The Father of Oregon
A visit to the John McLoughlin House in Oregon City
Hear the story of one of Oregon’s most fascinating men – Dr. John McLoughlin – on a visit to the very house he lived in. Now set up on the edge of the hill overlooking the Willamette River, the house once sat lower down on the main street running through town. Following his death, the house had run into decline and was in threat of being demolished. The house was physically moved up the hill to its final resting place. It is also the resting place of John McLoughlin and his wife, buried in the side yard.
On my visit, a fabulous docent told me the riveting tale of John McLoughlin’s life in first-person. He looks like him, talks like him, and fits the home perfectly. The most widely recognized photo of John McLoughlin was taken late in his life, as he looks at the camera with a seeming scowl on his face. He looks like a formidable person indeed, but the story told of his life shows his compassion, his sorrow, and his intelligence. Born in eastern Canada, he studied medicine and eventually was appointed head of the Hudson’s Bay outpost at Fort Vancouver. Known as the “Father of Oregon” due to all the aid he provided to newcomers arriving on the Oregon Trail, and founder of Oregon City. He was the first mayor, owned sawmills, a gristmill, a granary, a general store, and a shipping business. He donated lands for local schools and churches. One could say he was responsible for not only creating Oregon City, but creating the blueprint on how to build a new city from scratch.
The John McLoughlin house was once a “must see” field trip for young students, but those have apparently dwindled considerably over time. Perhaps it is better to visit these type of museums when older, for you appreciate the history more. Fort Vancouver is still a popular destination for field trips with kids. It is a great idea to combine the two locations in one day’s exploration – begin at Fort Vancouver where the man worked and lived upon arrival in the Northwest, and finish in Oregon City where he built a life – and a city.
Get further information about Oregon’s oldest house at the National Parks website.