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John McLoughlin

john mcloughlin, john mcloughlin world trade center
Dr John McLoughlin, baptized Jean-Baptiste McLoughlin, October 19, 1784 – September 3, 1857 was a French-Canadian, later American, Chief Factor and Superintendent of the Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver from 1824 to 1845 He was later known as the "Father of Oregon" for his role in assisting the American cause in the Oregon Country in the Pacific Northwest In the late 1840s his general store in Oregon City was famous as the last stop on the Oregon Trail


  • 1 Childhood
  • 2 North West Company
  • 3 Hudson's Bay Company
    • 31 Fort Vancouver
    • 32 York Factory Express
    • 33 Pugets Sound Agricultural Company
    • 34 Japanese shipwreck
  • 4 Relations with American settlers
    • 41 Pressure over Pacific Northwest
  • 5 Personal life
  • 6 Later life in the Oregon Territory
  • 7 Legacy
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Citations
  • 10 Bibliography
  • 11 Further reading
  • 12 External links


McLoughlin was born on October 1784 in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec,1 of Irish his grandfather came from Sharagore Desertegny in the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal, Scottish, and French Canadian descent He lived with his great uncle, Colonel William Fraser, for a while as a child2 Though baptized Roman Catholic, he was raised Anglican and in his later life he returned to the Roman Catholic faith In 1798, he began to study medicine under Sir James Fisher of Quebec1

North West Companyedit

Main article: North West Company

In 1803, McLoughlin was granted a license to practice medicine in Lower Canada1 He was then hired as a physician at Fort William, a fur-gathering post of the North West Company on Lake Superior; there he became a trader and mastered several Indian languages In 1814 he became a partner in the company

In 1816 McLoughlin was charged with complicity in the massacre at the Red River Colony after the Battle of Seven Oaks but was acquitted when tried on October 30, 181813 McLoughlin was instrumental in the negotiations leading to the North West Company's 1821 merger with the Hudson's Bay Company He was promoted to head the Lac la Pluie district temporarily shortly after the merger

Hudson's Bay Companyedit

Main articles: Columbia Department and Hudson's Bay Company John McLoughlin John McLoughlin, National Statuary Hall Collection, statue

In 1824 the Hudson's Bay Company appointed McLoughlin, already a Chief Factor, Superintendent of the Columbia Department roughly parallel to what Americans know as the Oregon Country, with Peter Skene Ogden appointed to assist him At the time, the region was under joint occupation of both the United States and Britain pursuant to the Treaty of 1818 Upon his arrival, he determined that the headquarters of the company at Fort Astoria now Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River was unfit The York Factory Express trade route evolved from an earlier express brigade used by the North West Company between Fort George originally Fort Astoria founded in 1811 by John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, at the mouth of the Columbia River, to Fort William on Lake Superior

In the 1821 merger with the North West Company, the Hudson's Bay Company gained control of NWC trading posts west of the Rocky Mountains, with headquarters at Fort George formerly Astoria4 George Simpson, Governor of Hudson's Bay Company, visited the Columbia District in 1824-25, journeying from York Factory He investigated a quicker route than previously used, following the Saskatchewan River and crossing the mountains at Athabasca Pass This route was thereafter followed by the York Factory Express brigades

Fort Vancouveredit

Main article: Fort Vancouver

McLoughlin built Fort Vancouver now Vancouver, Washington as a replacement for Fort George, on the north side of the Columbia across from the mouth of the Willamette River, at a site chosen by Sir George Simpson The post was opened for business on March 19, 1825 From his Columbia Department headquarters in Fort Vancouver he supervised trade and kept peace with the Indians, inaugurated salmon and timber trade with Mexican controlled California and Hawaii, and supplied Russian America with produce

