Washington Territory was created 160 years ago

One hundred and sixty years ago Saturday, President Millard Fillmore signed an act creating the Washington Territory, what would eventually become the 42nd state.

Before 1853, the land north of the Columbia River was part of the Oregon Territory. But settlers north of the river clamored for their own territory, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Congress obliged, creating what is called the Organic Act on Feb. 8, 1853, establishing the Washington Territory, which included all of the land of the current state as well as chunks of land in what is now Montana and Idaho.

Fillmore signed the act on March 2, 1853.

The first governor of the territory was Isaac Stevens, who went on to serve as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was killed in the Battle of Chantilly in Virginia in 1862. Lake Stevens is believed to be named after him.

In the 36 years of the Washington Territory, 101 institutions were created that continue today, including two churches in Snohomish: the First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish at 1306 Lake View Ave. and the Snohomish United Methodist Church at 2400 Lake Ave.

It also includes the oldest health care corporation, Sisters of Providence, created Jan. 28, 1859. That organization is the predecessor of Providence Health &Services, which runs Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

The boundaries of Washington Territory changed when Oregon was established as a state in 1859. The southern half of Idaho and a small part of what is now Wyoming, which were formerly part of Oregon Territory, were added to Washington Territory. In 1863, Idaho Territory was carved out of Washington Territory.

Washington was admitted to the Union in 1889.

In noting the anniversary, the Secretary of State’s office pointed out that until 1864, if you wanted to get divorced in Washington Territory, you needed to get a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor to make it so.

In 1863, the last year that the Legislature had this authority, it granted 16 divorces.

Oldest institutions

  • The Secretary of State’s office is recognizing the 160th anniversary of the creation of the Washington Territory. Several institutions created during territorial days continue today.
  • Oldest health care corporation: Sisters of Providence, created Jan. 28, 1859.
  • Oldest association (and oldest existing corporation): is Odd Fellows of Olympia, established Dec. 19, 1855.
  • Oldest church: the Diocese of Nisqually (now the Seattle Archdiocese), created Jan. 30, 1861.

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Agency didn’t expect such big demand for needle clean-up kits

The Snohomish Health District ran out of supplies quickly, but more are arriving daily.

EvCC teachers take their contract concerns to the board

Their union says negotiations have been disappointingly slow. The community college isn’t commenting.

Here’s what to do if you want to vote and aren’t registered

Oct. 30 is the deadline for new-voter registration in time for the November election.

Two teens struck by truck in Lynnwood

The teens, between the ages of 14 and 16, were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Luring attempt reported in Mountlake Terrace

The driver allegedly instructed a boy to get in the truck and help grab a scooter he was giving away.

Injured hiker rescued near Granite Falls

Woman fell and hit her head on a rock Saturday, and her condition worsened overnight.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Most Read