic shoreline bike trails and hiking trails are some of the city’s biggest assets. The Spokane Falls, a series of waterfalls and dams in downtown Spokane are an impressive sight; a spectacle of color, foam and noise.

  • The very first Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, way back in 1910.
  • Hoopfest, held in Spokane every year, is the world’s biggest 3 in 3 basketball tournament.
  • The city’s nickname is “Lilac City”, named after the flowers that bloom in the Spokane area after their introduction in the early 20th century.
  • Washington natives, actors Craig T. Nelson and Daren McGavin and author Kitty Kelly were born here.

Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park
Located in Mount Spokane State Park north of the city, this Washington ski resort provides skiers with a fun packed adventure!With a base lodge elevation of 4,200 feet, a ski-capable vertical rise of 2,000 feet, 45 designated runs and 15 night skiing runs, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park are sure to get an adrenaline rush flying mountain high!Enjoy breathtaking views of Columbia’s peaks, hit the slopes and aerobics all at the same time.

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
One of the many museums associated with the Smithsonian Institution, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture has five underground galleries, an orientation gallery and an outdoor amphitheater, among many other exciting features.Focusing on Native American and other cultures, regional Washington history and fine arts, this museum features many unique and beautiful exhibits.The Northwest Museum features collections of national renown, holding a special interest in the Columbia Plateau and the lives of famous Washington people and culture.

Manito Park
A beautiful park with an tree nursery, lush botanical gardens, a lovely pond, soothing Japanese gardens and a charming residential area, Manito Park is a major Spokane attraction for both locals and Washington vacation visitors. The duck pond is an oasis and home to ducks, geese and swans.The park also includes the European Garden, the Gaiser Conservatory and Rose Hill, which hosts 1,500 flowering shrubs representing over 150 varieties.Relax with a warm cup of coffee and a delicious snack at the Bench Cafe, take a long walk around the park, use the wild trails for hiking or biking or go bird watching.

Washington History