A Frontier of Many Colors and Ambitions

The North Pacific Coast attracted a large number of emigrants from northern Europe, either directly or after they had tried Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas. This was especially true after the Northern Pacific Railway opened in 1883, and advertised its land grant lands in Germany and Scandinavia. Many Euro- Americans were farmers. The Scandinavian lands also sent fishermen and loggers who found a use here for their traditional skills.

Even when this photograph was taken, by A. H. Barnes about 1905, many rural settlers lived in hewn log structures like this one. It is likely that this woman lived alone on her farm.

Like many other frontiers, the Pacific Northwest was an area of opportunity, and it attracted people from many lands. Kanakas came from Hawai’i during the early fur trading era. From Asia came Chinese, who first worked in mining and railroad construction, and in later years, emigrants from Japan and the Philippines, and Sikhs from India. Italians, Serbs, Sephardic Jews added to the mix. African Americans were present as early as the 1850s as farmers; others later found employment on the railroads and in coal mining.

For many decades in the Pacific Northwest, the population was disproportionately young, male, and unmarried. The economic frontier attracted men who did not yet have family obligations, and who perhaps did not intend to settle in the area, but were searching for adventure and financial opportunities.