State Research Guide: Oregon
2/1/2005
Follow your ancestors' trail to the Beaver State — we've mapped out the path.

Two hundred years ago, when America's most famous explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, led their Corps of Discovery to what we now call Oregon, the land was sparsely inhabited by American Indians and a handful of European fur traders. Then the floodgates opened: Starting in the 1840s, at least 80,000 — and some say it's more like 200,000 — hardy souls trekked the treacherous Oregon Trail looking for land, gold and opportunity in the Beaver State. Most ended up in its northwestern corner, where the Willamette (pronounced “Wuh-lam-et”) Valley's fertile soil and mild climate nourished crops and cattle.

Settlers' 1843 meetings to deal with wolves resulted in their first provisional government, and they received official-territory status five years later. In 1859, when Congress made Oregon the 33rd US state, fewer than 1,500 of its 53,000 white residents lived in the arid region east of the Cascade Mountains.