Territorial Timeline

United States Congress passed the bill establishing Washington Territory

In 1853 Oregon Territory's delegate to Congress, Joseph Lane, delivered to Congress a petition drawn up by settlers living north of the Columbia River asking that a new territory be established. Congress agreed there was sufficient justification to establish the territory. After considering the name "Columbia" (rejected to prevent confusion with the District of Columbia) and "Washingtonia," on February 8, 1853 Congress passed “An Act to establish the Territorial Government of Washington." The new territory included the area covered by the present State of Washington, as well as northern Idaho, Wyoming and Montana west of the Continental Divide.

In establishing the territory, Congress retained the right to consider all laws passed by the territorial legislature and declare them invalid, if necessary. The law also stipulated the governor, secretary of the territory, chief justice, associate justices, territorial attorney and marshal would not be elected but appointed by the President of the United States.