Originally printed in the Sept. 16, 2002 edition of the Illinois Valley News
For most pioneers Oregon City was the end of the Oregon Trail. Those who came by raft down the Columbia River from The Dalles stopped at Fort Vancouver to rest but then traveled up the Willamette River to Oregon City before spreading out in the Willamette Valley to find land. The Barlow Road over the Cascades also ended at Oregon City so only those pioneers coming from the south via the Applegate Trail did not usually pass through Oregon City. For river travel within the Willamette Valley, Oregon City was a main junction point. The Clackamas River from the east and the Tualatin River from the west entered the Willamette River near Oregon City and the Willamette Falls stopped river travel coming south from the Columbia.
The provisional government of Oregon met at Oregon City as well as the first territorial leaders. Gradually as the population of the region moved south the territorial legislature and the new state legislature shifted the seat of government to Salem. Oregon City continued to be an important commercial center and today is rapidly growing suburb of Portland.
Oregon City also has the distinction of being the final resting place for many of Oregon founders. John Mcloughlin retired from Hudson Bay Company and spent his last years there as well as another Hudson Bay leader named Peter Skene Ogden. Ogden was born in 1794 in a wealthy family in Quebec, Canada and then moved to Montreal where his father became a judge. Peter was supposed to become a lawyer but decided to join the exciting fur trade. As an employee of the North West Fur Company he was involved in some of the violent conflicts with Hudson Bay Company. When the two merged in 1821 the new leaders were not sure they wanted him in the company but took him in anyway. By 1823 Ogden was a Chief Trader and was leading parties of trappers into unknown territory. They were searching for beaver and the best routes to use in transporting the furs. The company policy was to trap out the beaver population in the areas claimed by United States in order to reduce competition from American fur companies.
On one of these trips he discovered a river in northern Utah which still bears his name as does the city of Ogden which was named for the river. By the way, Ogden , Utah became the main terminal for the Union Pacific Railroad coming from the east and the Central Pacific Railroad coming from California. Promontory Point, where the Golden Spike joined the two railroads, is in the desert north of Great Salt Lake and nobody wanted to live there.
Ogden also discovered the Humboldt River and Mount Shasta on other trips and became the first to cross the Cascade Mountains, probably at Santiam Pass between Eugene and Bend. In 1845 Ogden became the Chief Factor or leader at Ft. Vancouver for Hudson Bay Company. In 1847 a treaty between England and the United States settled the northern boundary of Oregon at the 49” Parallel, where it remains today. Ft. Vancouver no longer had any legal jurisdiction in Oregon affairs. Nevertheless, on Dec. 7, 1847 the day after hearing of the massacre, Ogden led a rescue party to the Whitman Mission. There he was able, without further blood shed, to obtain the release of 47 people, mostly children, which had been taken captive during the massacre. Later the Oregon legislature sent an armed force to take punitive action in the affair. Peter Skene Ogden died Sept. 27, 1854 in Oregon City after a long career of fur trapping and exploring in the western region of America.