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The exploration of Washington was not done by Europeans until the 1770’s, when Spanish explorer Juan Perez first discovered it and sailed along its coast.
The first to set foot on the coast were also Spanish explorers, but after doing so in 1775 were killed by the native people.
With the arrival and development of the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest, also came diseases such as smallpox. Because the natives had never encountered such diseases, they had no natural defenses and began dying in large numbers.
Spain and Britain were enemies during the late 1700’s, and the Spanish were supporters of American rebellion against British rule. During the later years of the 18th century, both the British and Spanish began exploring more and more of the Pacific Northwest.
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition reached the present day area known as Washington, shortly after which the first known election was held in the area.
In 1819, the Spanish gave their rights over control of the Pacific Northwest to the United States. During this time, Britain had major presence in the area as well.
In 1884, a handful of counties were established by the Washington Territorial Legislature.
On November 11, 1889, Washington became an official state of the United States of America.
For more information, visit the Secretary of State’s detailed Washington History page.