George Washington Bush - Black Pioneer

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by CarrieMonet, Sep 20, 2004.

  1. CarrieMonet

    CarrieMonet Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Seattle owes a lot to George W. Bush. If not for him, we might be living in Seattle, Ore. Or Seattle, B.C.

    We speak not of today's President "Dubya," but of George Washington Bush, the first black pioneer in what later became Washington Territory. Although Bush didn't singlehandedly change the course of history, his starring role is highly intriguing.
    Bush and his family rolled out of Missouri in 1844 with a wagon train bound for the Oregon Trail. After months of rough travel, Bush confided to traveler John Minto his hope of escaping racial prejudice out West.
    Minto's journal records that conversation, which occurred in present-day Idaho: "He told me he should watch, when we got to Oregon, what usage was awarded to people of color, and if he could not have a free man's rights he would seek the protection of the Mexican government in California or New Mexico."
    When Bush reached Oregon, several years before it officially became the Oregon Territory, he learned that white settlers there had just voted to exclude blacks. Instead of heading for Mexico, he and his band turned north and crossed the Columbia River.
    The rough, northern land -- technically part of frontier Oregon -- was conveniently remote from the rich Willamette Valley to the south, where most of the whites had settled. In the sparse north, the black exclusion law would be hard to enforce.
    In 1845 Bush's party reached Puget Sound. Bush established a farm near Olympia, in the place now called Bush Prairie.
    His presence paved the way for other American settlers, whose growing population lent weight to U.S. claims against Britain for ownership of the disputed area.
    In 1846 Britain yielded to the inevitable and signed the treaty that established the 49th parallel -- the northern edge of present-day Washington -- as the international border.
    Seven years later, the land that Bush helped pioneer broke away from Oregon and became Washington Territory. "In Search of the Racial Frontier," by University of Washington historian Quintard Taylor, credits Bush's arrival as a pivotal factor.
    "Bush's decision initiated migration north of the Columbia," Taylor writes, "and led to the organization of Washington Territory."
    Here's the kicker: Bush had developed a thriving farm by 1850, the year Congress passed the Donation Land Act. The law gave ownership of surrounding lands to existing male settlers, both "white citizens and half-breeds."
    However -- although Bush was half-Irish, half-black -- the census had listed him as Negro. That effectively barred him from owning the farm he had developed, as Murray Morgan's 1979 book, "Puget's Sound," describes in detail.
    The issue was resolved by Isaac Stevens, Washington's first territorial governor. At Stevens' request, the Legislature persuaded Congress to declare Bush eligible under the Donation Land Act. However, the Legislature turned down Bush's request for full citizenship and the right to vote.

    George Washington Bush
     
  2. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Sista Carrie, I just read about this brother in a book by Arna Bontempts on the Black Migrations(smile!) The name of the book is Anywhere But Here - I think - and it chronicles Our Ancestor's migrations to various places in this country, during and after slavery... I think Horace Cayton, who published one of the best Newspapers of it's time(name escapes me)was born there(Washington State), too... Mr. Cayton later collaborated with Sinclair Drake on the writting of Black Metropolis, a classic work on the formation Black Chicago ghetto... Thank you for posting this!

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  3. CarrieMonet

    CarrieMonet Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    You're welcome....

    I think the part that floors me most about this pioneer is this...

    ...that's pretty sad! I wonder if his descendants can claim the land now. Then again maybe not, for all we know he could be George Bush's great great grandpappy.
     
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