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Fine, Detailed Map of the Washington Territory

Large and intricate map of Washington Territory issued by the General Land Office under the direction of Principal Draughtsman Charles Roeser. It shows Washington just after it attained its present boundaries, as Idaho Territory had been created in 1863.

This map one of the largest and most detailed maps of Washington Territory published to this date (1876).

The map shows the counties and land districts as they then existed, along with railroad company boundaries, towns and cities (with county seats), and land offices. The topographical and Indian reservation detail is especially noteworthy. Also of interest are the township outlines that had been laid out; in 1867, Washington Territory was still only sparsely populated, with more settlers expected to arrive and put down roots, especially east of the Cascade Mountains.

Then, as now, the majority of the settlements are west of the Cascades, near the lucrative trading corridor of Puget Sound. The earliest immigrant communities were in that region, as the Hudson’s Bay Company had outposts on the Columbia, Cowlitz, and Nisqually Rivers. Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia, was one of the first towns, joined by Olympia, Whidbey Island, Port Townsend, Port Madison, and Seattle. Inland, settlements were also tied to Company outposts or to missions, including Walla Walla and Colville in Eastern Washington.

The Indian reservations are a testament to the indigenous inhabitants of Washington Territory who still lived there after white settlement and continue to live there today. There are 29 reservations in Washington today. On this map, reservations are shown including the relevant treaty or executive order that formalized their relationship with the US Government.

The creation of Washington Territory and State

Washington Territory was an offshoot of the Oregon Territory to the south. At the Convention of 1818, negotiators from Britain and the United States decided upon a joint occupation of the land west of the Continental Divide and between the 42nd and 49th parallels. This treaty was to last for ten years before being re-negotiated, but Britain asked for a review in 1826. This began twenty years of consultations and discussions that eventually ended in 1846, when the powers agreed a treaty that created the Oregon Territory. The borders of the territory were finalized in 1848.

The new territory was more densely settled south of the Columbia River. The area north of the river was called Northern Oregon and was split into two giant counties, Lewis and Clark. In 1851, the territorial legislature also added Thurston, Pierce, King, and Jefferson counties. By 1854, only 4,000 settlers lived in Northern Oregon, but they were beginning to feel alienated from their southern neighbors.

Far from the territorial seat at Salem, Northern Oregon residents and businessmen met at Cowlitz Landing in August 1851. They requested that Congress create a new territory, Columbia, to represent their interests. Congress largely ignored the Cowlitz Convention, but a second effort in November 1852 at Monticello (Longview) was more successful. The governor of Oregon Territory supported their congressional petition, arguing that the few residents of the new territory would be balanced by the vast commercial potential of Puget Sound.

Congress created the Washington Territory on March 2, 1853. They altered the name from Columbia to Washington ostensibly to honor the nation’s first president, but more practically to avoid confusion with the District of Columbia. Initially, the territory encompassed what is now Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming. However, Idaho Territory was founded in 1863 after gold was discovered there and Washington legislators feared their capital would have to shift east of the Cascades.

The population of the territory grew slowly but surely, especially west of the Cascades, where industry boomed. Seattle became an important port city. However, Washington did not become a state until 1889, while Oregon was admitted to the Union in 1859. The delay was due to a hiatus on statehood applications at the federal level after 1876, when Colorado was admitted. Finally, in 1889, Congress passed a bill allowing Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana to seek statehood. Washington became the 42nd state of the USA on November 11, 1889.  

Condition Description
Old folds flattened. Few repaired tears at the edges.
General Land Office Biography

The General Land Office (GLO) refers to the independent agency in the United States that was in charge of public domain lands. Created in 1812, it assumed the responsibilities for public domain lands from the United States Department of the Treasury. The Treasury had overseen the survey of the Northwest Territory, but as more area was added to the United States, a new agency was necessary to survey the new lands.

Eventually, the GLO would be responsible for the surveying, platting, and sale of the majority of the land west of the Mississippi, with the exception of Texas. When the Secretary of the Interior was created in 1849, the GLO was placed under its authority. Until the creation of the Forest Service in 1905, the GLO also managed forest lands that had been removed from public domain. In additional to managing the fees and sales of land, the GLO produced maps and plans of the areas and plots they surveyed. In 1946, the GLO merged with the United States Grazing Service to become the Bureau of Land Management.