I want to take you back over 150 years! I want to take you over 6000 miles from Miami! I want to talk to you about the great state of Oregon and how it came into being.
First some background-- President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon for 15 million dollars. The boundary of this territory was the Mississippi River in the East, the Gulf of Mexico in the South and the Rocky Mountains in the West. Mexico owned California, but the great Oregon Territory from Northern California to Alaska was claimed by England and the U.S.
The U.S. claim was based on the discovery by a survey party sent out by President Thomas Jefferson. Have you ever heard the names of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark? They were in command of this group of mostly hardened soldiers and adventurers. Together they made an 8000 mile journey from St. Louis up the Missouri River to Great Falls in Wyoming and then moved overland across the mountains to the Columbia River and built boats and moved down through the Oregon Territory to the Pacific Ocean. The trip took 3 years, but it was a highly successful venture as it gave the U.S. a valid claim to this great Oregon Territory (an ownership that is sill in dispute).
The Lewis and Clark report started settlers, at first mostly hunters and trappers, moving into the Oregon area. About 20 years after Lewis and Clark, a man brought a wagon train of settlers into Oregon. The man was Reverend Jason Lee, a Methodist preacher. Lee came back to Washington and tried to interest Congress in sending troops and government officials to take over this territory, but he had no success.
Lee went back to Oregon with another group of settlers and established a mission. He came back to Washington and this time he went to the top. He met with President James K. Polk and urged him to send soldiers and officials. President Polk told him that this would be impossible because wagons could not travel over the Western mountains to Oregon. Rev. Lee said, “Mr. President, I have taken wagons over those mountains.”
President Polk then promised action and ordered an expedition to take over the Oregon Territory. Polk also notified the British that no longer would the Oregon Territory be considered neutral territory and that the U.S. would assume its ownership and jurisdiction. This stirred up quite a storm, but fortunately good sense prevailed and the U.S. and Britain agreed to appoint a boundary commission. They came up with the present boundary and so the decision was accepted by both countries. The Oregon matter was finally settled and most of this territory became part of the U.S.
Oregon has honored Rev. Jason Lee. His statue stands in Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington, a fitting memorial to a fine gentleman and a loyal citizen.
Now here is a very unusual twist to the Oregon story. There is another statue in the Hall of Fame representing the State of Oregon, a statue of Dr. John McLoughlin. Now strange to say that when Dr. McLoughlin went to Oregon, he was not an American citizen. He was a British subject who represented the Hudson Bay Company in the Oregon Territory. Although a citizen of another country and engaged in business in competition with Americans, he welcomed Rev. Lee and the settlers from the U.S. and helped in many ways to make homes in the new land for the American pioneers.
Most historians believe that it was Dr. McLoughlin who urged Rev. Lee to make his determined efforts to have the U.S. government come in and take over the territory. Because--after the boundary line was settled, Dr. McLoughlin resigned his position with the Hudson Bay Company and became an American citizen and lived out his life in the State of Oregon.
Neither of the two men were statesmen or war heroes. But they were men who were pioneers in colonizing and trail blazing and they played a big part in extending our national boundaries to the Northern Pacific coast. And the people of the State of Oregon have bestowed a great honor on these two worthy Gentlemen.

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