OREGON CITY’S EARLY SIGNIFICANCE
A CITY OF FIRSTS
Willamette Falls as when first seen by the white man
Prior to the founding of Oregon City by Dr. John McLoughlin in 1842, there were no organized towns with platted streets and homes in all of the Northwest Territories. The Europeans living there were primarily trappers with their Indian wives and families. Communities consisted of encampments and company forts and mills. The earliest European structures constructed were at Ft. George at the site of Astoria (1811), Ft. Clatsop (winter of 1805-6) a temporary structure built by Lewis and Clark near Astoria, and Ft. Vancouver (1825) built by Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
By the early 1840’s, a small scattering of buildings began to populate the area near the Willamette Falls (claimed by Dr. McLoughlin for the HBC in 1829). Those structures were for the most part associated with a saw mill established by Dr. McLoughlin for the HBC, trading posts representing the HBC, and a small number of private and religious concerns. With the arrival of the Americans by ship and wagon, along the fabled Oregon Trail, beginning in 1842-3, the site at the Falls began to grow and develop. Dr. John McLoughlin led the first plat for a town west of the Rocky Mountains and began surveying the site for town lots.
Due to the falls, with their capacity to power small mills and factories, the thriving town grew in size and importance, and, in less than 20years, Oregon City became the first center for thought and action, forming the first local (Provisional Government 1843), Territorial (1848), and State Government (1859) under United States dominion.