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Travel in Western Washington before 1923

The trails and roads traveled by George Bush and other pioneers are a subject not often discussed by historians. Here is a brief look at the travel before automobiles.

  • Indian trails
  • Hudson's Bay Company begins using trails in 1824 from Fort Vancouver
  • American pioneers use trails starting in 1845
  • The Military Road completed in 1860
  • The first paved roads in 1915
  • The Pacific Highway (State Route 1, later U.S. 99) completed to Canada in 1927
Here is the way used to travel from Longview to Toledo 1


Map from the Oregon-California Trails Association. 
2




From The Morning Olympian - February 22, 1913

The Cowlitz Trail was the overland road north of the Cowlitz River. It was one of two Oregon Trail extensions to the Puget Sound region of Washington Territory. The other being the Naches Pass route across the Cascade Mountains from Fort Walla Walla.

After five months of travel on the Oregon Trail emigrants arrived in the Willamette Valley in the late fall. For those who did not “winter-over” near Fort Vancouver, fall and winter rains made overland travel north to Puget Sound difficult and exhausting. Steep hills were few but lowlands became quagmires of axle deep mud.

Most emigrants did not record accounts of travel on the overland segment, but those who did had few words of joy about the final sixty miles of their journey.

To the HBC fur-traders the overland route was known as the “Cowlitz Portage” or the “Road from Cowlitz Farms to Nisqually“. To the American settlers it was called the “Road from Cowlitz Landing to Olympia” according to early GLO naps. To satisfy the demands for improved roads in the developing territory the U.S. Army oversaw the construction of the “Fort Vancouver to Steilacoom Military Road“.

As the pioneers traveled north they not only passed through virgin forests, but crossed open prairies that provided a reference for their forward progress.

Today most of the land is developed to one degree or another; either as agricultural land or for residential purposes. While the deep forests have given way to society, several segments of the trail have been identified on private property as well as at the Lewis and Clark State Park north of Toledo. That historic trail was first marked by Ezra Meeker in 1906 and later by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1916.



The Military Road

Military road from Fort Vancouver through Olympia to Seattle is completed in 1860.

In 1860, the military road is completed from Fort Vancouver to Seattle. It passes through Olympia, Fort Nisqually, Fort Steilacoom, and Fort Puyallup. The Reverend Daniel Bagley and family are the first to travel the road to Seattle.

The U.S. Congress authorized the road in 1853.

Sources:

Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle: a Narrative History, the Engineering Department, 1875-1975 (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Dept., 1978), 98. By Greg Lange, November 03, 1998


Taken from the monument at 5 Mile Lake County Park...

Washington State Centennial Commemorating Old Military Road

Motivated by the desire to open up the Puget Sound country, King County's oldest road was first proposed in 1852 by territorial legislator Arthur A. Denny.  The U.S. governement established this land route out of the need to connect Fort Steilecoom to Fort Bellingham and to provide military protection to the settlers.  Unfortunately delays in funding this section meant that no road existed through here during the Indian Wars of 1855-1856.  Spurred to action  by the tragic events of that period, Congress appropriated $35,000 in 1857.  Construction began in 1858 under the Lt. G.H. Mendell and the road was complete to Seattle in October, 1860.

Dedicated June 14, 1989


The Pacific Highway

The road was completed after the 4 bridges were completed near Marysville.  3








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