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235th birthday of John McLoughlin coincides with 110th anniversary of memorial group

Oct. 19 marks the 235th birthday of Dr. John McLoughlin, and Oregon City is hosting a celebration for its town founder.

Last week, Mayor Dan Holladay issued a proclamation encouraging citizens to participate in the celebration beginning at 11 a.m. in McLoughlin Park, now the site of the 1845 McLoughlin House, a National Parks System attraction.

Joan Williams, president of the McLoughlin Memorial Association co-hosting the event, said she's looking forward to the bash as a celebration of a second major anniversary. MMA was formed in 1909 for preserving McLoughlin's 1845 home and sharing his story. It was exactly 110 years ago when MMA was founded to move the house up Singer Hill from its original location next to Willamette Falls to McLoughlin Park.

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Flanking former Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley, dressed as Dr. John McLoughlin, are Joan Williams, president of the McLoughlin Memorial Association, and John Salisbury, an MMA volunteer and former park ranger working at the McLoughlin House."If it weren't for MMA volunteers, I don't think the house would be open today," Williams said.

Williams said the house will get a much-needed face lift this winter when it closes for the season. Its last day open to the public this year will be Dec. 7 so that National Parks can work on its foundation, and install new carpet and wallpaper.

Parks Superintendent Tracy Fortmann will update the public at the celebration as to whether the renovated McLoughlin House is expected to reopen in time for its usual celebration of the anniversary of Oregon's founding on Feb. 14.

McLoughlin came to the Northwest in 1824 as a representative of the Hudson's Bay Company and took charge of Fort Vancouver. In 1829, Native Americans directed McLoughlin to Willamette Falls as a source of power for sawmills to help construction at Fort Vancouver.

COURTESY PHOTO - In this historic photo, the McLoughlin House is moved up Singer Hill in 1909 from its original location next to Willamette Falls in Oregon City.Summers End Promenade, an event usually held at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, will be held at the McLoughlin House to help celebrate the doctor's birthday. During McLoughlin's time, 600 people lived year-round at Fort Vancouver, not counting the thousands of trappers who would come in seasonally, said John Salisbury, an MMA volunteer and former park ranger working at the McLoughlin House.

Bob Prinz, a cook from Fort Vancouver, will demonstrate types of dishes that fed those pioneers; attendees of the Oct. 19 celebration might be able to sample a mushroom/potato dish, salmon or types of apples planted in orchards near the fort.

McLoughlin saw the value of the area around the falls, which he platted for a settlement he named Oregon City. He assisted the American pioneers who journeyed out on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s against the wishes of the Hudson's Bay Company.

McLoughlin decided to retire before Hudson's Bay fired him for being too friendly to American pioneers and Native Americans. At 72 years old in 1856, in the last year of his life, McLoughlin was in poor health and could have been described as "cranky," according to another former Oregon City mayor, Doug Neeley, who has dressed as McLoughlin dozens of times in the past five years or so. Neeley plans to reprise his role as the elderly McLoughlin at the celebration.

"After his falling out with the Hudson's Bay Company, the American authorities stripped from him the unbuilt portions of his donation land claim, since he was British/Catholic," Neeley said. "The block between Second and Third streets, down by the falls where his house was, was the only land he was allowed to keep."

McLoughlin's contributions to the founding of the Oregon Territory weren't officially appreciated until after his death. State officials in a 1957 resolution, gave McLoughlin the honorary title of "Father of Oregon."

Celebrate history

WHAT: 235th birthday of Dr. John McLoughlin and 110th anniversary of McLoughlin Memorial Association's founding

WHEN: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19

WHERE: Hourlong program kicks off the event at Victory Faith Church, 811 Center St., followed by activities next door at the Barclay and McLoughlin houses

MORE: Visit for a full list of events and activities.

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