An Eventful Second Career

Interior and exterior of McLoughlin houseInterior of McLoughlin house

pon retirement from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1846, McLoughlin moved into the Oregon City house pictured here. 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."

McLoughlin attempted to defend his holdings and influence as the petition shown below illustrates. The response of the Legislative Assembly was cold:


Text of McLoughlin's Petition to Vote

[A: Text of McLoughlin's Petition to Vote]

Oregon City 4th May 1850

To A J Lovejoy, Horace Baker, Wm Burk

Judges of Election for the Precinct of Oregon City Clackamas County Oregon Territory

Gentleman

I hereby offer to be at the Election over which you preside for George L Curry to be a member of the House of representatives to Represent Clackamas County and as you are Judges of the qualification of voters I will state that I am a free white male Inhabitant above the age of twenty one years and was on the 14th day of Aug 1848 and for a long time previously had been such inhabitant that I declared my intention of becoming a citizen of the United States at the Earliest moment possible to do so after the Extension of the Laws of that Government over Oregon and further that I have taken an Oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of the Organic Law of this Territory.

These qualifications I am ready to verify as you may direct.

You will please therefore give me definite answer allowing my vote or denying me the right.

Respectfully yours

John McLoughlin

Response of the Legislative Assembly

 

[B: Response of the Legislative Assembly]

John McLoughlin Esq

Sir

In answer to your communication, your vote was rejected because the Law of the Territorial assembly prohibits you the right of voting.

Horace Baker

Wm. Burk


Apparently soon after his death the members of the Legislative Assembly were remorseful over their treatment of McLoughlin. They passed the following undated resolution of thanks:

Text of Resolution of Thanks to Dr. McLoughlin for Help to the Early Settlers[Text of Resolution of Thanks to Dr. McLoughlin for Help to the Early Settlers]

Whereas The Acts of Dr. John McLoughlin in regard to his treatment of the early settlers of Oregon, has, as we believe, been misrepresented,

Therefore,

Resolved, That the generous conduct of Dr. John McLoughlin, in assisting the early settlers of Oregon, merits our warmest commendation; and that, as evidence of the high estimation in which his services are held by his fellow citizens, the thanks of this assembly be tendered to said Dr. John McLoughlin.

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