Oregon Focus: People to Know: John McLoughlin

About John McLoughlin

photograph of John McLoughlin
John McLoughlin. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
The 1957 legislature bestowed upon Dr. John McLoughlin the honorary title of "Father of Oregon" in recognition of his great accomplishments to the early development of the Oregon Country.
McLoughlin was a tall, imposing man trained as a physician. When the Northwest Fur Company united with the Hudson's Bay Company, he was put in charge of the Columbia (River) Region. He arrived in the area in 1824, and when Fort Vancouver was completed in 1825, he made it the headquarters for the entire district. This included all of Oregon Country -- a vast area at the time jointly held by the United States and Great Britain. From here he directed the far-flung operations of the fur trade until his resignation in 1846.
He was known to the Native Americans as the "White-Headed Eagle." He dealt strictly but justly with the Native Americans, as witnessed by the fact that there was no serious disturbance in all his territory during more than 20 years of his nominal control.
Although it was in the interests of his fur company to keep the land sparsely populated, McLoughlin sympathized with the early settlers. He treated them generously, allowing missionaries to settle and giving early pioneers the seeds, food, and help they needed after the long, hard trip from the East.
Because of his despair with the failure of Britain to colonize this area, he resigned his position with the Hudson's Bay Company. After the territory became American property, he became and American citizen in 1848 and settled in Oregon City where he set up a store.

Celilo Falls fishing wall mural  
Dr. John McLoughlin welcomes the first women to cross the continent by covered wagon in 1836.
His house in Oregon City was built in 1846, a two-story house on Upper Main Street. In 1909 it was moved to a park that McLoughlin dedicated when Oregon City was first planned. It is now a museum and national site that contains many items that were used by the McLoughlins.
McLoughlin was married twice and had four children. He died in 1857. A statue of McLoughlin is on the Capitol grounds in Salem and his picture is a focal point of one of the large murals inside the Capitol rotunda.
Also see a Notable Oregonian description for John McLoughlin.

Suggestions for Teachers

McLoughlin's two-story house
The McLoughlin House in Oregon City. John McLoughlin has been called the "father of Oregon" for his role in the early 1800s history of the area. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
Ask students to:
Discuss why McLoughlin was named "Father of Oregon" by the legislature.
Draw a portrait of McLoughlin (show them a picture of him and describe his as stern-looking).
Draw pictures of him helping Native Americans and settlers.
Dramatize his life as Oregon's first doctor.
Find out about medical tools and methods available at the time.
Take a field trip to Fort Vancouver to see his base of operations or to his house in Oregon City to see how he lived after moving there.
Discuss fur trading, seals, beavers, and how beaver hats were in style in England at that time.
Dramatize an incident at the Hudson's Bay Trading Post when a group of Native Americans bring in fur pelts to trade.
Learn what it was like for a new family to arrive in Oregon after the long overland journey. How would they feel after traveling so far? How would they get the food and supplies they needed to survive the long winter?
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