A look into the 1792 era, from the notes of Harley K. Hallgren
"Not until three hundred years after Columbus first set foot upon American soil, was any white man to sail into the Columbia River to find the great fabled river of the west and this aroused an interest in the great Oregon Country."
"The United States had
celebrated its 16th birthday. A constitutional government had been
formed. George Washington was serving his first term as president of the
nation which then consisted only of the original thirteen colonies, and the
territory East of the Mississippi River. Exploring expeditions of American
and European out fitting were discovering and laying claim to portions of the
Pacific Coast -- Spanish vessels sailed along the coasts of Oregon in 1774 and
1775. In 1778, the English navigator, Captain James Cook sailed up the
coast to Vancouver Island and in 1788 another Englishman, Captain John Meares
headed a naval expedition in search of the great river about which he had
heard. His vessel entered the broad mouth of the Columbia but he decided
that it was no more than a large bay which he named Deception Bay and as he
sailed away he named the promontory on the north, Cape Disappointment.
So it was left to Captain Robert Gray, an American sea captain and fur trader from Boston, Massachusetts to sail over the bar and several miles upstream on the mighty river in his sailing vessel, the Columbia on May 11, 1792. After trading with the natives and making notes about the surrounding country, he named the river the Columbia, after his ship, the first to anchor in its inland waters."
The Name Oregon
"Indian tradition referred to
the river as the 'Ouragon' and the vast northwest territory through which it
flowed was more and more referred to as the Oregon Country or the Oregon
Jonathan Carver's, 'Travels in Interior Parts of America,' published in 1778 refers to 'The River Oregon, or the River of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Straits of Anian.' Carver states that he got the name from the Indians. The Oregon writers Project book, 'Oregon End of the Trail', Published in 1940, says that most authorities believe the name Oregon is derived from a Sautee word 'Oragon', meaning a birch-bark dish.
In 1817, William Cullen Bryant, published his poem 'Thanatopsis' in which includes the lines; 'Or lose thyself in the continuous woods where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound, Save its own dashings."
These accounts and others following, were written by Harley Hallgren for the 1934, Temple's Golden Jubilee Celebration.
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