A September 2003 trip
to Portland by Mary Dickinson
Quote: Visiting the Willamette Falls, End of the Trail Museum, Oregon Territory Museum, McLouglin House, and Fort Vancouver was an enjoyable way to learn the history of the establishment of Oregon right where it happened. Friendly, knowledgable people were filled with enthusiasm as they invited us to share their history.
In 1824 the Hudson Bay Company, fur traders, put John McLoughlin, a Canadian of Scotch-Irish decent, in charge of their Columbia Department. At that time the United States and England agreed to share the Oregon Territory until a boundary could be agreed upon. Expecting the Columbia River to be that boundary, McLoughlin established a trading post on the north bank of that river, across from the present city of Portland, OR and near the mouth of the Willamette River that flows north into the Columbia.. He named the post Fort Vancouver.
English ships sailed up the Columbia River, left off supplies for the fur trappers and picked up all the newly collected animal pelts and brought them to England to be made into top hats and other fashionable hats and ladies fashions as well.
At about that time Americans began to trickle into the area hoping to settle there. Lewis and Clark had explored the area about twenty years earlier. After crossing the Rocky Mountains the settlers, usually in desperate condition, arrived at Fort Vancouver, the only white settlement in the area. Against company policy, McLoughlin gave them supplies on credit until they could get established and then grow crops and have pelts to trade. McLoughlin explored the area right up to Alaska and set up more forts for the Hudson Bay Company. He liked a piece of land near the falls on the Willamette River and established a personal claim for it with the king.
Today Fort Vancouver has been rebuilt to look exactly as it did when the above history took place. McLoughlin lived in a beautiful white house inside the palisade. A guide took us through the habits and routines of everyday life inside the fort. We went inside the warehouse where the pelts were packed and it was explained how trading took place. Gardens were built outside the fort and from there, Mount Hood can be seen in the southeast horizon. A visitors and interpretive center with a gift shop is located on the premises.
To get there follow Rt5 north through Portland, cross the Columbia River into WA and take the third right. Turn right onto East Evergreen St. The fort is open seven days a week from 9am-4pm. For information on tour times, call 360-696-7655 x10.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 8, 2003
East Evergreen Boulevard (Visitor Center)
Attraction | "The John McLoughlin House"
John McLoughlin was the chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company's Columbia Department and had established Fort Vancouver on the north side of the Columbia River. It became the most important supplier in the Oregon Territory for trappers and settlers alike. He explored the area for possible new forts and was impressed with a site on the Willamette River near the falls (now all of Oregon City, OR) and established a personal claim for it from the king of England. Sir George Simpson, head of the Hudson Bay Company in North America, had disagreements with McLoughlin on several issues causing McLoughlin to eventually retire from the company and then settle on his land claim.
His claim was disputed because he was not an American citizen so he became one. He realized it would be hard to establish creditable land ownership the way things were so he established Oregon City as the first incorporated town west of the Mississippi River enabling it to open a National Land Office that had acceptable authority to issue title to land. He established mills and businesses he knew were important to the development of the area and they would bring him an income as well. For his tireless efforts in settling the Oregon Territory, today, he is known as the "Father of Oregon". Even though he enabled others to settle their land claims peacefully his own went disputed even after his death when it was finally settled.
As the years rolled by, his beautiful home near the falls fell into disrepair and in 1909 was about to be demolished when a group of concerned citizens decided to save the house and moved it up on the bluff overlooking the falls.
Signs along Rt. 205 directed us to the correct exit off that highway and more signs are posted along the route to the John McLoughlin House but when we started up Singer Hill Rd. I thought something was wrong. It would be very hard to move a house up the steep hill, especially a house as large as that one. It was moved up with one horse. At the first intersection take a left onto Center street. It is the first house on the left. It is open Wed-Sat 10am-4pm and Sun 1-4pm.
McLoughlin House National Historic Site
713 Center St.
Oregon City, Oregon 97045
(503) 656 5146
Attraction | "End Of The Trail Interpretive Center"
Today, in Oregon City, not far from the falls on the Willamette River, three covered wagons, fifty feet high, commemorate the brave souls who went west in the wagon trains. Tickets to go through the wagons are available in the gift shop. Adults $6.50; seniors $5.50; and children over 5 $4.
