McLoughlin actively tried to keep competing American fur traders out of what was beginning to be called the Oregon country, which included present-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. However, he did not discourage American missionaries from establishing missions. Two Methodist missionaries, Daniel and Jason Lee, established the first mission in Oregon in 1834. These missionaries had planned on converting Native Americans to Christianity, but McLoughlin asked them to preach to a newly established European settlement in the Willamette Valley.
The first mission in Washington was established by Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, among the Cayuse people near Walla Walla in 1836. The missionaries strived to teach the Cayuse about Christianity and agriculture. The Cayuse, however, were accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle and were dedicated to their own religion.
Many of the Native Americans resented the growing white population in the Northwest. In particular, the Cayuse felt betrayed by the Whitmans’ promises to bring them greater wealth and to protect them from sickness. Many Native Americans had died in epidemics, some of them from diseases brought by Europeans to which the Native Americans had no immunities. In 1847 the Whitmans and 12 other whites were massacred by a band of Cayuse, who felt threatened by the growing white population and blamed Whitman for the migration of white settlers to the Oregon country. When news of the massacre reached missionaries near present-day Spokane, they felt obliged to abandon their settlement, in spite of friendly relations with Native Americans in the area. During the mid-19th century Americans began to expect that one day all of the territory to the West would belong to the United States.
Americans began migrating west in growing numbers to escape overcrowding and to pursue better opportunities. Many traveled across the plains and the mountains on the Oregon Trail. In 1843 close to 900 pioneers reached the Oregon country by way of this trail in what was called the Great Migration. Most of the newcomers settled in the Willamette Valley. In 1843 these settlers in the Willamette and Columbia valleys formed their own provisional government. At the same time the Anglo-American dispute over the Northwest boundary was coming to an end. In 1844 James K. Polk was elected president on a platform supported by expansionists, who soon took up the cry, “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight.” This slogan represented the extreme U.S. demand that Britain cede all of the Oregon country northward to Alaska (to latitude 54°40’), including most of what is now British Columbia.
Since Britain was preoccupied with affairs in Europe and the fur trade was declining, the British voluntarily moved their base of operations from Fort Vancouver to Vancouver Island. This action paved the way for a peaceful compromise settlement in 1846, with the United States gaining title to all the land south of the 49th parallel. Present-day Washington was part of the Oregon Territory created by the Congress of the United States in 1848. When the United States and Britain established boundaries, the territory which lay within the San Juan Islands was not clearly designated as belonging to either country. Both American and British nationals resided on San Juan Island with some tension. In 1859 an American killed a stray pig that belonged to a British neighbor. This incident led to a 12-year boundary dispute during which time both American and British soldiers occupied the island. Emperor William I of Germany acted as an arbitrator of the conflict, and in 1872 he awarded the San Juan Archipelago to the United States. "Washington" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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