Lewis & Clark scouted and mapped the Oregon Country after leaving St. Louis in 1804. They spent a couple winters in the Pacific Northwest and they returned to Washington D.C. in 1806 to extol the virtues of the New World. Great interest developed after their glowing reports of the mild climate, the lush green forests and the fertile farming land as well as the abundance of pure rivers lakes and streams.
In 1843, Tennessee drifter William Overton and his friend, Boston lawyer Asa Lovejoy were floating down the Willamette River in a canoe when they came upon the beauty of the place we now call Portland. They beached their canoe and they marveled at the beautiful mountains and the rich potential of the many trees they saw.
Overton didn’t have the quarter that was required to file a land claim, so he sold half of his 640-acre share to Lovejoy for 25 cents. They began to clear the many trees, build roads and build the first buildings. After a while, Overton decided to move on and sold his half of the share to Francis Pettygrove.
Portland got its name when Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove flipped a coin in 1845. Lovejoy was from Massachusetts and he wanted to name the new settlement Boston. Pettygrove was from Maine and wanted to name the new town Portland. Pettygrove won the coin toss two out of three times and the rest as they say is history. Portland’s first Post Office opened in 1849, and the steam sawmill’s whistle could be heard as far away as Fort Vancouver.
By 1850, about 800 residents called Portland home. There was a log-cabin hotel and a newspaper, the Weekly Oregonian. Congress passed the Oregon Land Act, which entitled every man or woman to 320 acres. Portland was incorporated in 1851 and it has grown into the second largest city in the Northwest. People who settled in the region made their living catching and selling fish, cutting timber and producing lumber, growing and harvesting wheat and raising cattle for market. Portland became a major transportation center because of its proximity to Railroads and Rivers.
Oregon became the 33rd state to join the Union in 1859. Prior to that time, it was known as the Oregon Territory and it stretched from California to Canada along the Pacific Coast. The Oregon Territory stretched east to the Rocky Mountains from the Pacific Ocean. The Territory encompassed what are now the states of Washington, Idaho and Montana.