Caught in the rush of fortune seekers was an 18-year-old Swede named Otto Sjöström. Like more than 46,000 of his countrymen, Sjöström left behind the failed crops and perils of his homeland in the mass exodus of 1887. He set sail through the port of Malmo, landed at New York and shortened his name to Strom.

Strom met his brother John who’d already traveled to America. Their journey west led them to Grays Harbor City, a short-lived boomtown near Hoquiam on the Pacific Coast.

“A beautiful picture of a large sawmill was part of the bait. That mill did not exist. Lots were being sold from maps and pictures all over the Northwest,” Strom remembered.

Strom pushed on alone and became one of the first Whites to settle the banks of the Hoh River. “I have had lots of experiences with Indians all through these parts, but all of them pleasant,” he said. Strom married Mary Fisher, a Hoh River Indian, and became one of the only Whites ever adopted by the Quinault Nation.

Strom left his mark as a seasoned blacksmith and a builder. “I helped develop what there is of Hoh River and Taholah communities. I blazed the first trail between Hoh and Bogachiel. The present bridge over the Hoh River is located on my trail.” More than 125 years later, you can still find Strom’s legacy in the community of Taholah’s historic homes and in the generations of his living descendants.

Promised Land

Fortune seekers from across the world entered the so-called Promised Land for its fertile soil, profitable timber and plentiful fish. By 1889, the railroads had opened the West. Thousands boarded trains for Washington Territory chasing dreams of land ownership.

From a mere 1,200 in 1850, the non-Indian population of Washington Territory had soared to almost 350,000 by 1890.

As he prepared to step down as Washington’s last territorial governor, Miles C. Moore recalled the transformation from a sleepy territory to a land of boomtowns.

“These active, pushing immigrants, the best blood of the older States, are leveling the forests, they are delving in the mines, tunneling the mountains, they are toiling in the grain fields, they are building cities, towns and villages, filling the heavens with the ‘shining towers of religion and civilization.’”

Miles C. Moore, Washington Territorial Governor


  • 1850: 1,200
  • 1860: 11,600
  • 1870: 24,000
  • 1880: 75,000
  • 1890: 350,000
promised land
they are coming

The Yakima Herald, April 4, 1889, Washington State Library