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Newspaper Washington Pioneer (Olympia [Wash.]) 1853-1854

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About Washington Pioneer (Olympia [Wash.]) 1853-1854

The Columbian was the first regular newspaper published in what would become Washington Territory. Residents of Olympia were eager to have a newspaper published in their town and convinced Thomas Jefferson Dryer, publisher of the Oregonian, to start a venture in the city. Dryer sent James W. Wiley and Thornton Fleming McElroy to Olympia with an old Ramage press to start the paper. Dryer’s ownership of the paper was kept secret, Wiley and McElroy claiming full control over its content and denouncing rumors of any “controlling interest.” The press itself already had a notable history, previously used to publish government proclamations in Mexico in the 1830s, several newspapers in San Francisco in the 1840s, and the first issue of the Oregonian in 1850. It would later continue north to print Seattle’s first newspaper, the Seattle Gazette, in 1863.

The first issue of the Columbian emerged on September 11, 1852. In it, Wiley and McElroy announced their intention to run a paper “neutral in politics” and “devoted to the interests of Oregon, and the territory north of the Columbia River in particular.” The Columbian advocated strongly for the creation of a new territory north of the Columbia and took its name from this proposed new territory. Wiley left the paper in March 1853, after Congress passed an act to split Washington Territory from Oregon, but before the news reached Olympia. In September McElroy announced his departure from the paper, and in December Dryer sold it to Wiley and Alfred Metcalf Berry.

Wiley and Berry changed the name of the paper to the Washington Pioneer and announced their intention to run it as a “radical democratic journal.” In 1854, Ruben Lowry Doyle joined Wiley and Berry and published it as the Pioneer and Democrat. When Berry died on August 1, 1854, during a visit to his home in Greenland, New Hampshire, George Bush Goudy was added to the list of proprietors on December 16, 1854. Doyle left in August 1855.

Hostility between the settlers and Native Americans in Washington Territory turned to open warfare in October 1855. Volunteering for the Puget Sound Rangers, Wiley sent accounts of the battles he was in to Goudy for publication. Goudy eventually joined him, leaving the Pioneer and Democrat with no one in the office to print a November 2nd issue. Goudy left the paper for good after the war ended in 1856.

Edward Furste became proprietor with the August 8, 1856 edition. Wiley continued as editor until May 7, 1858. Furste took an increasingly active role in editing the paper and used it to promote the Democratic Party, in power at the time. It was said he earned $10,000 from the public printing contract awarded for his loyal support of the party. However, the Democrats lost influence as the Civil War approached, and the paper did not fare as well as Furste’s personal finances. He sold the Pioneer and Democrat to James Lodge in 1860, but Lodge also failed to make the paper profitable. He published the last edition on May 31, 1861, and sold the equipment to Alonzo Marion Poe, who used it to start the Overland Press on July 29, 1861.

Provided By: Washington State Library; Olympia, WA

About this Newspaper


  • Washington Pioneer (Olympia [Wash.]) 1853-1854

Dates of Publication

  • 1853-1854

Created / Published

  • Olympia [Wash.] : J.W. Wiley & A.M. Berry, 1853-1854.


  • -  Olympia (Wash.)--Newspapers
  • -  Washington (State)--Olympia
  • -  United States--Washington--Thurston--Olympia


  • Newspapers


  • -  Weekly
  • -  Vol. 2, no. 13 (Dec. 3, 1853)-v. 2, no. 21 (Jan. 28, 1854).
  • -  Pioneer and Democrat (Olympia, Wash.) (DLC)sn 83025141


  • volumes

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn83025142

OCLC Number

  • 9284090

ISSN Number

  • 2767-6730

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Succeeding Titles

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Washington Pioneer Olympia Wash. -1854. (Olympia, WA), Jan. 1 1853.

APA citation style:

(1853, January 1) Washington Pioneer Olympia Wash. -1854. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Washington Pioneer Olympia Wash. -1854. (Olympia, WA) 1 Jan. 1853. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,