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Dr. John McLoughlin
Early American Traders and Travellers


In 1832 Nathaniel J. Wyeth of Cambridge, Massachusetts, came overland with a small party, expecting to meet in the Columbia River, a vessel with supplies, to compete with the Hudson's Bay Company. The vessel was wrecked in the South Pacific Ocean. She and the cargo were a total loss. This party arrived at Fort Vancouver in a destitute condition. Although Dr. McLoughlin knew they came as competing traders, he welcomed them cordially, supplied their necessities on their credit, and gave Wyeth a seat at his own table. In Wyeth's Journal of this expedition he says, under date of October 29, 1832: "Arrived at the fort of Vancouver. . . . Here I was received with the utmost kindness and hospitality by Dr. McLoughlin, the acting Governor of the place. . . . Our people were supplied with food and shelter. . . . I find Dr. McLoughlin a fine old gentleman, truly philanthropic in his ideas. . The gentlemen of this Company do much credit to their country by their education, deportment, and talents. . . . The Company seem disposed to render me all the assistance they can." Wyeth was most hospitably entertained by Dr. McLoughlin until February 3, 1833, when Wyeth left Vancouver for his home overland. He was accompanied by three of his men, the others staying at Fort Vancouver. In his Journal under date February 3, 1833, he says: "I parted with feelings of sorrow from the gentlemen of Fort- Vancouver. Their unremitting kindness to me while there much endeared them to me, more so than would seem possible during so short a time. Dr. McLoughlin, the Governor of the place, is a man distinguished as much for his kindness and humanity as his good sense and information; and to whom I am so much indebted as that he will never be forgotten by me." Dr. McLoughlin assisted the men of Wyeth's expedition who stayed, to join the Willamette settlement. He furnished them seed and supplies and agreed that they would be paid the same price for their wheat as was paid to the French Canadian settlers, i.e., three shillings, sterling, per bushel, and that they could purchase their supplies from the Hudson's Bay Company at fifty per cent, advance on prime London cost. This is said to have been equivalent to paying one dollar and twenty-five cents a bushel for wheat, with supplies at customary prices.

In 1834 Wyeth again came overland to the Columbia River with a large party. On the way he established Fort Hall (now in Idaho) in direct opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company, as he had a perfect right to do. He and his party arrived at Fort Vancouver September 14, 1834, and were hospitably received by Dr. McLoughlin and the other gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company. In Wyeth's Journal of his second expedition he says, under date of September 14, 1834: "Arrived at Vancouver, where I found Dr. McLoughlin in charge, who received us in his usual manner. He has here power, and uses it as a man should, to make those about him, and those who come in contact with him, comfortable and happy." The brig May Dacre, with Wyeth's supplies, was then in the Columbia River. Immediately on his arrival, Wyeth started in active competition with the Hudson's Bay Company. He established a post, which he named Fort William, on Wappatoo Island (now Sauvie's Island). He forwarded supplies and men to Fort Hall. It was the beginning of a commercial war between the two companies, but it was a warfare on honorable lines. In the end Wyeth was beaten by Dr. McLoughlin, and sold out his entire establishment to the Hudson's Bay Company. While Dr. McLoughlin was personally courteous to Wyeth and his employees, he did not and would not be false or untrue to the business interests of the Hudson's Bay Company. For Dr. McLoughlin to have acted otherwise than he did, would have shown him to be unfit to hold his position as Chief Factor. Wyeth was too big, and too capable a man not to understand this. In his Journal, under date of September 31, 1834, (he evidently forgot that September has but thirty days) he says: "From this time until the 13th Oct. making preparations for a campaign into the Snake country and arrived on the 13th at Vancouver and was received with great attention by all there." And under date of February 12, 1835, he says: "In the morning made to Vancouver and found there a polite reception." Wyeth was a man of great ability, enterprise, and courage. His expeditions deserved better fates. He was a high-minded gentleman. Although his two expeditions were failures, he showed his countrymen the way to Oregon, which many shortly followed.

In the McLoughlin Document he says: "In justice to Mr. Wyeth I have great pleasure to be able to state that as a rival in trade, I found him open, manly, frank, and fair. And, in short, in all his contracts, a perfect gentleman and an honest man, doing all he could to support morality and encouraging industry in the settlement." It is pleasing to know that after all his hardships and misfortunes Wyeth established a business for the exportation of ice from Boston to Calcutta, which was a great financial success.

