Portrait of George Washington Bush Conestoga Wagon used by George Washington Bush House on George Washington Bush homestead 1890 House on George Washington Bush homestead 1900 House on George Washington Bush homestead 1965 House on George Washington Bush homestead 1969

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George 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 Government of Oregon had just enacted a law in June 1844 while the Party was traveling westward which was known as the "Lash Law".  This law subjected blacks found guilty of violating the law to whippings --- no less than 20 and no more than 39 strokes of the lash --- every six months "until he or she shall quit the territory."

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 who provided a good place to stop near the end of the Trail.  Many 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 state 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 Olympia Airport.



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