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Oregon Country
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Oregon Country

Oregon Country was a region of the Pacific Northwest that originally consisted of the land north of 42°N latitude, south of 54°40'N latitude, and west of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The area now forms part of the present day Canadian province of British Columbia and the US-states of Oregon and Washington. The phrase describes the period from the early penetration of European trappers and traders until the Oregon treaty of 1846.

Table of contents
1 Native Americans
2 Lewis and Clark
3 The treaty background
4 Early settlement
5 See also

Native Americans

Among the American Indian groups had lived in this region for centuries... (links to Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest)

Lewis and Clark

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804 - 1806 scouted the territory for the United States.

The treaty background

The Oregon Country was originally claimed by the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and Spain. France and Spain had divided their western, 18th century territorial claims along the 42nd parallel. France's loss at the end of the Seven Years' War effectively ended its claim to the area. Spain gave up its claims piecemeal, at the convention in 1790 that followed the seizure of Nootka Sound and relinquishing any remaining claims to territory north of the 42nd parallel to the United States as part of the Adams-Onis Transcontinental Treaty of 1819. Russia gave up its weaker claims in separate treaties with the United states in 1824 and with Great Britain in 1825.

That left the United States and Britain in joint occupation of the Oregon Country, according to an agreement, the Convention of 1818, that extended the existing border between the U.S. and Canada as far west as the watershed of the Rockies.

Political pressure in the United States urged the occupation of all the Oregon Country. President James Knox Polk even campaigned with the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight in the 1844 US Presidential election. This referred to the northern border of the region. The two countries eventually came to a peaceful agreement that divided the territory along the 49th parallel, in the 1846 Oregon Treaty. This border still divides the United States and Canada.

In 1848, the U.S. portion of the Oregon Country was formally organized as the Oregon Territory, and the early phase was over.

Early settlement

After the Lewis and Clark Expedition, fur traders, such as Jedediah Smith and Jim Beckworth, now known as mountain men, were searching the Rocky Mountains for beaver pelts. These trappers adopted Native American ways and many of them married native women. They used Native American trails in the Rockies which went to California and Oregon.

John Jacob Astor founded a fur-trading post at Astoria, Oregon in 1811, beginning the organized trade in furs that had already been initiated by a few hardy trappers and traders. After the War of 1812, the Hudson's Bay Company took ownership of the post. John McLoughlin, appointed head or Chief Factor of the region in 1824, moved its regional headquarters to Fort Vancouver, which became the de facto political center of the Pacific Northwest until the Oregon Treaty in 1846. In the 1820s Americans began to migrate to this land beyond the Rocky Mountains, with large migrations beginning in the 1840s over the Oregon Trail.

As Eastern United States churches started to hear news of the Oregon Country, some of them decided to send missionaries to convert the Indians. Jason Lee, a methodist minister from New York, was the first of these Oregon missionaries. He built a mission school for Indians in the Willamette Valley.

Alexander Ross, an early fur trader describes part of the Oregon Country:

"The banks of the river throughout are low and skirted in the distance by a chain of moderately high lands on each side, interspersed here and there with clumps of widespreading oaks, groves of pine, and a variety of other kinds of woods. Between these high lands lie what is called the valley of the Wallamitte, the frequented haunts of innumerable herds of elk and deer.... . In ascending the river the surrounding country is most delightful, and the first barrier to be meet with is about forty miles up from its mouth. Here the navigation is interrupted by a ledge of rocks, running across the river from side to side in the form of an irregular horseshoe, over which the whole body of water falls at one leap down a precipice of about forty feet, called the Falls."

See also