John McLoughlin's Eventful Second Career

Two story house of John McLoughlin.
The McLoughlin House in Oregon City can be access by guided tour. Learn more at mcloughlinhouse.org.
Upon 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, he didn't take part in politics. But, he couldn't avoid the political storm forming over his land. The dispute originated in 1829 when McLoughlin first claimed land. By 1842 he had platted out and named the town of Oregon City. Several politically strong opponents sought to gain title to his valuable property near 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. 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

Image of letter from John McLoughlin transcribed to right.
McLoughlin's petition to vote. Transcript to right. Enlarge image >
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

Legislative Assembly Response

Letter of Legislative Assembly response to McLoughlin transcribed at right.
Response of the Legislative Assembly. Transcript to right. Enlarge image >
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


Thanks to McLoughlin

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:

Letter of thanks to McLoughlin. Transcription of letter to right.
Resolution of thanks to Dr. McLoughlin. Transcription to right. Enlarge image >
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.