Washington Bush - Washington State Pioneer
In 1844 some residents of Clay County, Missouri decided to find a new life and immigrate to Oregon Country thereby creating the first American settlement in what is now known as Washington State.
A farmer in Clay County known as George
Washington Bush and his family were asked to join a party of four other
families and travel to Oregon over the Oregon Trail.
Mr. Bush was the son of an African-American father
from India and an Irish-American mother. Arriving
in Oregon in December 1844, George Bush was
in a predicament. The American Provisional
of Oregon had just enacted a law in June 1844 while the Party was
westward which was known as the
"Lash Law". This law subjected blacks
of violating the law to whippings --- no less than 20 and no more than
strokes of the lash --- every six months "until he or she shall quit
The other four families were sympathetic
with Mr. Bush and were willing to follow him either south into Mexico
(California) or into an area north of the Columbia River that was
jointly occupied by Britain and America. The sparsely populated
northern area was determined as the logical choice to settle for men of
color. Therefore, after a few months of exploration, the party
continued to Puget Sound thus establishing the first American
settlement in Washington later known as Tumwater.
"....the little party reached the
extreme head of the Sound at Tumwater in 1845 and proceeded to take
possession of such tracts of land as took their fancy covering what is
now the town of Tumwater and back along the west side of the little Des
Chutes River and
out on the prairie which begins about a mile south of the landing and
extends down about three miles to a rise of ground not far
from the river. Upon this commanding site George
Bush pitched his last camp...."
~John Edwin Ayer - 1916
George Washington Bush was known as a generous pioneer
provided a good place to stop near the end of the Trail.
of the travelers were on their way to the two smaller settlements
founded further northward - Seattle in 1851 and Tacoma in 1852. From
1846 to 1863 Mr. Bush welcomed exhausted travelers and gave them food
and rest free of charge. The Bush Farm on that "rise of ground"
was famous during the 1850's, long before Washington became a state.
British Fort Vancouver
of Hudson Bay Company (HBC) has become a national park and a large
park was founded for Dr. William
Tolmie of HBC northeast of Olympia. Little has been left to
remember Washington's first American family on Bush Prairie near the
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