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

Police seek well-traveled pickpockets after thefts here

Images and video have been released after thefts in Everett, Lynnwood and elsewhere in the metro area.

4 years later, grieving Oso families remember the mudslide

The ceremony was held near a cedar grove of 43 trees which represent the 43 people killed in 2014.

Retired Naval officer Doug Roulstone to run for state Senate

The Republican will challenge incumbent Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, in the 44th District.

Families announce plans for an Oso mudslide memorial

Visitors from throughout the world visit the site of the 2014 slide, which killed 43 people.

Police seek man after stabbing and robbery south of Everett

A convenience store clerk was slashed by a knife-wielding man at 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

Bill aims to curb the filing of campaign finance complaints

It would give the Public Disclosure Commission greater discretion in resolving violations.

Suspect identified in break-in and shooting

He fired one round into a television and more shots when an occupant tried to confront him outside.

Demolition begins, signaling start of courthouse remodel

The date for major construction was pushed back, but completion is still projected for 2021.

Protesting students here have their own horrific memories

Recent mass shootings in Snohomish County loom over gun-control marches in Marysville and Everett.

Most Read