1543 Pacific Northwest claimed by Spain
1592 Discovery of Strait of Juan de Fuca claimed by Juan de Fuca
1579 The Washington coast sighted by Sir Francis Drake and claimed for England
1741-43 Russian explorers reach Alaskan islands and coast and trade with native peoples for sea otter pelts.
1774 Juan Perez commands the first Spanish expedition to explore the Northwest Coast and sights the Olympic Mountains.
1775 Bruno de Hezeta lands on the Washington coast and claims the area for Spain. On his return south, he sees the mouth of the Columbia River.
1778 James Cook (British) explores and charts the Northwest Coast.
1792 Robert Gray explores the lower Columbia River.
George Vancouver (British) explores and names Puget Sound and Lieutenant William Broughton explores the Columbia River up to Point Vancouver.
Spain establishes the first non-Indian settlement in Washington at Neah Bay.
1810 The North West Company establishes Spokane House, a fur-trading company.
1818 United States and Great Britain agree to joint occupation of the Oregon Territory.
1821 Hudson Bay Company establishes Fort Vancouver.
1823 Monroe Doctrine warns other countries against attempting occupation in U.S. claimed lands.
1824 Bureau of Indian Affairs is set up in the War Department.
Russia sets its southern boundary in the Pacific Northwest at 54 degrees, 40 minutes.
1825 Hudson’s Bay Company establishes Fort Colvile on the Columbia.
1834 The Whitman Party, including Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and also Reverend H. H. Spalding and his wife Eliza set up mission at the junction of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Their travel route would become known as the Oregon Trail and used by thousands of future settlers.
1839 Fr. Pierre-Jean DeSmet arrives among the Flatheads in the Bitterroot Valley. He and his staff would set up a number of Jesuit missions in present-day states of Washington and Idaho.
1842 John C. Fremont leads an Army Topographical Corps’ Expedition to the Rocky Mountains. He witnesses an eruption of Mt. St. Helens. His maps of this expedition and one the following year are printed by the government and are widely used by pioneers heading west.
1843 The Great Migration, a rush of approximately 1,000 pioneers, head out on the Oregon Trail, led by Dr. Marcus Whitman.
1846 The U.S. and Great Britain divide the Northwest region along the 49th parallel.
1847 The inhabitants of Whitman Mission are killed by Cayuse Indians.
1848 Oregon Territory created.
1851 Setters from the Denny Party find what would become Seattle.
1853 Washington Territory created.
1854-1856 A number of treaties are signed between Native Americans living in Washington Territory and the U. S. government.
1855-1858 Yakima Indian War
1858 The first Northwest railroad, the Cascade Railroad Company, begins operation in the Columbia River Gorge. The Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad became the second Northwest railroad in 1873, and a large number of local railroads subsequently spring up in the 1880s.
1860s Gold and silver discovered in the Okanogan.
1862 Congress passes the Pacific Railroad Act, giving Central Pacific and Union Pacific Companies permission and land grants to begin construction of a transcontinental railroad line stretching along the 42nd parallel.
1865 Civil War ends. Union Pacific Railroad heads west.
1871 Indian Appropriations Act states that Indians are no longer considered sovereign nations but wards of the federal government.
1872 The Northern Pacific Railroad chooses Tacoma as its western terminus.
The American-British border dispute in the San Juan islands is settled via arbitration by the German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm.
President Ulysses S. Grant establishes the Colville Confederated Tribes through an Executive Order, not a treaty. The reservation lands are reduced later that year following complaints of Colville Valley settlers.
1883 Northern Pacific Railroad completed to Tacoma, linking Washington to the East.
1887 Dawes Severalty Act is passed. Indian lands are split into individual allotments, with remaining lands becoming public and therefore up for sale.
1889 Washington is admitted as the 42nd state in the union.
The great fire destroys 25 blocks in Seattle.
1893 Great Northern Railroad completed to Seattle.
1897 The first shipment of gold from the Klondike reaches Seattle.
1899 Mount Rainier National Park established.
1909 Seattle hosts a World’s Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.
1910 Women gain the right to vote in Washington.
Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.