Dr. John McLoughlin was born in La Riviere du Loup in Quebec Province, Canada, on October 19, 1784. He studied as a medical apprentice and was admitted to practice at age 19. In 1803 he was hired as a physician at Fort William, a fur-gathering post of the North West Company on Lake Superior. There he became a trader and mastered the Indian languages. In 1814 he became a partner in the company and was instrumental in the negotiations leading to its 1821 merger with the Hudson's Bay Company.
In 1824 McLoughlin was appointed head of the Columbia Department, which comprised 600,000 square miles from Spanish California to Russian Alaska. Before the provisional government was established, McLoughlin was the chief authority in the vast Northwest. From his headquarters in Fort Vancouver he supervised trade and kept peace with the Indians, inaugurated salmon and timber trade with California and Hawaii, and supplied Russian Alaska with produce. He welcomed new settlers, especially the missionaries, often lending them seed and grain. He also developed saw and grist mills in Oregon City and in 1845 built a home there.
When Oregon City became the capital of the American provisional government, McLoughlin acknowledged its authority. This led to his resignation in 1845 from the British-controlled Hudson Bay Company. In 1849 he became an American citizen. He died in his Oregon City home on September 3, 1857.