Captain Robert Gray


Captain Robert Gray, a Yankee trader, was born in Rhode Island in 1755. In his early twenties he served in the navy during the Revolutionary War, probably aboard a privateer. After the war he continued his career at sea, sailing in the service of a group of Boston merchants.

In 1787 he was commissioned by Boston merchants, along with Captain John Kendrick to sail up the Northwest coast to trade for furs and exchange the furs for goods from China. In doing so, he became the first American to circumnavigate the globe.

In June, 1791, Gray sailed from Boston on another expedition to the Northwest coast. After wintering over, Gray sailed south along the coast to trade with the Indian tribes. After reaching southern Oregon, he turned around and sailed north, seeking a safe and sheltered anchorage for his ship "the Columbia".

According to the ship's log, the entrance to a long sought river, was sighted on May 11, 1792 at 4 a.m. Gray named the river Columbia's River, after his ship. He named the cape to the south, Adams, and the one to the north, Hancock (more commonly referred to as Cape Disappointment).

At the end of the eighteenth century, the United States, Russia, England and Spain all begain to take an interest in the Pacific Northwest for two important reasons. One reason was the fur trade. The other was the hope of finding a river system that would span the North American continent as well as an ocean passage around it.

Russia, England, and Spain all had settlements on the Pacific Coast. Although, they were just a few scattered fur trading posts, they were enough to use in support of each country's claim. The United States had no settlements, so her claim was not as strong.