1860 Census: First census to count Washington Territory as discrete entity; population nearly 75 percent male; Native Americans counted for first time, but badly.

  • By John Caldbick
  • Posted 7/11/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9463

The 8th federal census, taken in 1860, is the first to formally include Washington Territory (established in 1853), although the 1850 count had estimated the population north of the Columbia River by parsing the count for Oregon Territory, of which Washington was then a part. The subject matter of the 1860 census is more limited in scope than it will be in later counts, and some of the inquiries seem rather quaint 150 years later. Washington Territory in 1860 sprawls over approximately 240,000 square miles (compared to the 66,544 square miles it will occupy after its boundaries are finalized when Idaho Territory is created in 1863), but it is very sparsely populated. The population distribution differs from what it will be in later years, with Clarke (later Clark), Thurston, and Walla Walla being the most populous of the territory's 19 counties. Some data in the federal census varies slightly from that found in a territorial audit performed for the territorial legislature in the same year. The discrepancies are minor, however, and only the results of the federal census are included below. The spellings throughout this essay are those used in the census, and often differ from those used today.

Census Overview

The geographical extent of Washington Territory in the late 1850s and early 1860s was in flux. More than a century later, in 1990, the census bureau took a look back and summarized the genesis, growth, and subsequent shrinkage of Washington Territory:

"Washington was organized as a Territory in 1853 from part of Oregon Territory, and included an area now comprising the State of Washington, northern Idaho, and part of Montana. In 1859 upon the admission of Oregon as a State, the remaining portion of Oregon Territory, comprising the rest of Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming, was added to the Territory of Washington. The area of the territory was reduced to the present limits of the State in 1863, upon the organization of Idaho Territory ... . The 1860 population for Washington is that of Washington Territory that included the present States of Washington and Idaho and parts of the present States of Montana and Wyoming" (1990 Census of Population and Housing).

The scope of the questions asked in early censuses was fairly narrow compared to some later ones, and often the subject matter and phrasing reflected the customs and usage of a far different time. The 1860 census asked the following:

"Name; age; sex; race; value of real estate; value of personal estate; occupation; birthplace; whether married within the year; school attendance; literacy; whether deaf and dumb; blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict; number of slave houses. Supplemental schedules for slaves and persons who died during the year" ("Population Census Items 1790-2000").

Population Overview

Washington Territory's population in 1860 was 11,594, including 11,138 whites, 426 classified as Indian, and 30 "free coloreds" (the scourge of slavery still existed in 1860, but not in the West). This count put Washington Territory 40th out of 42 states and territories, trailed only by Nevada and Dakota territories.

There were 19 counties in Washington Territory in 1860 (compared to 39 counties today). At least one of them no longer exists under its 1860 name (Sawamish, renamed Mason County in 1864); others used different spellings than are in use today.

The five largest counties in Washington Territory in 1860 were:

  • Clarke: 2,384
  • Thurston: 1,507
  • Walla-Walla: 1,318
  • Pierce: 1,115
  • Spokane: 996

Population: Race and Sex by County

The 1860 census separated the population of the counties into three groups: White, Free Colored, and Indian.

The white population of Washington Territory's 19 counties (using the spellings of the time) and the members of each sex was:

  • Clarke: 2,367 (1,625 males, 742 females)
  • Thurston: 1,495 (976 males, 519 females)
  • Walla-Walla: 1,297 (1,028 males, 69 females) 
  • Pierce: 1,114 (806 males, 308 females)
  • Spokane: 674 (643 males, 31 females)
  • Kitsap: 540  (474 males, 66 females)
  • Jefferson: 523 (430 males, 93 females)
  • Pacific: 406 (265 males, 141 females)
  • Cowlitz: 405 (256 males, 149 females
  • Whatcom: 352 (318 males, 34 females)
  • Lewis: 336 (219 males, 117 females)
  • King: 301 (221 males, 80 females)
  • Island: 292  (212  males, 80 females)
  • Chihalis: 283  (201 males, 82 females)
  • Klikatat: 230  (155 males, 75 females)
  • Skamania: 171  (108 males, 63 females)
  • Sawamish: 162  (123 males, 39 females)
  • Clallam: 149 (132 males, 17 females)
  • Wahkiakam: 41 (38 males, 3 females)

Totals:  11,138;  8,225 males (73.85 percent) and 2,913 females (26.15 percent)

The Free Colored population of the 19 counties was:

  • Clark:          1      1 male
  • Jefferson:    8      7 males,  1 female
  • King:           1      1 male
  • Kitsap:        4      4 males
  • Lewis:         1      1 male
  • Spokane:    2      1 male, 1 female
  • Thurston:   12     10 males, 2 females
  • Walla-Walla: 1    1 male

Totals: 30; 26 males (86.67 percent)  and four females (13.33 percent)

The 1860 census was the first to attempt a count of Indians (Native Americans), but it was choosy about which ones would be tallied, and the statistics don't provide a true picture of the Native population of the territory. The instructions to enumerators for the 1860 census defined two categories of Indians, one to be counted and one not:

"Indians not taxed are not to be enumerated. The families of Indians who have renounced tribal rule, and who under state or territory laws exercise the rights of citizens, are to be enumerated" ("Native Americans in the Census, 1860–1890").

