Westward Ho!

We are happy to be adding a fourth section to our American County Histories collection.

This new section is called The West and will include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

These large volumes, long a cornerstone of local historical and genealogical information. They are encyclopedic in scope and are priceless for their research possibilities. This section is an expansion the coverage already available for states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast.

The West at a Glance

  • Alaska is divided into boroughs, not counties. Unlike county-equivalents in the other 49 states, boroughs do not cover the entire land area of the state. An area not part of any borough is referred to as the Unorganized Borough.
  • California counties are responsible for all elections, property-tax collection, maintenance of public records and local-level courts. They provide law enforcement to areas that are not within incorporated cities. One consolidated city–county is located in the state, San Francisco.
  • Colorado’s first Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Colorado convened on September 9, 1861 and established the seventeen original counties, the rest being added throughout the following years. The only combined City-County is Denver, created in 1902.
  • Hawaii, the only state made up entirely of islands, has five counties: Hawaii, Maui, Kalawao, Honolulu and Kauai. They enjoy somewhat greater status than many counties on the mainland as they are the only legally constituted government bodies below that of the state.
  • Idaho had four counties when it became a territory on July 4, 1863: Boise, Idaho, Nez Perce and Shoshone. By the time Idaho became a state 27 years later, there were 15 counties. The rest of the counties came into existence during the 30 years after Idaho became a state.
  • Montana became a territory in 1864. In 1865 the first legislature created the nine original counties. Additional Territorial counties were added between 1866 and 1888, Statehood counties (1889-1909) and Homestead Era counties (1910-1925).
  • Nevada. As of 1919 there were 17 counties in the state. In 1969 Ormsby County was dissolved and the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City was created by the Legislature in its place. While officially a consolidated municipality, for many purposes under state law Carson City is considered to be a county.
  • Oregon county names had diverse origins derived from Indian tribes, army generals, influential citizens such as U.S. senators and presidents, and prominent geographic sites, including rivers and mountains.
  • Utah’s original seven counties were established under the provisional State of Deseret in 1849. The first legislature re-created the original counties plus three more under territorial law. All other counties were established between 1854 and 1894 by the Utah Territorial Legislature except for Daggett and Duchesne created by popular vote and by gubernatorial proclamation after Utah became a state.
  • Washington’s first counties were created from unorganized territory in 1845. Eight were created by Oregon governments prior to the organization of Washington Territory. Most of the rest were created during Washington’s territorial period, and a few after Washington became a state.
  • Wyoming had already been divided into four counties at the time of its organization as the Wyoming Territory, at which time a portion of Utah and Idaho, extending from Montana to the Wyoming-Utah boundary, was annexed and named Uinta County. As the territory, and later the state, became settled, additional counties were carved from the original five.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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