Rev. H. K. Hines, D.D., was a Methodist minister who came to Oregon in 1853. He was a brother of Rev. Gustavus Hines, the Methodist missionary, who came to Oregon in 1840, on the ship Lausanne. December 10, 1897, at Pendleton, Oregon, Rev. Dr. Hines delivered one of the finest tributes to Dr. McLoughlin that I know of. He was fully capable to do it, for he was a profound and scholarly student of Oregon history, and personally knew Dr. McLoughlin. His address should be read by everyone. In his address Rev. Dr. Hines said, speaking in regard to the failure of the enterprises of Wyeth, Bonneville, and other fur traders in opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company: "My own conclusion, after a lengthy and laborious investigation, the result I have given here in bare outlines, is that Dr. McLoughlin acted the part only of an honorable, high-minded, and loyal man in his relation with the American traders who ventured to dispute with him the commercial dominion of Oregon up to 1835 or 1837-" When Wyeth left Oregon in 1835, he left on the Columbia River a number of men. These, too, were assisted by Dr. McLoughlin to join the Willamette River settlements. They were given the same terms as to prices of wheat and on supplies as he had given to the French Canadian, and to the other American settlers. In assisting these men whom Wyeth left on his two expeditions, Dr. McLoughlin was actuated by two motives. The first was humanitarian; the second was the desirability, if not necessity, of not having men, little accustomed to think or to plan for themselves, roaming the country, and possibly, some of them, becoming vagabonds. It was liable to be dangerous for white men to join Indian tribes and become leaders. With great wisdom and humanity he made them settlers, which gave them every inducement to be industrious and to be law abiding.

John K. Townsend, the naturalist, accompanied by Nuttall, the botanist, crossed the plains in 1834 with Captain Wyeth. In 1839 Townsend published a book entitled, "Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains," etc. On page 169 he says: "On the beach in front of the fort, we were met by Mr. Lee, the missionary, and Dr. John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor, and Governor of the Hudson's Bay posts in this vicinity. The Dr. is a large, dignified and very noble looking m'an, with a fine expressive countenance, and remarkably bland and pleasing manners. The Missionary introduced Mr. N. [Nuttall] and myself in due form, and we were greeted and received with a frank and unassuming politeness which was most peculiarly grateful to our feelings. He requested us to consider his house our home, provided a separate room for our use, a servant to wait upon us, and furnished us with every convenience which we could possibly wish for. I shall never cease to feel grateful to him for his disinterested kindness to the poor, houseless, and travel-worn strangers." And on page 263 he said: "I took leave of Doctor McLoughlin with feelings akin to those with which I should bid adieu to an affectionate parent; and to his fervent, 'God bless you, sir, and may you have a happy meeting with your friends,' I could only reply by a look of the sincerest gratitude. Words are inadequate to express my deep sense of the obligations which I feel under to this truly generous and excellent man, and I fear I can only repay them by the sincerity with which I shall always cherish the recollection of his kindness, and the ardent prayers I shall breathe for his prosperity and happiness." The only persons who were not cordially received by Dr. McLoughlin were Ewing Young and Hall J. Kelley, who came to Fort Vancouver in October, 1834, from California. Gov. Figueroa, the Governor of California, had written Dr. McLoughlin that Young and Kelley had stolen horses from settlers in California. Dr. McLoughlin told them of the charges, and that he would have nothing to do with them until the information was shown to be false. This was not done until long afterwards, when it was shown that neither Young nor Kelley was guilty, but that some of their party, with which they started to Oregon, were guilty, and were disreputable characters, which Young and Kelley knew. The stand taken by Dr. McLoughlin was the only proper one. He had official information from California. Fort Vancouver was not an asylum for horse thieves. Nevertheless, as Kelley was sick, Dr. McLoughlin provided Kelley with a house, such as was occupied by the servants of the Company, outside the fort, furnished him with an attendant, and supplied him with medical aid and all necessary comforts until March, 1835, when Dr. McLoughlin gave Kelley free passage to the Hawaiian Islands on the Hudson's Bay Company's vessel, the Dryad, and also presented Kelley with a draft for seven pounds sterling, payable at the Hawaiian Islands. On his return home, Kelley, instead of being grateful, most vigorously attacked the Hudson's Bay Company for its alleged abuses of American citizens, and abused Dr. McLoughlin and falsely stated that Dr. McLoughlin had been so alarmed with the dread that Kelley would destroy the Hudson's Bay Company's trade that Dr. McLoughlin had kept a constant watch over Kelley.

Kelley was a Boston school teacher who became an Oregon enthusiast. From the year 1815, when he was twenty-six years of age, for many years, he wrote and published pamphlets and also a few books on Oregon and its advantages as a country to live in. He originated a scheme to send a colony to Oregon; to build a city on the east side of the Willamette River, at its junction with the Columbia River; and to build another city on the north side of the Columbia River, nearly opposite Tongue Point. His efforts resulted in immediate failures. He died a disappointed man. Young was a type of /man who was often successful in the Far West. He was forceful and self-reliant, but often reckless, and sometimes careless of appearances. He was so accustomed to meet emergencies successfully that he did not always consider what others might think of him and of the methods he sometimes felt compelled to adopt. He had been robbed in California of a large amount of furs and had not been fairly treated by the representatives of the Mexican Government in California. While Young was an adventurer, he was a man of ability and became a leading resident of early Oregon. The relations of Dr. McLoughlin and Ewing Young finally became quite amicable, for Dr. McLoughlin learned of and respected Young's good and manly qualities.


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