Home Previous TOC Next Bookshelf



233. Captain Gray goes to the Pacific coast to buy furs; he first carries the Stars and Stripes round the globe.—Not long after the war of the Revolution had come to an end some merchants of Boston sent out two vessels to Vancouver[1] Island, on the northwest coast of America. The names of the vessels were the Columbia and the Lady Washington, and they sailed round Cape Horn into the Pacific. Captain Robert Gray went out as commander of one of these vessels.[2] He was born in Rhode Island[3] and he had fought in one of our war-ships in the Revolution.

Sea Otter

Captain Gray was sent out by the Boston merchants to buy furs from the Indians on the Pacific coast. He had no difficulty in getting all he wanted, for the savages were glad to sell them for very little. In one case a chief let the captain have two hundred sea-otter skins such as are used for ladies' sacks, and which were worth about eight thousand dollars, for an old iron chisel. After getting a valuable cargo of furs, Captain Gray sailed in the Columbia for China, where he bought a quantity of tea. He then went to the south, round the Cape of Good Hope, and keeping on toward the west he reached Boston in the summer of 1790. He had been gone about three years, and he was the first man who carried the American flag clear round the globe.

1 Vancouver (Van-koo'ver): part of it is seen north of Portland, Or., paragraph 235.

2 He commanded the Lady Washington at first, and afterward the Columbia.

3 Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Mount Hood
Gray on the Columbia

234. Captain Gray's second voyage to the Pacific coast; he enters a great river and names it the Columbia; the United States claims the Oregon country; we get Oregon in 1846.—Captain Gray did not stay long at Boston, for he sailed again that autumn in the Columbia for the Pacific coast, to buy more furs. He stayed on that coast a long time. In the spring of 1792 he entered a great river and sailed up it a distance of nearly thirty miles. He seems to have been the first white man who had ever actually entered it. He named the vast stream the Columbia River, from the name of his vessel. It is the largest American river which empties into the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska.[4]

Captain Gray returned to Boston and gave an account of his voyage of exploration; this led Congress to claim the country through which the Columbia flows[5] as part of the United States.

After Captain Gray had been dead for forty years we came into possession, in 1846, of the immense territory then called the Oregon Country. It was through what he had done that we got our first claim to that country which now forms the states of Oregon and Washington.

4 The Yukon River in Alaska is larger than the Columbia.

5 The discovery and exploration of a river usually gives the right to a claim to the country watered by that river, on the part of the nation to which the discoverer or explorer belongs.

235. Summary.—A little over a hundred years ago (1790) Captain Robert Gray of Rhode Island first carried the American flag round the world. In 1792 he entered and named the Columbia River. Because he did that the United States claimed the country—called the Oregon Country—through which that river runs. In 1846 we added the Oregon Country to our possessions; it now forms the two states of Oregon and Washington.

US in 1846
Map showing the extent of the United States after we added the Oregon Country in 1846.
Emigrants To Oregon

Tell about Captain Gray's voyage to the Pacific coast. What did he buy there? What did he first carry round the globe? Tell about his second voyage. What did he do in 1792? What happened after Captain Gray returned to Boston? What happened in 1846? What two states were made out of the Oregon Country?