Oregon and Arizona Become U.S. States

U.S. #1124 commemorates the 100th anniversary of Oregon statehood.

On February 14, 1859, Oregon was admitted to the Union. 53 years later, so was Arizona. Let’s begin with Oregon’s road to statehood.

There was a large population of American Indians living in Oregon when the first Europeans arrived. Spanish sailors traveling from the Philippines to Mexico were probably the first white people to spot the coast of Oregon.

U.S. #964 pictures John McLoughlin and Jason Lee. Click the image to discover their roles in the creation of the Oregon Territory.

In the early 1800s, the Oregon region was defined as stretching from Alaska, which was controlled by Russia, to California, which was ruled by Spain. Oregon’s eastern boundary extended all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Russia, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States all made claims on this area. In 1819, Spain signed a treaty giving up its claim to territory north of latitude 42º, which is modern Oregon’s southern boundary. Russia relinquished its claims south of 54º 40’. However, the U.S. and Britain could not agree on a boundary, and signed an agreement by which citizens of both nations could settle in Oregon.

U.S. #4376 was issued for Oregon’s 150th anniversary.

Methodist missionaries at Willamette Valley created the first permanent American settlement in Oregon in 1834. After this settlement was established, hundreds of Americans began pouring into the area every year, especially after the creation of the Oregon Trail. This put pressure on the U.S. and Britain to settle their boundary dispute. In 1844, James K. Polk ran for the U.S. presidency and based his campaign on the view that land south of 54º 40’ belonged to the U.S. The slogan “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight” became a big part of his campaign. Polk was elected President, and he signed a treaty with Great Britain fixing the 49th parallel as the main dividing line between the territories of the two nations in 1846.

Oregon settlers organized a provisional government in 1843 and became a territory five years later. In 1853, the Washington Territory was created, and Oregon received the boundaries it has today. The territory grew fast after the Donation Land Law of 1850 was passed. This law gave 320 acres of land to any U.S. citizen over 18 years old. With its population booming, Oregon was able to apply for statehood, which it received on February 14, 1859.

U.S. #3563 pictures the Sonoran Desert and the saguaro cactus and blossom.

Now let’s travel south to Arizona, which was once home to the Anasazi – the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians. Stories of the Seven Cities of Cibola – said to contain great amounts of wealth – sent many Spanish explorers on futile quests into the region. A Franciscan priest, Marcos de Niza, was the first white person known to reach Arizona in 1539.

In 1752, the Spanish established the first white settlement at Tubac. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Arizona became part of Mexico. The area changed hands again after the Mexican-American War, when most of Arizona became part of the U.S. Arizona settlers unsuccessfully attempted to become a distinct U.S. territory in the 1850s. Many settlers were from the South, and were sympathetic to the Confederacy when it was formed in 1861. When the Confederate government created the Confederate Territory of Arizona, it was largely a symbolic gesture.

U.S. #4627 pictures Cathedral Rock in in Sedona.

U.S. Congress created the Arizona Territory in 1863, with roughly the same boundaries as the modern state. Despite the dangers presented by hostile Indians, Arizona grew in the years following the war. The territory’s economic growth was fueled by discoveries of gold and silver. Ingenuity also aided Arizona. Farmers began irrigating their fields as early as 1867. During the 1870s and ’80s, copper mines were developed. On September 30, 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad connected Arizona to California, further enhancing the territory’s growth.

U.S. #1680 – Click the image to read about the symbolism of Arizona’s state flag.

Around 1890, well-organized groups began to lobby Congress in an effort to achieve statehood. However, Congress refused to act for 20 years. In 1910, Arizona was allowed to create a state constitution and apply for statehood. This was done, but President William Howard Taft vetoed the bill that would have granted statehood. Taft was concerned the state constitution allowed for recall – a process through which voters could remove judges from office. Once this clause was taken out of the constitution, statehood was approved. Arizona finally achieved statehood on February 14, 1912. Soon after, the people amended their constitution to allow recall of judges.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

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  1. Hey…I’m from Oregon now living in Arizona. I’ve seen you write entire articles on one state and my two states only get half an article each. There’s a lot more that could have been said about each state…I’m upset!

    1. it is suppose to be a BRIEF history, not an encyclopaedia article. if the articles were longer few would read them

    2. As a former Oregonian, now living in California, I certainly agree with you that Oregon deserved a full article, not having to share with another state, and having driving through Arizona numerous times, that state also deserved its own article of statehood.

  2. As usual, I learned a lot that I didn’t know before. I have really enjoyed all these articles. Since I was born an Oregonian I was particularly interested.

    1. I’m concern about the use of the expression “hostile Indians” Apparently when you try to protect your land. . . you’re hostile.

      The indigenous people are not Indians (Asia)….Columbus
      The indigenous people are not Americans (Ameicus Vespuchi (?)
      How do European nations sell other peolples land to one another.

    2. I’m concern about the use of the expression “hostile Indians” Apparently when you try to protect your land. . . you’re hostile.

      The indigenous people are not Indians (Asia)….Columbus
      The indigenous people are not Americans (Ameicus Vespuchi (?)
      How do European nations sell other peoples land to one another.


  4. Love the Arizona State flag. Living in Tucson I loved your write up. Also AZ did not want to share its statehood date with Lincoln’s birthday which was a holiday already and got February 14th first by intentional stalling but then the statehood papers to be signed arrived late so they still got the 14th..

  5. Was very good article my son was born in Arizona and we lived there for about 5 years. Also my grandfather lived and died there. He lived close to were Fort Grant was.

  6. Mr. Hilliard,
    I assume you are kidding about being upset regarding this fine synopsis. But if not, I strongly suggest you get a life or therapy…or both!

  7. Presumably the spirit of Mystic’s much appreciated service is to draw people together in harmony, and discovery about the USA, not to provide jerks with personal attacks on other contributors, although I suspect I will now get the same sort of abuse from MIKEL. Thanks. GdR

  8. I assume Mr. Carpenter is referring to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of February 14, 1929. But thatr event took place in Chicago! Was there another such event in Arizona that day that I don’t know about? Clue me in.

    I agree that it should live in infamy, right along with Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

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