We proceeded to the far wagon. While we sat on wooden crates under the canopy of the first wagon our guide explained what it was like to cross the Oregon Trail as she pointed to the huge map on the wall. Then we went into a room in the first wagon that was set up to look like the inside of a supply store in Independence, MO. We learned how to choose a wagon and what animals were needed to pull it. We were told how much food to take for each person, the cost and how to load it on a wagon 3 ½' wide, 2 ½' deep and 10' long. Our guide recommended we buy a book that the pioneers used, reprints for sale in the gift shop, called "The Prairie Traveler", by Randolph B. Marcy, written in 1848 (Applewood Books, Bedford, MA). Excellent information even for today's traveler.
The next room was a theater. The movie depicted personal experiences from those who made the trip. The Barlow Road in Oregon City, was an unbelievable ordeal. The wagon and animals had to be lowered by rope down the side of a mountain. The next section of the museum had a hands-on display of toys and crafts people used in a covered wagon while out on the trail. Another room had more pictures, maps and items used by the homesteaders. We had our pictures taken looking like homesteaders as we stood behind a board and look through holes.
To find the End Of The Trail Museum take exit 10 off I-205 in Oregon City. Follow the signs and you can't miss the covered wagons. It is open Mon-Sat 9-5 and Sun 10-5.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 9, 2003
End Of The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
1726 Washington St
Portland, Oregon 97045
He was storytelling Indian style as we approached. A group of old ladies from a local convalescent home had a few stories to tell from their Indian ancestors. He explained Indian basket making, jewelry, stone tools and other Indian artifacts pointing to examples in the glass front display cases. The piece de resistance was a 2500 year old petroglyph found in the area.
We then moved on to farm tools used by the pioneers and a complete pharmacy over 100 years old. Looking out the window we could see the Willamette Falls. He knew everything about them. Today two paper mills occupy the buildings and he told us the importance of each building and how energy is tapped from the falls. He also knew what every broken down foundation, deserted generator or converted mechanism was once used for right back to when Dr. John McLoughlin once tapped that water power for his mills over one hundred and fifty years ago.
A covered wagon filled with useful items necessary for crossing the Oregon Trail is on display and a scale model shows how a rope lowered the wagons down a steep slope on the Barlow Road, within the last few miles of the long trip across the country and right near Oregon City. Ron knew where the slope was located and some horror stories about trying to get down that slope without using the rope.
For details on how the homesteaders had to file their claims, how much land they were entitled to, where the land is located and what they had to do to qualify as a homesteader this is the place to visit. A research library is available at specified times.
The museum is opened 10-4 weekdays and 1-5 weekends. To get to the The Museum Of The Oregon Territory take exit 9 south or exit 8 north from I-205 and follow Rt. 99E to Turnwater Dr. Call 503-655-5574 for more information. There is a small admission charge.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 9, 2003
Museum of the Oregon Territory
211 Turnwater Drive
Portland, Oregon 97045
Attraction | "The Willametter Shore Trolley"
Rt 43 brought us into a beautiful expensive touristy shopping area with lots of interesting restaurants in the town of Lake Oswego. This town has been a vacation place for the city of Portland since the 1800s but is updating its physical appearance. It wasn't hard to find the trolley because RR is written in 10' letters across the road near some train tracks but finding the ticket office was a bit more difficult. A small old building with the word "SHORELINE" written on a small sign turn out to be it.
We pulled out of the station and were on our way at 10 miles an hour. It takes about 45 minutes to go the seven miles from Lake Oswego to Portland. First we went through someone's front yard about ten feet from their front door. It was quite a nice house and beautifully landscaped right up to the tracks. We continued to ride past more lovely homes. Their driveways were off Rt 43 and cut across the tracks. The conductor said one homeowner takes the trolley to his place of business once in awhile. The tracks have been there since 1888 and the homes are fairly new.
The little 1932 trolley went through a tunnel and as it chugged a little further we were on a trestle on the side of a cliff. Eventually we were chugging along next to a park and the river. It looked like a great place to walk. We chugged past houseboats and near condos with beautiful Japanese landscaping and past a century old cemetery where Wyatt Earp's brother Virgil is buried. We chugged past the entrance to Willamette Park. We stopped for local traffic as we entered the city. The conductor used remote control to stop local traffic if he chose.
The Ross Island Bridge and then the Marquam Bridge loomed over head. Finally we arrived at River Place Station. We decided to see the trendy shopping area near the river and have lunch at the floating Newport Bay Restaurant and take a later trolley back to Lake Oswego.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 10, 2003
Willamette Shore Trolley
311 North State St.
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034