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Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
June, 2014
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 Lincoln Leading!! -- How Olympians Got the News in 1860.

From the archives.

On November 6, 1860, U.S. voters selected Abraham Lincoln as the next president. Sixteen days later, on November 22, the first election returns (Lincoln ahead in 18 of 33 states) reached Olympia. Here’s how the “news flash” traveled from Washington, D.C. to the “other” Washington.

  • Preliminary election results from nearly all of the 33 states of the union were telegraphed to St. Louis on November 7.
  • The results were relayed by telegraph to Fort Kearney, Nebraska.
  • As telegraph wires had yet to be strung west of Fort Kearney, the Pony Express began the nearly 2,000-mile horseback delivery of election news on November 8.
  • Six days later, on November 14, the Pony Express courier galloped into Fort Churchill, Nevada.
  • The following morning, on November 15, the election returns were telegraphed from Fort Churchill to Sacramento, California. Later that day, the news was telegraphed from Sacramento to Yreka in northern California.
  • It is likely that news of Lincoln's victory was taken from Yreka to Portland, Oregon, by horseback. On November 19, the Portland Daily Advertiser printed the results.
  • A copy of the paper was immediately sent to the head of the Cowlitz River by steamboat and from there to Olympia on horseback, where it arrived on the morning of November 22, 1860.


Although residents of the Territory of Washington could not vote for the president, celebrations of Lincoln’s probable election broke out across the region. At Tumwater, the Republicans gave a 100-gun salute followed by “a large and enthusiastic delegation [that] marched to Olympia, ringing bells, blowing horns, and attesting their joy in every conceivable manner. … They adjourned with hearty cheers for ‘honest old Abe,’ the President elect of the United States” (Washington Standard).

Residents of Steilacoom responded by firing a gun salute for each of the free states. “Unfortunately for the patriotism of the participants in the glorification, they could not give vent to their joy by burning powder alone, but must needs call in the aid of some fighting whisky, which soon had the usual effect.” (Puget Sound Herald). A few fights broke out and a few participants were jailed.

“Time and Distance Annihilated”


The Washington Standard, an Olympia newspaper, had this to say about the speedy delivery of the news:

“Here, in this remote region, are we, this 22d day of November, able to give to our readers the result of the great Presidential struggle, which took place in so many States at points so remote, on the 6th of the same month. The annihilation ... [of] time and distance seems incomprehensible.”

Courtesy of Historylink

By Keith Eisner

News of Lincoln's election traveled fast. News of Lincoln's election traveled fast.