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Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/180

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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION The Pacific Northwest has been quite distinctively the last region to be fully reached by the westward movement of Ameri- can settlement across the continent. The culminating phase of that wave is just breaking over this region. It was, however, the first section not only of the Pacific Coast but of the whole territory west of the Missouri River to receive quite a body of forerunners, who came as home-builders. This early influx of settlers was continued without interruption, but as a very tiny stream, for some forty years before the first phase of the real wave of occupation arrived. 1 Its turn now has come as the "next" and last section of vacant public domain for occu- pation by a great moving mass of the American population. The phenomena exhibited in the progress of the settlement of this region, the early beginning of it, the long period of very slow filling up, its coming last in order, were all largely de- termined by the conditions peculiar to its location and character as a possible home of a civilized community of considerable numbers. Not only its settlement but even the discovery and exploration of it were determined by stern conditions of access to it of routes of travel and traffic leading to it. Its resources as soon as seen by the white man attracted. Conditions of transportation have mediated, as it were, as the prime factor at every stage of its history. Much as the history of the region has its key in a knowledge of the advance of the lines of ex- ploration and travel to it and the provision of facilities of trans- portation, so is an idea of this growth of its system of trans- portation best gained by reference to those determining char- acteristic conditions of situation and natural features : 1. Its location is on the Pacific side of the continent where access to it from Atlantic inlets required the longest stretches of overland travel. During the centuries in which the out- lines of the American continent were being developed by ex- iThe census of the United States gives the population of this section in 1850 as 13,294, exclusive of Indians.