McLoughlin, Doctor John
b. 1784-10-19
d. 1857-09-03
Dr. John McLoughlin was the chief factor of the Columbia Fur District of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver from 1824 to 1846.1
McLoughlin was born at Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, on October 19, 1784. A trained medical doctor at the age of 19, McLoughlin signed on with North West Company in April of 1803.2
McLoughlin was an effective trader at his first post near Thunder Bay, Ontario. McLoughlin was next sent to Lac la Pluie and then Fort William, at a time when tensions between the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company were leading increasingly towards violence. McLoughlin avoided taking part in any of the hostilities when his party arrived judiciously late at Seven Oaks in June 1816, thus evading the subsequent battle that killed 22 HBC men. Despite his absence, McLoughlin was still arrested by Lord Selkirk and forced to defend himself in court, where he was declared not guilty in October 1818.3
In 1825 McLoughlin was promoted chief factor at Fort Vancouver in Oregon and later general superintendent. During this time McLoughlin founded Fort Langley, built Fort Vancouver (now Vancouver, Washington), and presided over the expansion of HBC trade in the region despite stiff American and Russian competition. McLoughlin was an effective manager and the Columbia Department centred at Fort Vancouver was profitable.4
McLoughlin played an important role in the early history of Oregon, founding Oregon City (which he named) in 1829. McLoughlin successfully juggled the interests of the Indigenous Peoples, Americans, and British subjects in this tense disputed region without violent incident. He earned a reputation as an honest and compassionate man, giving HBC food, seeds and tools to needy American settlers in 1841.5
The arrival of increasing numbers of American settlers in Oregon in the early 1840s, and the realization that the border between the United States and British possessions would likely be farther north, prompted the HBC leadership to instruct McLoughlin to find a suitable site for a new fort north of the 49th parallel on the south end of Vancouver Island. This he did in 1843, when he ordered James Douglas to construct Fort Victoria.6
The American settlers arriving Oregon, and his attachment to the area, would lead to McLoughlin's retirement from the HBC. The settlers and their provisional government were hostile to the HBC's expansion in Oregon. In order to preserve the company's, and especially his own, claims in Oregon, McLoughlin decided to purchase them himself. The care of these new properties in Oregon bound McLoughlin to Oregon City. This, coupled with decreasing profits, led the HBC to end McLoughlin's contract as superintendent. McLoughlin retired from the company in January 1846.7
McLoughlin lived the last years of his life managing his properties in Oregon City as an American citizen. He was also mayor for a short time. He died there on September 3, 1857. He has since become known as the Father of Oregon.8
  • 1. W. Kaye Lamb, McLoughlin, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents
Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document

Fort Langley

Fort Vancouver

Vancouver Island