Profiles in History: George Washington Bush
February 25, 2010
One of the wealthiest African Americans to settle Washington in the 1800s was George Washington Bush, an African American pioneer.
Bush was born in Pennsylvania around 1778 to a wealthy family who had worked for an even wealthier English sea merchant, who eventually left the Bush family all his money. When he reached adulthood, Bush fought in the war of 1812 and then set out into the great West, working as a fur trapper and voyageur before returning to Missouri where he met his wife. His first house was building in Booneville, Mo., but he left that slave state in 1844 due to extensive prejudice and discrimination.
His years of trapping experience with the voyageurs enabled his pioneering party to survive and travel across the expansive Western wilderness.
Arriving in Oregon Territory, the Bushes, along with five other families, found the racial exclusion laws no less tolerant of their Black skin. Traveling over the Columbia River, Bush eventually settled south of Olympia in Bush Prairie.
Along with his friend Michael Simmons, Bush built the area’s first grist mill and saw mill and provided many incoming pioneers with the necessary grains, meats and supplies they needed to survive until they could provide their own.
In 1855, Bush was granted the title to his farmlands by the U.S. Congress. When he died in 1863, he became the only veteran of the War of 1812 buried in Thurston County, Washington.
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