Fort Vancouver became the center of activity in the Pacific Northwest Every year ships would come from London to drop off supplies and trade goods in exchange for the furs It was the nexus for the fur trade on the Pacific Coast; its influence reached from the Rocky Mountains to the Hawaiian Islands, and from Russian Alaska into Mexican-controlled California From Fort Vancouver, at its pinnacle, McLoughlin watched over 34 outposts, 24 ports, six ships, and 600 employees Under McLoughlin's management, the Columbia Department remained highly profitable, in part due to the ongoing high demand for beaver hats in Europe

York Factory Expressedit

Main article: York Factory Express

By 1825 there were usually two brigades, each setting out from opposite ends of the route, Fort Vancouver in the Columbia District on the lower Columbia River and the other from York Factory on Hudson Bay, in spring and passing each other in the middle of the continent Each brigade consisted of about forty to seventy five men and two to five specially made boats and travelled at breakneck speed for the time Indians along the way were often paid in trade goods to help them portage around falls and unnavigable rapids An 1839 report cites the travel time as three months and ten days—almost 26 miles 40 km per day on average These men carried supplies in and furs out by boat, horseback and as back packs for the forts and trading posts along the route They also carried status reports for supplies needed, furs traded etc From Dr John McLoughlin head of the Oregon Country HBC operations, and the other fort managers along the routecitation needed

Pugets Sound Agricultural Companyedit

Main article: Pugets Sound Agricultural Company

The Hudson Bay Company officially discouraged settlement because it interfered with the lucrative fur trade Two developments in the late 1830s made a reappraisal of HBC operations in the Columbia Department necessary Apprehensions about American antagonism rose due to US Senator Lewis F Linn, who in 1838 called for a naval force be dispatched to the Columbia River, although the measure never passed Favorable relations with the Russian-American Company RAC were established with the signing of the RAC-HBC Agreement in 1839

To meet the new commercial obligations and to support British claims in the Oregon Question, the HBC formally incorporated the Puget Sound Agricultural Company PSAC subsidiary in 1840 The new venture, while nominally independent, was administratively included within the Columbia Department McLoughlin criticized the idea of a fur trading monopoly maintaining agricultural operations, as he felt independent farmers would be efficient5 Nonetheless, he was appointed as the PSAC supervisor

The fertile plains near the Cowlitz River were selected for as suitable location for Cowlitz Farm, the principal PSAC farm Fort Nisqually was also assigned to the PSAC, where numerous livestock herds were maintained Several locations were considered for potential farmers, including among the French-Canadian and Métis farmers of the Willamette Valley,6 Scotland,7 and the Red River colony8

In November 1839 Sir George Simpson instructed Duncan Finlayson to begin promoting the PSAC among the Red River colonists8 James Sinclair was appointed by Duncan Finlayson to guide the mostly Métis settler families to Fort Vancouver9 In June 1841, the party left Fort Garry with 23 families consisting of 121 people10 When they arrived at Fort Vancouver, they numbered 21 families of 116 people9 Fourteen of them were relocated to Fort Nisqually, while the remaining seven families were sent to Fort Cowlitz11

Japanese shipwreckedit

Main article: Otokichi

When three Japanese sailors, among them Otokichi, were shipwrecked on the Olympic Peninsula in 1834, McLoughlin, envisioning an opportunity to use them to open trade with Japan, sent the trio to London on the Eagle to try to convince the Crown of his plan12 They reached London in 1835, probably the first Japanese to do so since the 16th century Christopher and Cosmas The British Government finally did not show interest, and the castaways were sent to Macau so that they could be returned to Japan, but that was not possible as Japan was closed to most outsiders at the time

Relations with American settlersedit

In 1821 the British Parliament imposed the laws of Upper Canada on British subjects in Columbia District, and gave the authority to enforce those laws to the Hudson's Bay Company John McLoughlin, as Superintendent of Fort Vancouver, applied the law to British subjects, kept peace with the natives and sought to maintain law and order over American settlers as well

In 1828, McLoughlin was in charge at Fort Vancouver when American explorer Jedediah Smith and three other survivors arrived following the massacre of fifteen members of his exploring party by Umpqua people, who lived to the south in Oregon

