From 1850 to 1855, The Donation Land Act offered settlers free land: 320 acres for each single man and 640 for married couples. After months of planning and a crack of the cattle crop, hundreds of Americans started their arduous, months-long journey for a fresh start in the Oregon Territory.
At the time, the Oregon Territory was unincorporated and possession was tenuous. By promoting homesteading, America was solidifying control of The West versus rival Canada. What better way to show ownership than to fly the American flag?
The American flag was a beacon for travelers who could stop at an Army outpost like Fort Laramie or Fort Bridger for safety, supplies, and rest. In 1851, the American flag featured 31 stars following California's admission to the union. Oregon would be admitted in 1859.
Homesteaders brought their own American flags and used them to celebrate Independence Day as immigrant Amos Bratchelder noted in his journal entry from July 4, 1849:
"…we passed a large company in camp, which saluted us with several volleys of musketry. They were returned, in a scattering fashion from our train, which extended nearly a mile. They had the stars and stripes moving in the breeze and were stopping to celebrate the day. We soon after passed another company, with flags hoisted."
In that five-year period, 7,437 acres of land were given to settlers who staked their claim with flags to identify their property. Oregon was settled by an adventurous people manifesting their own destiny. Shop at Elmer's Flag today where you can buy Old Glory and the flag of Oregon…which features a covered wagon.
Elmer's Flag & Banner, Kites Too
1332 NE Broadway Portland, OR 97232