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Native Indians have lived in Oregon for about 8,000 years, with the first European contacts occuring probably sometime in the 16th Century. In the late 1700's Spanish explorers discovered and named many of the headlands, along with the British and American captains James Cook, Robert Grey and Geoarge Vancouver. The famed explorers Lewis and Clark arrived in Oregon via land in 1805, and Astoria, the first town in Oregon, was established in 1811.
The area was jointly occupied by both British and American subjects from that time through 1846, when Britian peacefully ceded all rights to Oregon to the USA. The southern border of Oregon had been established on the 42nd parallel with an 1819 treaty between the US and Spain. After the 1846 treaty with Britain, the area then became known as the Oregon territory and became a state of the US on February 14th 1859.
The capital of Oregon Territory was Oregon City, located on the Willamette River near Portland. The capital was moved to Salem in 1851, where it remains today.
Pioneers had begun to move to Oregon in the first few decades of the 19th Century, but arrived in far greater numbers beginning about 1842 when the Oregon Trail was established. In 1850, Congress offered free land - up to 640 acres - to anyone settling the northwest states, and thousands of settlers moved to Oregon.
Gold was another reason Americans came to Oregon in the 1850’s, especially in the southern part of the state. During this time, the largest stash of gold was found in the area of present day Jacksonville, and drew the attention of many Californians who quickly came to mine. The fur trade also played a major role in Oregon’s economy during its early years.
Oregon had outlawed slavery in 1844 and a few years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves, African Americans began moving towards Oregon in small numbers. Portland was a major city of migration, however, the state required all ethnic minorities to pay an annual fee of $5.
Beginning in the 1880's, the advent of the railroads resulted in a boom in Oregon's population and made it easier to transport goods and services. Oregon forests provided lumber to help build many major west Coast cities. Wheat and many other crops were shipped across America. By the 1930's the mighty Columbia River had been tamed with the first of several dams which produced inexpensive electricity fueling expansion and development. Highways and bridges were built throughout Oregon, connecting the state and forging its' move into modern times.