President Ulysses S. Grant appoints Elisha P. Ferry governor of Washington Territory
Elisha P. Ferry was appointed governor in 1872. Ferry is still considered one of the most distinguished governors of Washington. He was the only territorial governor to be appointed to a second term, and when Washington became a state, its voters elected Ferry as their first state governor.
In his message to the legislature in 1873, Governor Ferry reviewed the history of the San Juan dispute and suggested that a new county be formed in the San Juan Islands, which was done. On that and other issues, Ferry demonstrated an insightful understanding of the needs of the territory. He constantly emphasized the importance of sound legislation in regard to railroads, finance, agriculture and education.
In December 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad finally reached Tacoma, barely meeting the deadline necessary to hold its huge land grants. Unfortunately the Northern Pacific Railroad went bankrupt and the railroad workers went on strike for their back pay. Their disturbances forced the governor to call out the militia to maintain order.
Through the 1870s, the foremost issues in Washington were the desire for Statehood, prohibition and women's suffrage. In spite of several memorials sent to Congress, Statehood was postponed. Prohibition was an important issue to Washington citizens who wanted to shed the image of the "wild west." In regard to women's suffrage, in 1871 the legislature passed a resolution denying the vote for women unless otherwise directed by Congress, yet the issue was far from dead.
In 1876 the citizens of Washington Territory voted to convene a convention to frame a state constitution for Washington. The constitution was submitted to the voters in 1878 and approved, but in spite of pressure brought to bear in Washington, D.C., Washington was again denied Statehood.
Ferry served as territorial governor until 1880, when he moved to Seattle where he practiced law. In September 1887 he became vice-president of Puget Sound National Bank. In September 1889 he was nominated by the Republican Party for the position of governor of the new State of Washington. On October 1, 1889, he was elected the first governor of the State of Washington.