Expert on Lincoln to headline museum's fundraising dinner

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter



If You Go

What: Clark County Historical Museum annual fundraising dinner.

When: 5 to 9 p.m.

May 11.

Where: Club Green Meadows, 7703 N.E. 72nd Ave.

Cost: $65 for members, $75 for nonmembers. Reservations are required.

Information: 360-993-5679.

Historian Richard Etulain will discuss Abraham Lincoln's significant impact on the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War at this year's fundraising dinner for the Clark County Historical Museum.

The annual dinner and auction will be from 5 to 9 p.m.,May 11 at Club Green Meadows, 7703 N.E. 72nd Ave.

Etulain is the author or editor of more than 50 books, including "Beyond the Missouri: The Story of the American West" and "Lincoln Looks West: From the Mississippi to the Pacific."

Etulain's latest book, "Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era," was released in February.

In a 2011 interview with The Columbian, noting the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Etulain explained how the conflict shaped the Northwest.

When secessionist Southern legislators left Congress, Lincoln had a clear path to enact some of his big initiatives, Etulain said. They included the transcontinental railroad.

"There were big rumors California and Oregon might separate from the Union and become a Pacific Republic," Etulain said. "They thought they were getting the short end of things."

In addition to economic factors, the railroad would tie the West Coast to the rest of the states. Lincoln gave the go-ahead in 1864 for another rail route, the Northern Pacific, which eventually linked Washington with the Midwest. Both railroads were built after the war ended.

In May 1862, Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which encouraged westward migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of public land.

"Lincoln didn't like farming; he ran away from home because he didn't like farming," Etulain said. "But up to 90 percent of the people made their living farming, and he needed to bind them to his party.

"He put through the land-grant legislation that led to what now are Washington State University, Oregon State University and the University of Idaho," Etulain said. "He wanted farmers to get up-to-date technical, agricultural and mining educations, as well as military training.

"And, he set up a Department of Agriculture," said Etulain, a Portland-area resident and retired professor of history at the University of New Mexico.

All four initiatives had a tremendous impact on the Pacific Northwest, Etulain said.

The event will feature a catered dinner. Tickets are $65 for current members of the Clark County Historical Society and $75 for nonmembers. Tickets must be reserved; call 360-993-5679.