***Editor's Note: The McLoughlin House (and neighboring Barclay House) are now owned and operated by the National Park Service, as the McLoughlin House Unit of Fort Vancouver National Historical Site. At the current time, there is no admission fee. Tours are led by staff or volunteers in 1840s period clothing.
England and the United States had agreed to share the Oregon Territory but bitter disputes over land ownership eventually lead to threats of war. "54-40 or Fight" was the slogan used during the Polk presidential election campaign. Eventually the two countries agreed on the 49th parallel as the boundary from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Lakes. Once that was established Fort Vancouver was in the United States.
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.