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Dr. John McLoughlin
Immigration of 1844


The immigration of 1844 was composed of about fourteen hundred persons. They suffered many hardships and many lost all, or a part of, their cattle, clothing, and goods. Most of these immigrants arrived late in the season. Snow began to fall before all arrived at their destinations. Boats were supplied free, and provisions, cattle, and seed-wheat were furnished them on credit by Dr. McLoughlin, as he had the immigrants of 1843. The supplies in Oregon had been nearly exhausted by the immigration of 1843, although Dr. McLoughlin had urged the raising of grain and other supplies in anticipation of the coming of the immigration of 1844. The available supply of clothing at Fort Vancouver had been practically exhausted before the arrival of the immigration of 1844.

John Minto, who is still living in Oregon, was one of the immigrants of 1844. In his address presenting to the State of Oregon the portrait of Dr. John McLoughlin, which now hangs in the Senate Chamber, he said: "To the assistance given to the Immigrants of 1843, as described by Col. Nesmith, I can add as an eyewitness, that those of 1844 received the loan of boats in which to descend the Columbia River from The Dalles (there being no road across the Cascades [mountains]) ; the hungry were fed, the sick cared for and nursed, and, not the least, was the fact that many of the employees of the Hudson's Bay Company followed the good Doctor in their treatment of the Americans. Especially was this the case in the settlement of retired Canadians who almost worshipped him."

Joseph Watt, the well-known enterprising pioneer of 1844, who largely assisted in starting the first woolen mill in Oregon, in 1857, in his "Recollections of Dr. John McLoughlin," published in the Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association of 1886 said (pages 24 and 25) : "On the 13th of November, 1844, a company of immigrants landed at Fort Vancouver, brought there on a bateau commanded by Joseph Hess, an immigrant of '43. The boat belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company. Mr. Hess was entrusted with the boat for the purpose of bringing immigrants down the river. We had eaten the last of our provisions at our last camp, and were told by Hess that we could get plenty at the fort, with or without money;-that the old Doctor never turned people away hungry. This made us feel quite comfortable, for there was not a dollar among us. As near as I can remember the company consisted of sixteen men, five women and four children. . . . We were the first to arrive. . . . We soon found the Doctor in a small room he called his office. . . . He spoke of our being so late, and feared there would be considerable suffering before they could all be taken down the river, but should do all in his power until they reached their destination.

"We then made known to him our wants. We were all out of provisions. There was a small table in one corner of the room, at which he took a seat, and directed us to stand in a line - (there being so many of us the line reached nearly around the room) - and then told us the year before, and in fact previous years, he had furnished the people with all the provisions and clothing they wanted, but lately had established a trading house at Oregon City, where we could get supplies; but for immediate necessity he would supply provisions at the fort. Several of our party broke in, saying: 'Doctor, I have no money to pay you, and I don't know when or how I can pay you.' 'Tut, tut, never mind that; you can't suffer,' said the Doctor. He then commenced at the head man saying, 'Your name, if you please; how many in the family, and what do you desire?' Upon receiving an answer, the Doctor wrote an order, directing him where to go to have it filled; then called up the next man, and so on until we were all supplied. He told us the account of each man would be sent to Oregon City, and when we took a claim, and raised wheat, we could settle the account by delivering wheat at that place. Some few who came after us got clothing. Such was the case with every boat load, and all those who came by land down the trail. If he had said 'We have these supplies to sell for cash down,' I think we would have suffered. . . . When we started to Oregon, we were all prejudiced against the Hudson's Bay Company, and Dr. McLoughlin, being Chief Factor of the Company for Oregon, came in for a double share of that feeling. I think a great deal of this was caused by the reports of missionaries and adverse traders, imbuing us with a feeling that it was our mission to bring this country under the jurisdiction of the stars and stripes. But when we found him anxious to assist us, nervous at our situation in being so late, and doing so much without charge, -letting us have of his store, and waiting without interest, until we could make a farm and pay him from the surplus products of such farm, the prejudice heretofore existing began to be rapidly allayed. We did not know that every dollar's worth of provisions, etc., he gave us, all advice and assistance in every shape was against the positive orders of the Hudson's Bay Company. ... In this connection I am sorry to say that thousands of dollars virtually loaned by him to settlers at different times in those early days, was never paid, as an examination of his books and papers will amply testify."


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