Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 1/Documents from issue no. 1
[In this department of the Quarterly there will appear material of the nature of primary sources for the history of the Pacific Northwest. The more extended documents, however, and collections having a unity will be reserved for the series, "Sources of the History of Oregon."]
Correspondence of John McLoughlin, Nathaniel J. Wyeth, S. R. Thurston, and R. C. Winthrop, pertaining to claim of Doctor McLoughlin at the Falls of the Willamette the site of Oregon City.
The following correspondence was published in the Milwaukie Star, April 10, 1850. The files of this paper are exceedingly scarce. The original copies of the letters were probably destroyed. A knowledge of their contents is essential to an understanding of very important, though not creditable, transactions in Oregon's history. These letters also are an addition to the Wyeth material that the society has been making accessible to students of American hisory.
CHICOPEE, Mass., Nov. 16, 1850.
Capt. Nath. J. Wyeth:
My Dear Sir—You will excuse me, I am sure, when I assure you I am from Oregon, and her delegate to the Congress of the United States, for addressing you for a purpose of interest to the country which I belong.
I desire you to give me as correct a description as you can at this late period, of the manner in which you and your party, and your enterprise in Oregon, were treated by the Hudson's Bay Company, and particularly by Doc. John McLaughlin, then its Chief Factor. This Dr. McLaughlin has, since you left the country, rendered his name odious among the people of Oregon, by his endeavors to prevent the settlement of the country, and to cripple its growth.
Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends that he has been the long tried friend of Americans and American enterprise west of the mountains. Your early reply will be highly appreciated, both for its information, and your relation to my country.
I am, sir, yours very truly,
S. R. THURSTON.
Cambridge, Nov. 21, 1850.
Hon. Sam'l H. Thurston:
Dear Sir—Your favor of the 16th inst., was received on the 19th. The first time I visited the Columbia, in the autumn of 1832, 1 reached Vancouver with a disorganized party of ten persons, the remnant of twenty-four who left the States. Wholly worn out and disheartened, we were received cordially, and liberally supplied, and there the party broke up. I returned to the States in the Spring of 1833 with one man. One of the party, Mr. John Ball, remained and planted wheat on the Willamette a little above Camp du Sable, having been supplied with seed and implements from Vancouver, then under the charge of John McLaughlin, Esq., and this gentleman I believe to have been the first American who planted wheat in Oregon. I returned to the country in the autumn of 1834, with a large party and more means, having on the way built Fort Hall, and there met a brig which I sent round the Horn. In the winter and spring of 1835, I planted wheat on the Willamette and on Wappatoo Island.
The suffering and distressed of the early American visitors and settlers on the Columbia were always treated by Hudson's Bay Company's agents, and particularly so by John McLaughlin, Esq., with consideration and kindness, more particularly the Methodist Missionaries, whom I brought out in the autumn of 1834. He supplied them with the means of transportation, seeds, implements of agriculture and building, cattle and food for a long time.
I sincerely regret that the gentleman, as you state, has become odious to his neighbors in his old age.
I am your ob't serv't,
NATH. J. WYETH.
Cambridge, Nov. 28, 1850.1em
Hon. Robert C. Winthrop: ' Dear Sir—I have received a letter from Sam'l R. Thurston, Esq., of which the following- is a portion:
"I desire you to give me as correct a description as you can at this late period, of the manner in which you and your party, and your enterprise in Oregon, were treated by the Hudson's Bay Company west of the Rocky mountains, and particularly by Dr. John McLaughlin, then its Chief Factor. This Dr. McLaughlin has since you left the country, rendered his name odious among the people of Oregon, by his endeavors to prevent the settlement of the country and cripple its growth. Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends that he has been the long-tried friend of Americans and American enterprise west of the mountains." I have written Mr. Thurston, in reply to the above extract, that myself and parties were kindly, and were treated well in all respects by J. McLaughlin, Esq., and the officers of the Hudson's Bay Co.; but from the tenor of his letter, I have no confidence that my testimony will be presented before any committee to whom may be referred any subjects touching the interests of said John McLaughlin, Esq.
The very honorable treatment received by me from Mr. McLaughlin during the years inclusive from 1832 to 1836, during which time there were no other Americans on the Lower Columbia, except myself and parties, calls on me to state the facts.
The purpose of this letter is to ask the favor of you to inform me what matter is pending, in which Mr. McLaughlin's interests are involved, and before whom, and if you will present a memorial from me on the matters stated in Mr. Thurston' s letter as above.
Respectfully and truly your ob't servant,
NATH. J. WYETH.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 1850.
Respectfully vour ob't serv't,
R. C. WINTHROP.
To N. J. Wyeth, Esq. John McLaughlin, Esq.:
Dear Sir—On the 19th of December, 1850, I received a letter from Sam'l R. Thurston, delegate from Oregon, of which see copy No. 1, and by same mail an Oregon newspaper containing a communication over your signature, the letter [latter], I think, addressed in your handwriting.
From the tenor of Mr. Thurston's letter, I presumed he wanted my testimony for some purpose not friendly to yourself. I answered his letter as per copy No. 2, but doubting if my testimony, except it suited his views, would be presented, and being ignorant of his intentions, I wrote the Hon. R. C. Winthrop, late Speaker of the House of Representatives, and at present a member of the Senate of the United States, as per copy, (No. 3) and received from him a reply as per copy (No. 4).
Should you wish such services as I can render in this part of the United States, I shall be pleased to give them in return for the many good things you did years since, and if my testimony as regards your efficient and friendly actions towards me and the other earliest Americans who settled in Oregon, will be of use in placing you before the Oregon people in the dignified position of a benefactor, it will be cheerfully rendered.
I am, with much respect, yours truly,
NATH. J. WYETH.
Mr. Thurston writes to Mr. Wyeth, "That Dr. McLaughlin has, since you left the country, rendered his name odious to the people of Oregon." (That I have rendered my name odious to the people of Oregon, is what I do not know.) And "By his endeavors to prevent the settlement of the country, and to cripple its growth." I say I never endeavored to prevent the settlement of the country, or to cripple its growth, but the reverse. If the whole country had been my own private property, I could not have exerted myself more strenuously than I did to introduce civilization, and promote its settlement. ' 'Now that he wants a few favors of our Government, he pretends that he has been the long tried friend of Americans and American enterprise west of the mountains." Mr. Wyeth states how I acted towards him and his companions, the first Americans that I saw on this side of the mountains. Those that came since, know if Mr. Thurston represents my conduct correctly or not. As to my wanting a few favors, I am not aware that I asked for any favors. I was invited by the promises held out in Linn's bill, to become an American citizen of this territory. I accepted the invitation and fulfilled the obligations in good faith, and after doing more, as I believe will be admitted, to settle the country and relieve the immigrants in their distresses, than any other man in it, part of my claim, which had been jumped, Mr. Thurston, the delegate from this territory, persuades Congress to doTiate Judge Bryant, and the remainder is reserved. I make no comment the act speaks for itself, but merely observe, if I had no claim to Abernethy Island, why did Mr. Thurston get Congress to interfere, and what had Judge Bryant done for the territory to entitle him to the favor of our delegate. Mr. Thurston is exerting the influence of his official situation to get Congress to depart from its usual course, and to interfere on a point in dispute, and donate that island to Abernethy, his heirs and assigns, alias Judge Bryant, his heirs and assigns.