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John McLoughlin

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Physician and pioneer, born in the parish of La Riviere du Loup, Canada, 19 October, 1784; died at Oregon City, 3 September, 1857. He is the great hero of Oregon's pioneer period. His paternal grandfather was born in the parish of Desertegney, Ireland. He emigrated to Canada and married there and his son John was the father of Dr. John McLoughlin. The maiden name of the mother of the latter was Angelique Fraser, born in the parish of Beaumont, Canada. Her father was Malcom Fraser, a Scottish Highlander, who went to Canada in 1759 with the army of Wolfe. Dr. McLoughlin's father died while his son was a lad. He was brought up in the home of his maternal grandfather, and educated in Canada and Scotland. He became a physician while quite young, but did not practise long. He became a partner of North-West Company. When that company coalesced with the Hudson Bay Company in 1821, he was in charge of Fort William on Lake Superior, which was then the chief depot and factory of the North West Company . In 1824 Dr. McLouglin was sent to Fort Gerge [Astoria] near the mouth of the Columbia River. He soon moved the head-quarters of the company to Fort Vancouver, on the northern side of the Columbia River. There he ruled for twenty-two years as the absolute but kindly autocrat of what is known as the Oregon Country. He had no military force, but by his own personality and the aid of his officers and employees, he established order and maintained peace so that persons unaccompanied by escort could travel over the country without danger from formerly hostile Indians. There were no Indian wars in the Oregon Country until after he resigned from the Hudson Bay Company. The Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic missionaries he aided and protected, although at that time he was an Anglican. In 1842 he joined the Catholic Church, and became a devoted Catholic, being created a Knight of St. Gregory in 1846. In 1843 the first of the Oregon home-building immigrants arrived in Oregon. Dr. McLouglin fed and clothed them and cared for sick; he supplied them with seed and farming implement, and loaned them domestic animals. He gave similar assistance to the immigrants of 1844 and 1845. As he furnished most of this aid on credit and did not discourage the settlement of Oregon by citizens of the United States, he was forced to resign by the Hudson Bay Company in 1846. For the rest of his life he resided at Oregon City. Prior to 1840 he had taken up a land claim, but there was no legal way to acquire ownership of land in Oregon before the Oregon land law of 27 September, 1850. This land claim was at Oregon City, which he founded and named, where there is a fine water power. He developed this power, and erected flour and saw mills which he personally operated. It was asserted that as he was a Bristish subject, he was not entitled to take up a land claim. But this was merely a pretext, for until 1846, when the treaty between the United States and Great Britain settled the ownership of the Oregon Country by the Americans and Btitish, both having equal rights. Some of the Methodist missionaries and their followers all of whom had been befriended by Dr. McLoughlin — started this action against him. It was continued until in the donation land law a section was inserted which deprived him of his land claim, and gave it to the territory of Oregon for the establishment and endowment of a university. It was restored to his heirs by the legislature of Oregon five years after his death. The effect of this law was that Dr. McLoughlin lost nearly all of the large fortune which he had accumulated. He died a broken-hearted man, the victim of mendacity, and ingratitude. He was buried in the churchyard of St. John's Catholic church in Oregon City, where his body has lain ever since. By common consent he has become known as the Father of Oregon.

About this page

APA citation. Holman, F. (1910). John McLoughlin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Holman, Frederick. "John McLoughlin." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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