The definitions went on to say:

"By the phrase "Indians not taxed" is meant Indians living on reservations under the care of Government agents, or roaming individually, or in bands, over unsettled tracts of country.

Indians not in tribal relations, whether full-bloods or half-breeds, who are found mingled with the white population, residing in white families, engaged as servants or laborers, or living in huts or wigwams on the outskirts of towns or settlements are to be regarded as a part of the ordinary population of the country ..." ("Native Americans in the Census, 1860–1890").

Given those strictures, it is perhaps not surprising that the total Indian population of Washington Territory counted in the 1860 census was so deceptively small. That count, by counties, was:

  • Chihalis:         2     1 male, 1 female
  • Clarke:          16     4 males, 12 females
  • Cowlitz:         1     1 female
  • Island:           2     1 males
  • Lewis:          47     25 males, 22 females
  • Pacific:         14     1 male, 13 females
  • Skamania:      2     2 females
  • Spokane:      320    162 males, 158 females
  • Walla-Walla:  20    20 females
  • Wahkiakum:   1    1 female

Total counted: 426; 195 males (45.77 percent) and 231 females (54.23 percent)

Only Chihalis, Spokane, and Lewis counties showed statistics that indicated rough equality in the numbers of Indian men and women, from which one could infer that stable, off-reservation family groups could be found in those locations. In most other counties, females outnumbered males, and in some there were no males at all.

Population: Cities, Towns, and Other Subdivisions

The 10 most populous cities, towns, or other definable subdivisions in Washington Territory in 1860, using the terminology of the time, were:

  • Walla-Walla: 722 (704 whites, 1 black, 17 Indians)
  • Vancouver's Island: 660 (658 whites, 2 Indians) (military garrison in Clarke County)
  • Colville Valley:  627 (501 whites, 2 blacks, 124 Indians)
  • Fort Walla-Walla: 320 (all whites)
  • White's Island: 292 (all whites) (this may refer to an island in Wahkiakum County)
  • Bitter Root Valley: 279 (82 whites, 196 Indians) (near present-day Spokane)
  • Port Townsend: 264 (258 whites, 6 blacks)
  • Teekalet: 202 (all whites) (near present-day Port Townsend)
  • Port Madison: 188 (187 whites, 1 black)
  • Arcada: 162 (all whites)

It is interesting to note that Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, and Yakima, which today (2010) are in the top 10 of most populous cities in Washington state, went unmentioned in the 1860 census.

Population: Age (White population)

The white population of Washington Territory in 1869 was distributed by age as follows:

  • Under one year of age: 313,      179 males, 134 females
  • One year to under five years: 1,120,      568 males, 552 females
  • Five years to under 10 years: 893,      458 males, 435 females
  • 10 years to under 15 years: 652,      333 males, 319 females
  • 15 years and under 20 years: 577,      293 males, 284 females
  • 20 years and under 30 years: 3,766    3,195 males, 571 females
  • 30 years and under 40 years: 2,563    2,212 males, 351 females
  • 40 years and under 50 years: 842       672 males, 170 females
  • 50 years and under 60 years: 295       223 males, 72 females
  • 60 years and under 70 years: 93         73 males, 20 females
  • 70 years and under 80: 22         17 males, 5 females
  • 80 years and under 90: 2           2 males

Of the 11,138 white persons in Washington Territory in 1860, 8,225 (73.85 percent) were males and 2,913 (26.15 percent) were females. The number of males and females was fairly comparable up through age 19, but in the 20-30 age group, women accounted for only 15.16 percent of the population, and in the 30-40 age group they accounted for only 13.69 percent.

Population: Age (African American population)

The free colored population of Washington Territory in 1869, by age group:

  • Under one year of age:               1    1 female
  • 10 years to under 15 years:         1     1 male
  • 20 years and under 30 years:       7     6 males, 1 female
  • 30 years and under 40 years:     10     8 males, 2 females
  • 40 years and under 50 years:       7     7 males
  • 50 years and under 60 years:       3     3 males
  • 70 years and under 80:                1     1 male

Over all age groups of African Americans there were 26 men (86.67 percent) and 4 women (13.33 percent).

