Gray went to sea at an early age, and after serving in the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War, he entered the service of a Massachusetts trading company.
In May 1792, as captain of the “Columbia,” he explored Gray’s Harbor (in the present state of Washington) and the Columbia River (which is named for his ship). Once again, he circumnavigated the globe, and after his return in July 1793, he spent the remainder of his career commanding merchant vessels along the Atlantic coast.
Gray is credited with giving the US a claim to the Oregon Territory.
Words of Wisdom
At eight a.m. being a little to windward of the entrance of the Harbor, bore away, and run in east-north-east between the breakers, having from five to seven fathoms of water. When we were over the bar, we found this to be a large river of fresh water, up which we steered. At one p.m. came to with the small bower, in ten fathoms, black and white sand. The entrance between the bars bore west-south-west distant ten miles; the north side of the river a half mile distant from the ship; the south side of the same two and a half miles distance; a village on the north side of the river west by north, distant three-quarters of a mile. Vast numbers of natives came alongside; people employed in pumping the salt water out of our watercasks, in order to fill with fresh, while the ship floated in. So ends.