Oregon State Father of Oregon

Dr. John McLoughlin

Oregon State Father of Oregon: Dr. John McLoughlin

Father of Oregon

Adopted in 1957.

The 1957 Legislature bestowed upon Dr. John McLoughlin the honorary title of "Father of Oregon" in recognition of his great contributions to the early development of the Oregon Country. Dr. McLoughlin originally came to the Northwest region in 1824 as a representative of the Hudson's Bay Company.

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 9495 foot Mount Pitt in southern Oregon to Mount McLoughlin. The United States Board of Geographic Names recognized that change in 1912. Other Oregon features named after McLoughlin include McLoughlin Boulevard, a major north-south thoroughfare in the Portland area; McLoughlin Elementary School in Oregon City; McLoughlin Middle School in Milwaukie; and Camp McLoughlin, a Boy Scouts of America camp in southern Oregon.

In 1909 McLoughlin's house in Oregon City was dedicated as a permanent memorial. He is also one of two Oregonians honored in the Statuary Hall in Washington D. C. (the other being Rev. Jason Lee). The United States Postal Service honored McLoughlin and Lee in 1948 with a three cent stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Oregon Territory. And, in 1957 the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed the following resolution recognizing McLoughlin's outstanding contributions to the early development of the Oregon Country and naming him "Father of Oregon."

Oregon State Father of Oregon:
Dr. John McLoughlin


John McLoughlin (Dr. John) 1784-1849

John McLoughlin (Dr. John) was born October 19, 1784 in Parish La Riviere du Loup near Quebec. of an Irish Catholic father and a Scotch Presbyterian mother, John was baptized Catholic. He was baptized Catholic on November 5, though he was brought up as an Anglican, both at home and while living with his maternal granduncle Colonel William Fraser until age 16. In 1798, he began to study medicine with Dr. Sir. James Fisher of Quebec, Canada when only 14, and in 1798, he crossed the Atlantic to Scotland in order to enter the University of Edinburgh. In 1803, at the youthful age of 19, John was granted his license to practice surgery and pharmacy. His certificate is dated April 30, 1803.

In order to fully understand the chain of events that led young John McLoughlin on his epic career with the Hudson's Bay Company, you must first understand the environment by which his young impressionable mind had been set, and the influence that his granduncle, Simon Fraser, had on the direction that his life would take. Since many of John McLoughlins youthful days were spent at his granduncle Simon's home, it can be easily understood how the fur trade business and great explorations, may have been born quite naturally into his blood.

In 1792, John's granduncle, Simon Fraser became an apprentice clerk in the Northwest Fur Company of Montreal and in 1801 he became a partner and was selected to oversee the company's activities to the land west of the Rocky Mountains. Discovering a route to the Pacific had become a great priority for the North West Company. Fraser was sent out to explore the river which was believed to have been the Columbia. On May 28, 1808, he set out with a small company of men to follow the river to the Pacific. This brought about the discovery of an unknown river at the mouth of the Musqueam. The river which wasn't the Columbia - was so named the Fraser River.

Upon returning from abroad, John's granduncle, Simon Fraser, once again influences his young life by obtaining an appointment for him as medical officer for the North West Fur Company, which by this time was a fierce competitor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

In 1816, he served as a doctor to the Northwest Fur Company, when a skirmish broke out between the two companies, which appears to have embroiled both, Simon Fraser and his nephew, Dr. John McLoughlin. The murder of, Robert Semple, governor of the Red River colony ensued, whereupon blame was placed on a group of innocent Indians. As a representative of the Northwest Fur Company, John McLoughlin stepped forward to accept the responsibility in order to free the innocently accused. Instead, he was abruptly arrested for the murder, placed into a canoe and taken across Lake Superior. In a horrible turn of events, midway the canoe collapsed, spilling John McLoughlin and his accusers into the icy waters of the lake. While many others drowned, John barely survived the horrible ordeal himself. It is said, that it was this incident that turned McLoughlin's hair white over night. Simon Fraser, along with several other men, were also charged in the affair. On October 30th,1818, charges against all were dismissed, marking the end of Simon Fraser's long career with the North West Fur Company.

