Dr. John McLoughlin

 
 
DR. JOHN MCLOUGHLIN

John McLoughlin was born in the province of Quebec in 1784 to an upper class family. After a brief period of medical
practice in Montreal, he became a partner in the North West Company. Soon after a merger with the Hudson's Bay
Company, McLoughlin was made chief factor of the Columbia District and was stationed at Fort George from 1821 to
1825 and Fort Vancouver from 1825 to 1846.

Around 1830 he erected a new Fort Vancouver. McLoughlin soon established a farm of about 3,000 acres on which
were grown quantities of grain, principally wheat. He gradually developed a large herd of cattle, constructed saw and
flour mills, and yearly shipped lumber to the Hawaiian Islands and flour to Sitka. McLoughlin also founded the first
school in the Oregon Country in 1832. By 1839 he had established about twenty trading forts and posts in the territory
and the Hudson's Bay Company district under his management became the most profitable of all the company's
enterprises in North America.

McLoughlin's entire period as head of the Hudson's Bay Columbia District was free of Indian disturbances. His dealings
with the natives were generally successful, and to them he became known as the "White Headed Eagle." As chief factor
of the Columbia District, McLoughlin's duties were to monopolize the fur trade of the region, impose permanent peace
upon the numerous tribes, and prevent agricultural settlement of the region. He succeeded for a time, but the gradual
decline in fur trading due to over trapping and the incursions of white settlement overruled his power and conscience.
McLoughlin's friendliness to incoming missionaries helped open the way to settlement.

The earliest efforts of settlers to form a provisional government in Oregon recognized McLoughlin's power as the
following 1841 resolution reveals: On Motion - Resolved - that the committee for drafting Constitution and laws be
instructed to confer with the Commodore of the American Squadron and John McLaughlin Chief Factor of the Hudson
Bay Co. with regard to forming a Constitution and code of laws for this community."
The United States formally won control of Oregon by signing a boundary treaty with Great Britain in 1846. The treaty set
the current United States/Canada boundary at the 49th parallel and reduced geographic and political uncertainties that
had caused tensions for years.

Because of the rapidly increasing population of American settlers in the area, McLoughlin saw that the Hudson's Bay
Company would have to avoid inflaming the anti-British attitudes of Manifest Destiny and its leading proponents such as
President James K. Polk. He therefore agreed that the company would pay taxes on all goods brought to Oregon for
resale.

Upon retirement from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846, McLoughlin moved into a house in Oregon City. He
remained a prominent and hospitable figure while operating a milling and merchandise business. Other than serving as
mayor of Oregon City in 1852, McLoughlin did not take part in local politics. However, he was unable to avoid the
political storm that was forming over his land. The dispute had its origins in 1829 when McLoughlin first claimed land in
the area
.
By 1842 he had platted out and named the town of Oregon City. But soon several politically strong opponents sought to
gain title to his valuable property in the vicinity of Willamette Falls. They succeeded in adding a clause to the Donation
Land Act of 1850 that forced him to forfeit much of his land claim. Tragically, he died in 1857, broken in spirit and
fortune.
In at least partial recognition of the injustice of his treatment, the State of Oregon released the property to his heirs in
1862 after payment of a nominal sum. Later, in a 1907 eulogy at the dedication of the McLoughlin Institute at Oregon
City, Oregon Historical Society President Frederick V. Holman had strong words for those who opposed McLoughlin: "I
shall merely mention that conspirators against Dr. McLoughlin took for themselves parts of his land claim and, by
means of malicious misstatements, caused Congress unjustly to deprive him of all the rest of his land claim, and thus
humbled and humiliated and impoverished the grand, the noble, the generous Father of Oregon."

In 1957 - Dr. John McLoughlin was given title "Father of Oregon" by Oregon Legislative Assembly.
John McLoughlin was one of the most influential figures of the fur trade and settlement periods of Pacific Northwest
history. Chief Factor of the Columbia District of the British Hudson's Bay Company, he reigned as a benevolent
autocrat, befriended Americans, and eventually in became an American citizen at Oregon City in 1850.
John McLoughlin has been honored in many ways for the role he played in Oregon's early history.
 
In 1905 the Oregon Legislative Assembly renamed the 9,495 foot Mount Pitt in southern Oregon to Mount McLoughlin. The
United States Board of Geographic Names recognized that change in 1912.
 

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