In the early 1840s, with the arrival of the first wagon trains via the Oregon Trail, McLoughlin disobeyed company orders and extended substantial aid to the American settlers Relations between Britain and the United States had become very strained, and many expected war to break out any time McLoughlin's aid probably prevented an armed attack on his outpost by the numerous American settlers The settlers understood that his motives were not purely altruistic, and some resented the assistance, working against him for the rest of his life

Pressure over Pacific Northwestedit

As tensions mounted in the Oregon boundary dispute; Simpson, realizing that border might ultimately be as far north as the 49th parallel, ordered McLoughlin to relocate their regional headquarters to Vancouver Island McLoughlin, in turn, directed James Douglas to construct Fort Camosun now Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1843 But McLoughlin, whose life was increasingly connected to the Willamette River Valley, refused to move there

McLoughlin was involved with the debate over the future of the Oregon Country13 He advocated an independent nation that would be free of the United States during debates at the Oregon Lyceum in 1842 through his lawyer13 This view won support at first and a resolution adopted, but was later moved away from in favor of a resolution by George Abernethy of the Methodist Mission to wait on forming an independent country13

In 1843 American settlers established their own government, called the Provisional Government of Oregon A legislative committee drafted a code of laws known as the Organic Law It included the creation of an executive committee of three, a judiciary, militia, land laws, and four counties There was vagueness and confusion over the nature of the 1843 Organic Law, in particular whether it was a constitutional or statutory In 1844 a new legislative committee decided to consider it statutory The 1845 Organic Law made additional changes, including allowing the participation of British subjects in the government Although the Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled the boundaries of US jurisdiction upon all lands south of the 49th parallel, the Provisional Government continued to function until 1849, when the first governor of Oregon Territory arrived

Personal lifeedit

McLoughlin's appearance, 6 foot 4 inches 193 cm tall with long, prematurely white hair, brought him respect; but he was also generally known for his fair treatment of the people with whom he dealt, whether they were British subjects, US citizens, or of indigenous origin At the time, the wives of many Hudson's Bay field employees were indigenous, including McLoughlin's wife Marguerite; who was metis, the daughter of an aboriginal woman and one of the original partners of the North West Company, Jean-Étienne Waddens She was the widow of Alexander McKay, a trader killed in the Tonquin incident Her son Thomas became McLoughlin's stepson14

John McLoughlin lost one son to a violent death John McLoughlin, Jr had been appointed the second Clerk in Charge at Fort Stikine, only to die in April 1842 at the hands of one of the fort employees, Urbain Heroux, who was charged with his murder but acquitted for lack of evidence, which added to the grievances John Sr held against the Company In 2015, Goose Lane Editions published The Bastard of Fort Stikine, a historical look at McLoughlin, Jr's violent death, by forensic anthropologist and author Debra Komar

Later life in the Oregon Territoryedit

After resigning from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846, McLoughlin moved his family back south to Oregon City in the Willamette Valley The Oregon Treaty had been ratified by that time, and the region, now known as the Oregon Territory, was part of the United States The valley was the destination of choice for settlers streaming in over the Oregon Trail At his Oregon City store he sold food and farming tools to settlers

In 1847, McLoughlin was given the Knighthood of St Gregory, bestowed on him by Pope Gregory XVI He became a US citizen in 1849 McLoughlin's opponents succeeded in inserting a clause forfeiting his land claim in the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 by Samuel R Thurston Although it was never enforced, it embittered the elderly McLoughlin He served as mayor of Oregon City in 1851, winning 44 of 66 votes He died of natural causes in 1857 His grave is now located beside his home overlooking downtown Oregon City15


In 1953, the state of Oregon donated to the National Statuary Hall Collection a bronze statue of McLoughlin, which is currently displayed at the Capitol Visitor Center The title "Father of Oregon" was officially bestowed on him by the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1957, on the centennial of his death Many public works in Oregon are named after him, including:

  • The John McLoughlin Bridge
  • McLoughlin Boulevard, the street name of Oregon Route 99E between Oregon City and Portland
  • Numerous schools

