How did Washington State get its name?

A. It was named in honor of Washington DC, so that the United States would have a place named “Washington” on both coasts.

B. It was named after Fort Washington, where the state’s first grapes were planted in 1825 by the “Washington Settlers,” a Protestant community from western England.

C. It was named after George Washington, first president of the United States.

D. It was named after an English explorer of the Canadian Pacific coast, Nigel Washington, whose surname comes from Old English, literally "estate of a man named Wassa.”


But it’s complicated. In 1791, the colonial commission tasked with the responsibility to name a new national capital called it the “Territory of Columbia.” Columbia was a poetic name for the United States at the time, and the words territory and district were used interchangeably to designate regions. Some sixty years later when settlers in northern Oregon asked the government to establish an independent “Columbia Territory” (which would include the Columbia River Valley), Congress was vexed. A “Territory of Columbia” already existed. Congress agreed to grant the settlers independence from Oregon, but named the new state Washington to honor the first president. Meanwhile, slowly over time, the Territory of Columbia (DC) had also slowly been more often referred to as Washington District of Columbia to honor George Washington. Modern Congressmen argued that, in any case, the area was really a city, not a territory and not a state. In the end, few people, it appears, have minded the duplication, especially since now, there are more than 120 places in the U.S. named Washington or with Washington in their name.

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