John McLoughlin

John McLoughlin

John McLoughlin was born in Quebec on 19th October, 1784. He was educated as a physician but became involved in the fur trade. He worked for the North West Fur Company and when it was merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821 he was placed in charge of Fort William on Lake Superior.

In 1824 McLoughlin became chief factor for the Hudson Bay Company and supervisor of the Columbia District. He was originally based in Fort George but was later moved to Fort Vancouver. This now became the administrative headquarters and main supply depot for the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trading operations. McLoughlin was responsible for shipping our furs valued at up to $150,000 a year.

In the late 1830s Fort Vancouver became the terminus of the Oregon Trail. When American immigrants arrived in the Oregon Country during the 1830s and 1840s, and despite the instructions from the Hudson's Bay Company that the fort should not help Americans, he provided them with essential supplies to begin their new settlements. This included tools, seeds, wood, cattle and food. Much of this was on credit and by 1844 McLoughlin had spent $31,000 of the company's money on 400 settlers.

McLoughlin, who was 6 feet, 6 inches, in height, married a half-breed Native American woman. The couple had four children, including Joseph McLoughlin, a well known mountain man.

When McLoughlin retired from the Hudson's Bay Trading Company he became an American citizen in Oregon City. To local people he was rightly called the "father of Oregon".

John McLoughlin died in Oregon City on 3rd September, 1857.

Primary Sources

(1) John McLoughlin, letter to the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company (20th November, 1844)

The American Immigrants who came last Year set to work with great industry. One of them from the time he came last Autumn to this Spring put in a hundred bushels wheat in the ground. In general, they say the soil of this country is not so fertile as that of the Missouri from whence most of them come; that the Missouri soil will produce much finer Indian corn, but that this gives finer wheat. About a dozen are gone back to the States, as this country does not come up to their expectation, and some for the same reason are gone to California. However this country, at least that part of it best adapted to cultivation, such as the Valley of the Wallamette on the South side of the Columbia we may consider as in a fair way of being settled, and it is certain that an influx of settlers will cause a great increase of business in the place, and which we can in the main secure, if we have the means of supplying their wants. This year the immigration from the States is said to be about a thousand, the first of them reached the Wallamette on the 10th October. Among the party are lawyers, medical men, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian Ministers, and four Jesuits.