Territorial Timeline

Olympia established by Edmund Sylvester

In 1848 settlers Edmund Sylvester and Levi Lathrop Smith each claim 320-acre land grants from the Oregon Provisional Government. Sylvester settled in Chambers Prairie while Smith chose the southern end of Budd Inlet, the present-day site of Olympia. They agreed that upon either one's death, the survivor would inherit all the land. They called their combined holdings Smithter (Smith+Sylvester), which became known as Smithfield.

Later in 1850 Smith died in a canoe accident, so Edmund Sylvester inherited his land. When news of the California Gold Rush reached the settlement practically everyone, including Sylvester, headed south. He had no success in the California gold fields so together with several other men, he purchased the brig and sailed back to Budd Inlet. He used the to travel between Budd Inlet and San Francisco where he purchased supplies to sell to the settlers on Puget Sound, establishing the first general store in the region.

In February 1851 Congress authorized the establishment of a customs house at the village, thus creating the first port-of-entry on Puget Sound. The first director was S.B. Moses. Colonel Isaac N. Ebey succeeded Moses and persuaded Sylvester to re-name the town Olympia in recognition of the Olympic Mountains dominating the northern horizon.

In 1850 the United States Census showed 1,049 white inhabitants north of the Columbia River in what is now Washington.