McLoughlin's former residence in Oregon City, now known as the McLoughlin House, is today a museum; it is part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

See alsoedit

  • Dr John McLoughlin sculpture by Alexander Phimister Proctor
  • James Douglas
  • Jason Lee
  • Marcus Whitman
  • Narcissa Whitman
  • Willamette Cattle Company


  1. ^ a b c d Lamb 2016a
  2. ^ "John McLoughlin, Reluctant Fur Trader on JSTOR" PDF wwwjstororg Retrieved 2017-01-26 
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Canadiana, Volume 6 Toronto, ON: Grolier Limited 1970 pp 292–293 
  4. ^ Red River Settlement The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed Columbia University Press 2007 
  5. ^ Galbraith 1954, p 241
  6. ^ Galbraith 1954, p 247
  7. ^ Galbraith 1954, p 249
  8. ^ a b Galbraith 1954, p 252
  9. ^ a b Galbraith 1954, p 254
  10. ^ Simpson 1847, p 62
  11. ^ Galbraith 1954, pp 254-255
  12. ^ Brook, Marisa "Otokichi's Long Trip Home" wwwdamninterestingcom Retrieved 9 September 2013 
  13. ^ a b c Hines, Joseph Wilkinson "CHAPTER VIII The Provisional Government" Touching incidents in the life and labors of a pioneer on the Pacific coast since 1853 Library of Congress Retrieved 2007-02-11 
  14. ^ Corning, Howard M 1989 Dictionary of Oregon History Binfords & Mort Publishing p 161
  15. ^ Egan, Timothy 1990 The Good Rain Vintage Departures p 184 


  • Galbraith, John S 1954, "The Early History of the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company, 1838-43", Oregon Historical Quarterly, Oregon Historical Society, 55 3: 234–259 
  • Lamb, W Kaye 2016a, Biography – McLOUGHLIN, JOHN, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, VIII, retrieved 2016-06-27 
  • Simpson, George 1847, An Overland Journey Round the World, during the Years 1841 and 1842, Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard 

Further readingedit

  • Barker, Burt Brown, ed 1948, Letters of Dr John McLoughlin, Written at Fort Vancouver 1829-1832, Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort 
  • Alberta Brooks Fogdall, Royal Family of the Columbia Dr John McLoughlin and His Family Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1978
  • Eloise McLoughlin and Daniel Harvey, Life of John McLoughlin Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company Possessions on the Pacific Slope, at Fort Vancouver 1878
  • Eva Emery Dye, McLoughlin and Old Oregon A Chronicle Chicago: AC McClurg, 1900
  • AS Marquis, Dr John McLoughlin The Great White Eagle Toronto, ON: Ryerson Press, 1929
  • Lamb, W Kaye 2016b, John McLoughlin, The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved 2016-06-27 
  • John Minto, What I Know of Dr McLoughlin and How I Know It Oregon Historical Quarterly, 1911
  • Richard Gill Montgomery, The White-Headed Eagle, John McLoughlin, Builder of an Empire New York: Macmillan, 1934
  • E E Rich, ed The Letters of John McLoughlin from Fort Vancouver to the Governor and Committee, 1825-44 Toronto: Champlain Society Publications, 1941
  • Dorothy N Morrison, Outpost: John McLoughlin and the Far Northwest Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 2005
  • Sampson, William R, ed 1973, John McLoughlin's Business Correspondence, 1847-48, Seattle: University of Washington Press 

External linksedit

  • Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  • Notable Oregonians: John McLoughlin - Father of Oregon
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • McLoughlin House National Historic Site
  • NSHC biography of John McLoughlin
  • Dr John McLoughlin: the father of Oregon by Frederick Van Voorhies Holman
  •  Herbermann, Charles, ed 1913 "John McLoughlin" Catholic Encyclopedia New York: Robert Appleton Company 
  • The Letters of John McLoughlin from Fort Vancouver to the Governor and Committee: 1825-46 1

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