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Territorial Timeline

The first American settlement north of the Columbia River settled by Simmons party at Tumwater

After considerable exploration, Michael T. Simmons of Kentucky and eight companions settled next to the Deschutes River, close to the southern tip of Puget Sound. Initially, they named their settlement New Market but later changed the name to Tumwater, an Indian word describing the drumming sound of the waterfalls on the Deschutes River. In 1846 they set up the first gristmill on Puget Sound using stone burrs from the bed of the Deschutes River which also powered the mill. The next year they set up the first sawmill on Puget Sound using machinery discarded at Fort Vancouver.

Among the settlers accompanying Michael Simmons was George W. Bush, a man of African-American ancestry. Bush first intended to settle in the Willamette area but learning the Oregon Provisional Government prohibited black people from owning property, he settled near present-day Tumwater where the Oregon laws were not well enforced.

On March 18, 1854 the members of the first session of the Washington Territorial Legislature voted to send a petition to Congress asking that the Bush land claim be validated. On February 10, 1855 Congress passed “An Act for the Relief of George Bush, of Thurston County, Washington Territory,” confirming his right to own his 640 acre land claim.