Population: Age (Native American population)

As noted above, the Indian population was clearly and grossly undercounted in the 1869 census, but what few were enumerated were distributed by age as follows:

  • Under one year of age:                 17        9 males, 8 females
  • One year to under five years:        66      35 males, 31 females
  • Five years to under 10 years:        68      40 males, 28 females
  • 10 years to under 15 years:          48      29 males, 19 females
  • 15 years and under 20 years:        40      12 males, 28 females
  • 20 years and under 30 years:        91      35 males, 56 females
  • 30 years and under 40 years:        52      19 males, 33 females
  • 40 years and under 50 years:        32      11 males, 21 females
  • 50 years and under 60 years:          9        3 males, 6 females
  • 60 years and under 70 years:          3        2 males, 1 female

In total, there were 195 Indian males (45.77 percent) and 231 females (54.23 percent). One indication of the incompleteness of the Indian count is the absence from the count of a single Native American man or woman 70 years of age or older.

Population: Immigration and Nativity

The 1860 census of Washington Territory traced the origins of all respondents, giving a clear insight into the human rootstock from which the population, greatly augmented by later immigration, was to grow.

The statistics are divided into two broad categories: those who came to Washington from other states and territories, and those who came from foreign lands. Together they paint a revealing portrait of the westward migrations that were really just getting started. The 10 major sources of domestic immigration to Washington Territory as determined by the 1860 census were:

  • Other territories:     2,040 (specific territories not named)
  • New York:                833
  • Maine:                     557
  • Ohio:                       556
  • Oregon:                   484
  • Illinois:                    464
  • Pennsylvania:           441
  • Missouri:                  394
  • Indiana:                   372
  • Massachusetts:          328

The data on immigration from foreign lands is interesting as well. The largest single group of foreign-born immigrants to Washington Territory by far came from Ireland. The 1860 census records increases that occurred in the previous 10 years, and the Irish potato famine, which began in 1845, accounts for the spike in Irish immigration. The five highest foreign contributors to the territory's population in 1860 were:

  • Ireland: 1,217
  • German States: 572 (includes Austria, Bavaria, Prussia, and others)
  • British America:  497 (lands in North America still controlled by Great Britain)
  • England: 419
  • Scotland: 192

Total migration into Washington Territory from other states and territories, 1850-1860: 8,450
Total immigration into Washington Territory from foreign lands: 3,144   
Total migration into Washington Territory 1850-1860: 11,594 (equal to entire population)

There is a small riddle presented by the migration data. If, as the statistics indicate, the total migration into the territory was equal to the total population as measured in the 1860 census, what of the Indian population of 426 persons? Surely the vast majority of these were here before the immigrants arrived, yet their numbers are totally subsumed in the count of those who came to Washington Territory from elsewhere. The answer to this conundrum is not clear from readily accessible census records.

Another small but interesting point in the migration count was the inclusion of two persons "born at sea" and thus, apparently, deemed to have no country of origin.

Population: Occupations and Wages

The 10 leading occupations in Washington Territory in 1860 and the number of persons plying them were:

  • Farmers: 1,653
  • Laborers: 695
  • Lumbermen: 381
  • Farm Laborers: 250? (last digit illegible)
  • Carpenters: 171
  • Mariners: 161
  • Merchants: 129
  • Servants: 100
  • Clerks: 80
  • Blacksmiths: 76

The census also counted 22 lawyers, 20 doctors, two dentists, four musicians, and four actors, among many other smaller trades, professions, and occupations.

Workers in Washington Territory in 1860 earned much more than their counterparts in the various states and other territories, but their expenses were also higher, as the following statistics illustrate:

  • Average daily wage for day laborer, with board provided: $2.26
  • Average of all states: $0.81
  • Average of all territories: $1.19
  • Average daily wage for day laborer, no board provided: $2.92
  • Average of all states: $1.11
  • Average of all territories: $1.65
  • Average daily wage for carpenters, no board provided: $4.67
  • Average of all states: $1.97
  • Average of all territories: $2.89
  • Average weekly wage, female domestic, with board provided: $6.62
  • Average of all states: $1.85
  • Average of all territories: $2.88
  • Weekly cost of board to laboring men: $6.29
  • Average of all states: $2.56
  • Average of all territories: $3.94     

Population: Mortality and Cause of Death

Total deaths for year ending June 1, 1860: 50 (Males: 27,  Females: 23)

The leading causes of death in Washington Territory for the year ending June 1, 1860, were:

  • Consumption (tuberculosis):   8
  • Croup:  6  
  • Drowning:  5
  • Childbirth:  3
  • Scarlatina (scarlet fever):  3

No deaths were reported from fever, cephalitis, apoplexy, teething, or whooping cough. There was one homicide in the year through June 1.

Population: Education and Illiteracy

There were 46 teachers in 46 public schools in Washington Territory in 1860 with a total enrollment of 879 pupils, and six academies with a total of nine teachers and 159 pupils. There were no colleges in Washington Territory in 1860.