John McLoughlin continued his employment and partnership with the North West Company until the merger of 1821, wherein it was absorbed by the "Hudson's Bay Company". As one of 25 Chief Factors, he was paid a handsome share of the newly-consolidated company. Personally appointed by Governor George Simpson to head up a base of operations from Ft. Vancouver, Dr. McLoughlin was well on his way to carving his niche in history.

McLoughlin worked as a kind of liaison for George Simpson, the new governor of the Northern Department. He resolved conflicts with the workers. He did this until 1822 when Simpson sent him to Fort Frances, about 100 miles west of his previous station. Finally, in 1824, he was appointed Chief Factor of the Columbia District. Peter Skein Ogden would assist him.

Personally appointed by Governor George Simpson, in 1824 John McLoughlin arrived at Fort George [Astoria, Oregon] near the mouth of the Columbia River to further establish an administrative headquarters and supply depot for the vastly expanding Hudson's Bay Company. His duties in-part, were to create a mercantile arm of the British government; to monopolize the fur trade business, maintain peace upon the numerous tribes of Indians, and to prevent agricultural settlement of the region. Finding the facility at Astoria to be grossly rundown, unfertile and too far from inland trade facilities, in 1825 McLoughlin moved the northwest headquarters to a more favorable location on the northern side of the Columbia. He built the new site at Belle Vue Point and named it, Fort Vancouver.

The new fort was nearly 750 Ft. long and 450 feet wide with a stockade about 20 feet high. There were about 40 buildings inside the fort. The fort housed a school, a library, pharmacy, power house, chapel, officers, warehouses, workshops, a blacksmith shop, and the largest manufacturing facility west of the Rockies. Fully contained, behind the fort were fields of grains, an orchard and vegetable garden.

The Indians, of whom Dr. McLoughlin maintained a very good relationship, were not allowed inside the stockade and would conduct their trading through a porthole in the door. In 1829 a ship arrived from Boston, bringing with it a horrible fever which broke out amongst them. Dr. McLoughlin spent much of his own time tending to the ills of the stricken, but within four years over 30,000 Indians lay dead.

The fort flourished under the leadership of Dr. McLoughlin. With no military force, what-so-ever, he was able to maintain law and order by his own personality and by the cooperation of his officers and employees. There were no Indian wars in the Oregon Country until after his resignation.

He was very successful in maintaining relations with the Indians. He also doctored them when necessary. Diseases were worse among some tribes who frequently prostituted their own women, who then spread diseases. In 1833, two doctors, Merideth Gairdner and William Frazer Tolmie, arrived to take care of the sick. In 1840, Forbes Barclay came, replacing Tolmie. McLoughlin opened the first school west of the Rockies in 1832. John Ball was the teacher. McLoughlin's youngest child David attended this school. Solomon H. Smith took over for him in 1833.

McLoughlin read the church services himself until a regular minister arrived.

Reverend Herbert Beaver and wife Jane came in 1836 to do that duty. They were from England and were highly disdainful of the primitive conditions around them. They were bigoted in their religious views. Right away, they did not get along with John McLoughlin, especially after they insulted his half-breed wife. They did not want to associate with the Indians, who they'd been hired to teach. Fortunately, they left only two years later, unfit for frontier life, after causing much friction. They still tried to make trouble for McLoughlin, even after they returned to England. Father Francois Blanchet and Father Modeste Demers, Catholic priests came in November, 1838. Blanchet conducted the first Catholic services in Oregon on January 6, 1839. John wanted the natives to get religion, and one of the first things he taught them was the cruelty and indignity of slavery. During this time, John returned to Catholicism under which he had been baptized. He did not stop others from practicing their own religions, however. Captain Aemithius Simpson, a Hudson's Bay Company sailor, brought the infamous apple seeds about this time.

In 1841 Dr. John McLoughlin was knighted by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. However, by 1841, Simpson and McLoughlin were in complete disagreement about how the district should be run. Simpson and McLoughlin disagreed over the matter of establishing posts on the coasts and keeping ships in port. Dr. John did not want ships because of the unpredictability of ships crews and their harassment and problems with Indians. McLoughlin did not like Simpson's callous handling of his son's murder. Also, Simpson did not like the Yerba Buena idea, especially since it was sure to be US territory, south of the Columbia. At this time, his superiors realized the many settlers coming might result with the fort being on US soil. So McLoughlin was ordered to move everything to Vancouver Island and build a new fort there. This fort was called Adelaide, which eventually became the city of Victoria.

