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Thurston County Connection
December, 2014
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 Washington Counts Heads in 1870

From the Archives

According to the 1870 census, which Washington cities were ranked number 1 and 2 in population? (The answer may surprise you.) Take the following quiz for a brief cruise through our territorial history. Answers below.

1. Which question was not asked in the 1870 census?
a. Value of real estate
b.Whether literate or not
c. Whether blind or insane
d. Whether children in home were born legitimately or out of wedlock

2. What was the most significant difference between the census of 1860 and 1870?

3. True or False: Washington Territory’s population increased by a third between 1860 and 1870.

4. Which Washington cities were ranked number 1 and 2 in population in 1870?
a. Walla Walla and Olympia
b. Seattle and Olympia
c. Seattle and Port Townsend
d. Walla Walla and Seattle

5. True or False: More than half of Washington children attended school.

6. Two counties were renamed by the Territorial Legislature between the 1860 and 1870 censuses. The original names of the counties were Sawamish and Ferguson. Can you name the two renamed counties?
a. Stevens and Clark
b. Mason and Yakima
c. Spokane and Jefferson
d. King and Benton

7. Only 28% of Washington’s population in 1870 was born in the territory. Next to Oregon, most emigrants to Washington came from what state?
a. Michigan
b. California
c. New York
d. Illinois


1. D. Whether children in home were born legitimately or out of wedlock
2. The 1870 census was the first in which African Americans were not classified as either “free” or “slave.”
3. False. Washington’s population doubled between 1860 and 1870 to a total of 23,955. The derivation of this number was affected by the racism of the time. Only “civilized” Indians (those not living on reservations) were counted in the official census which determined the allocation of legislative representation. While only 1,319 Indians were counted using this criteria, the unofficial count resulted in more than 13,000 living on reservations.
4. D. Walla Walla’s population was 1,394. Olympia with 1,203 residents edged out Seattle’s 1,107.
5. True: 3,337 of Washington’s 6,458 children attended school; 1,864 male students; 1,639 female students.
6. B. Mason County was formerly Sawamish and Yakima was Ferguson.
7. C. New York

Information courtesy of

By Keith Eisner

Olympia in about 1870. Olympia in about 1870.