Aggregate statistics did not always jibe perfectly with cumulative statistics in the 1860 census. Although the number of pupils given for public schools and private academies total 1,038, the cumulative number provided in another section of the census reports gives a total pupil number of 1,088.

Using the aggregate number, the census reported that of the territory's 1,088 students in 1860, 599 were male and 489 were female. Pupils born in America totaled 1,057, and foreign-born totaled 31.

In 1860, among the white population, 295 men and 142 women (total 437) could not read and write. One "free colored" female was also counted as illiterate. The native-born illiterate population was only moderately less than that of the foreign-born, by 207 to 231.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Value of Real and Personal Property

  • Value of all real estate in Washington 1860: $5,908,188
  • Value of personal property: $4,010,772
    Total: $9,918,960

Clark County led the territory with real estate valued at $1,610,460, followed by Thurston County with real estate valued at $948,580

All the owned real estate in King County was valued at only $214,580

Miscellaneous Statistics: Fisheries

The 1860 census waxed eloquent on the abundance of Washington Territory's fisheries:

"Salmon are perhaps more numerous in the Columbia River than in any other in the world. An early navigator is once said to have bought there a ton of salmon for a jackknife! The salmon is caught as it ascends the rivers in the spring to spawn. It is then in good condition, but is comparatively lean and worthless when it returns, and always in proportion to the distance and length time that it has been absent from salt water" (Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, 537).

In 1860 there were five establishments in Washington Territory involved in fishing for cod, mackerel, herring, salmon, whitefish, and other species of fish. They employed 53 men at an annual labor cost of $3,975, and annually produced products worth $17,450. There was one oyster harvesting operation employing 100 men and selling $44,597 of product annually.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Churches

Washington Territory had 20 churches in 1860, including:

  • One Episcopal
  • Eight Methodist
  • Two Presbyterian
  • Nine Roman Catholic 

The combined seating was 4,805. No churches were reported from Clallam, Cowlitz, Clikatat, Pacific, Sawamish, Skamania, Waukiakum, and Whatcom counties.

Nationally, there was one church for every 640 persons, whereas in Washington the ratio was somewhat lower, with one church for every 580 persons.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Libraries

In 1860, Washington had four public libraries holding 9,525 books; one school library with 200 volumes; four Sunday school libraries with 1,100 volumes; and one church library with 500 volumes.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Crime

Four native-born residents and 11 foreign-born residents of Washington Territory were convicted of crimes in the year leading up to the 1860 census. Three native-born and 12 foreign-born persons were in jail or prison as of June 1, 1860.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Paupers

There were five persons defined as "paupers" in Washington Territory in 1860, each receiving some form of public support, for a total annual expenditure of $1,870.

Miscellaneous Statistics: Newspapers

Washington Territory had four weekly newspapers in 1860 with total circulation of 2,350.

Sources: Population of the United States in 1860 (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1864), p. 580, Table 1, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860a-14.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Introduction  (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 1, Table HH, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-03.pdf); Edward Jarvis, M.D., Mortality Statistics, Deaths for Year Ending June 1, 1860, p. 41, Table 3, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-04.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Showing the Mean Temperature in the Several Districts (Washington D.C.:  GPO 1866), p. xxx (30), Table C, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-02.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics , Churches in Washington Territory (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 496, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-17.pdf);  Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics, Education (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), pp. 505-506, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-17.pdf);  Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics, Pauperism, Crime, and Wages (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 512, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-17.pdf);  Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics, Fisheries (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866),  p. 550, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-18.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics The True Value of Real Estate and Personal Property, (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 295, Table 2; Valuation of Estate: Real and Personal, p. 318, Table 3, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-12.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Table 3: Valuation of Estate, Real and Personal (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-12.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics, Newspapers and Periodicals in the United States in 1860 (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 321, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-12.pdf); Statistics of the United States, Including Mortality, Property, etc. in 1860, Miscellaneous Statistics, Number of Families and Free Population (Washington D.C.:  GPO, 1866), p. 351, available at (http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1860d-13.pdf); HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "U.S. President Millard Fillmore establishes Washington Territory on March 2, 1853" (by  Greg Lange), and " Washington Territorial Legislature creates Sawamish (Mason) County on April 15, 1854" (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed June 18, 2010); James P. Collins, "Native Americans in the Census, 1860-1890,"  Prologue magazine,  Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer 2006), available at (http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/summer/indian-census.html); Thomas W. Prosch, "Washington Territory Fifty Years Ago," The Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 4 No. 1 (January, 1913), p. 96; "User Notes," 1990 Census of Population and Housing: Population and Housing Unit Counts -- Washington, available at (http://www.census.gov/prod/cen1990/cph2/cph-2-49.pdf); "Population Census Items 1790-2000," United States Census Bureau website accessed June 16, 2010 (http://www.census.gov/prod/2000pubs/pol00-asi.pdf).
Note: This essay replaces an earlier essay on the same subject.

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