After his retirement in 1846, he took his wife, son David, daughter Eloisa and her three children to Oregon City. James Douglas took over for him at the fort. James Douglas came to the US at 16 in 1819 and was John's protege. He was apprenticed as a clerk for Hudson's Bay Company and was a long time friend of John McLoughlin's. He went on to Vancouver Island when Hudson's Bay moved there in 1849. In 1850, the old Ft. Vancouver became a military fort. Douglas eventually became governor of Vancouver Island.

Dr. McLoughlin paid $20,000 for the title of the land at Oregon City which he had claimed in 1829, on the companies behalf. He built a beautiful home near the falls and brought his wife, son David, daughter Eloisa and her three children to reside there, only to be met with hostility from his neighbors. A conspiracy to strip him of his claim began as soon as Oregon became a part of the United States in 1849. It was asserted that because John McLoughlin was a British subject, he was not entitled to the land claim. In hopes of solving the dispute, John immediately applied for US citizenship, but the dispute continued and he eventually lost. They did, however, allow him and his family to continue occupancy of the home.

He served as mayor of Oregon City in 1851, winning 44 of 66 votes. In 1850, he celebrated his first 4th of July. He built houses, sawmills, and gristmills providing employment for needy immigrants. He built a canal around the falls at his own expense. He gave away 300 lots of private and public use, including land given to a Catholic school, and Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Congregational churches. The Oregon City high school is on land given by John McLoughlin to a Protestant seminary. He also gave land for a city jail. In 1847, he was given the Knighthood of St. Gregory, bestowed own him by Pope Gregory. He died of old age on September 3, 1857.

After his death, future Oregon governor, L. F. Grover, fulfilled his promise to McLoughlin, and sponsored a legislative act that returned his Oregon City property to his heirs. John and Margaret were first buried at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church. They were moved July 4, 1948 to the site of the new church. On August 31, 1970, they moved again to a site between the McLoughlin House and the Barclay House. There are many memorials around the Pacific Northwest and even Canada, named for him, including streets, schools, buildings, and events.

In 1957 by Oregon Legislative Assembly, Dr. John McLoughlin was given the title, "The Father of Oregon."

Oregon House Joint Resolution No. 38

Whereas the year 1957 marks the centennial of the death of Dr. John McLoughlin, he having died at his home Oregon City on September 3, 1857; and

Whereas Dr. John McLoughlin came to the Northwest region in 1824 as a representative of the Hudson's Bay Company, and occupied the position of Chief Factor from 1825, when the regional headquarters of the company was moved from old Fort Astoria to Fort Vancouver, until his retirement in 1845; and

Whereas, in his capacity as Chief Factor, Dr. John McLoughlin directed the far-flung operations of the fur trade in all the country west of the Rocky Mountains and north of the California line, as well as the more localized activities of agriculture, livestock raising, sawmilling, flour milling, dairying and salmon fishing; and

Whereas, from 1825 until 1843, when the provisional government was first established by the settlers in the Willamette Valley, Dr. John McLoughlin was the undisputed governor of the vast area bounded by the Rocky Mountains on the east, Mexican territory (California) on the south, the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Russian settlements on the north; and

Whereas Dr. John McLoughlin exercised a paternal control over the Indians of the region, welcomed and provisioned missionaries and settlers, encouraged schools and church instruction and for a number of years was the only medical practitioner in the region; and

Whereas the many contributions of Dr. John McLoughlin to the development of the Northwest region in general and the Oregon country in particular make him truly deserving of the title by which he is often referred to, the "Father of Oregon"; now therefore,

Be It Resolved by the House of Representatives of the State of Oregon, the Senate jointly concurring:

That the Forty-ninth Legislative Assembly hereby officially confirms and bestows upon Dr. John McLoughlin the honorary title of "Father of Oregon" in recognition of his great contributions to the early development of the Oregon country and in commemoration of the centennial year of his death; and be it further

Resolved, That a copy of this resolution be suitably and prominently displayed in the Dr. McLoughlin Home located in Oregon City, Oregon.

Filed in the office of the Secretary of State May 17, 1957.

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