ERMATINGER’S 1844 PETITION TO INCORPORATE

OREGON CITY’S FIRST OFFICIAL DOCUMENT

“To the Honorable the House of Representatives, We humble petitioners pray that the Town which is called Oregon City, situated at the falls of the Willamette on the East side of the Willamette River, may be incorporated Oregon City; that we may be enabled to adopt such Regulations as will benefit its inhabitances (sic) and secure peace and give good order to all of the people of Said town.
Frs. Ermatinger, F.W. Pettygrove, John P. Brooks, William C. Dement, Alanson C. Husted, J.B. Wood, John Harwell, N.S. Mack, A.E. Wilson, E. White, John McCadden, J.R. Robb, J.L. Morrison, J. Hawn, P.H. Hatch”

On June 26th, 1844, A.L. Lovejoy presented the Oregon Provisional legislature with a petition from Francis Ermatinger to incorporate the City of Oregon City. This document yet survives in the Oregon State Archives as Oregon Provisional and Territorial document No. 3. It is written in Ermatinger’s hand.

While ultimately the petition was not adopted, it represents the first official document of Oregon City and gives us a unique insight into its establishment. By December 1844, Oregon City officialy became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains.

The small list of signatories includes key members of government and commerce: ElijahWhite, the only Federal official then present in Oregon, F.W. Petygrove, representative of A.G. and A.W. Benson&Co. (New York City), and A.E. Wilson of Cushing & Co (Newburyport, Mass). Also signing were J.L. Morison, namesake of Morison Street in Portland and one of its first residents, and Jacob Hawn, proprietor of Hawn’s Mill near Far West, Missouri, site of the infamous massacre during the 1838 MormonWar.

It’s likely that Ermatinger was submitting this petition, as he had in the past, on behalf of Dr.McLoughlin as part of his efforts to secure the Oregon City claim. As Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, McLoughlin would not have easily been able to directly participate in the Provisional Government.

While Lovejoy and Pettygrove are remembered today mostly for their involvement with the establishment of Portland, the petition reflects their significance in the story of OregonCity. Lovejoy would go on to serve as the Mayor, and Pettygrove as Treasurer until his resignation after relocating to Portland in 1846 (Pettygrove ultimately resided longer at Oregon City than Portland). At the time of Ermatinger’s petition, Lovejoy was also engaged as McLoughlin’s attorney. Pettygrove would subsequently form a business partnership with McLoughlin’s son, David.

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