McLoughlin House NPS

MPF Conservation conserved several objects for the McLoughlin House in Oregon City, Oregon (which is part of the Fort Vancouver NM). This page is an introduction to the history of the house and its inhabitants.

Above, John and Marguerite McLoughlin.


John McLoughlin is often called “the Father of Oregon” for his involvement in many works, many of them problematic:

  • Fort Vancouver
  • Diversified Hudson’s Bay’s operations
  • Acquisition of land in Oregon City (the Shortess Petition)
  • Many mercantile and milling interests
  • Mayor of Oregon City

Born in Riviere-du-Loop, Quebec, on October 19, 1784. McLoughlin grew up near the St. Lawrence River. He became a doctor’s apprenticed to a Quebec physician at thirteen, receiving a license to practice medicine in 1803. He had one son out of wedlock with an Ojibwa woman.

At eighteen, an event changed the direction of his life and marked the destinies of not only himself, but of the Pacific Northwest. He was courting a young woman and they were out for a stroll in their Sunday finest clothes along the muddy streets of late Eighteen Century Montreal. The town was strewn with planks of wood which acted as walkways and pedestrian conveyances. As they were making their way across one of these planks, an oncoming young British Lieutenant pushed her off the plank and into the muddy street to gain passage for himself.

The strapping McLoughlin, an imposing figure at 6’4″, grabbed the man by his red coat and epaulettes and threw him face-down into the mud. He gathered up his suitress and left. However, he might have been convicted of assaulting an officer, so he decided to flee the province. He signed on to the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company, which eventually brought him north and west.

Year’s later when asked about the incident while reminiscing with a friend, he said that “Really, it is all my fault. I was young and brash and I brought it all upon myself.”

He had steely eyes, a ruddy complexion, and shoulder-length white hair. Sir George Simpson, the highest-ranking officer of the Hudson’s Bay Company, worked alongside him. He described him as “a man of strict honor and integrity but a great stickler for rights and privileges” and who possessed a “violent temper and turbulent disposition” that frequently led to conflict.

In 1810 he entered into his final relationship, a common-law marriage with Marguerite Waddens McKay, who, it is said, has a calming influence on him. In fact, his most aggressive act of violence was he beat Rev. Herbert Beaver for calling Marguerite a woman of loose character.

In 1851 he became a U.S. citizen.

McLoughlin lived in Oregon City until his death in 1857 at his home, the McLoughlin House. He oversaw his mercantile and milling interests and was Oregon City’s mayor.

Many streets, schools, businesses, and geographic features named for him, including Mount McLoughlin.

Oddly, Kate cannot find the source for these images, though likely Wikipedia. If someone knows whose they are, please contact Kate. Entry shown left, first floor parlor, right. They are from the 1940’s.

The McLoughlin Home

The two story home was one of the grandest and most elaborate homes in Oregon when it was built in Oregon City in 1846.  The home is not on the original site, but was relocated to a bluff overlooking the Willamette River in Oregon City, deeded to the public by McLoughlin in the 1840’s. 

The house is two story, with a central staircase and grand hall. On the first floor is the parlor, dining room and large central hall with smaller back rooms, and on the second floor are four large bedrooms.

Over the years almost everyone in his extended family lived in the house: his wife Marguerite (Waddens McKay) McLooughlin, his widowed daughter Eloisa and her three children, Marguerite’s granddaughter Catherine Ermatinger (and her daughter), Marguerite’s grandson William McKay, and McLoughlin’s son David.

Preservationists saved it from demolition, and the Civil Works Administration restored it between 1935-1936, when it was opened as a museum.  The House became a National Historic Site in 1941, and added to the National Park System (NPS) on 29 July, 2003 under the jurisdiction of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.


The home contains original and period furnishings donated over the years; many chairs have provenance to John McLoughlin or to Doctor Fraser Tolmie, and are described as such. 

Tolmie, shown right was a doctor, fur trader, politician in the Canadian government, and served as Chief Factor for Fort Nisqually. He is associated with Dr.McLoughlin, as well as Fort Vancouver and the Hudson Bay Company.

MPF Conservation treated many objects over the years.  Some were simple, such as the polishing of the Fainting Couch feet, shown above.  Others were complicated and took many months to complete. 

Items MPFC treated as of this date from the McLoughlin home are:

Further reading:

“Outpost: John McLoughlin and the Far Northwest” by Dorothy Nafus Morrison, Oregon Historical Society Press, ©1999/2004 Oregon Historical Society
Oregon Encyclopedia: John McLoughlin (1784-1857)
Oregon Encyclopedia: Fort Vancouver
Oregon Encyclopedia: McLoughlin House Unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.