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George Washington Bush
*The birth of George Bush is celebrated on this date in 1790. He was a Black farmer.
George Washington Bush was born in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. Information about his birth and early years is sparse and conflicting. His father, Mathew Bush was Black and was said to be a sailor from the British West Indies. His mother was a white-Irish American servant. Both worked for a wealthy Quaker family named Stevenson, and young George Bush was educated in the Quaker tradition.
As a young man, Bush served in the U.S. Army and may have participated in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Bush eventually settled in Clay County, Missouri, where he met Isabella James (c. 1809-1866), a young white-German American woman. He later worked as a voyageur and fur trapper, first for the St. Louis based Robideaux Company. They were married on July 4, 1831. William Owen Bush, the first of their six sons, was born exactly one year later. Four more sons, Joseph Talbot, Rial Bailey, Henry Sanford and Jackson January were born before the family relocated.
Bush was a successful farmer in Missouri, but as a free Black in a slave state, he faced increasing discrimination and decided to move west. In 1844, Bush and his good friend Michael T. Simmons, a white Irish American, led their families and three others over the Oregon Trail. When they found that racial exclusion laws had preceded them and barred Bush from settling south of the Columbia River, they settled on Puget Sound, becoming the first non-Native Americans to do so. Bush established a successful farm near present day Olympia on land that became known as Bush Prairie.
He and his family were noted for their generosity to new arrivals and for their friendship with Native Americans (the Nisqually) who lived nearby. He worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, which dominated the fur trade throughout western Canada and in the Oregon Territory. During this time, he traveled extensively in the Western plains and mountains, and may have reached the Puget Sound region. Bush continued modernizing and improving his farm until his death in 1863. Named in honor of America’s first president, he has no known connection to the family of the two later presidents who share with him the name George Bush. George Washington Bush, settler, pioneer and a key leader of the first group to settle north of the Columbia River in what is now Washington state died in 1863.