Biography of Daniel H. Lownsdale

Lownsdale, Daniel H., the son of one of the earliest settlers of Kentucky, was born in Mason county, in that State, April 8, 1803. As was the custom in those days, he was married young, at the age of 23, to Ruth, youngest daughter of Paul Overfilled, Esq., the head of one of the most prominent families of northeastern Kentucky. In obedience to the adventuresome spirit inherited from his father, who had abandoned the comforts of civilization in his youth to become one of the conquerors of Kentucky, Lownsdale, with his young wife, “moved on” and settled in Gibson county, Indiana, which was then almost on the frontier. Here he had the misfortune to lose his wife, who died in 1830, leaving three children, one boy and two girls. Soon after this, making suitable provision for his children, he went south, remaining for a time in Georgia, engaging in mercantile pursuits. His health failing, he accepted the advice of physicians, and embarked in 1842 on a voyage to Europe, and remained abroad visiting various countries until 1844. Returning to the United-States in that year, he found the country excited over the Oregon question, and without parleying, joined one of those devoted bands that crossed two thousand miles of hostile Indian country, to settle our title by actual occupation. He arrived at the present site of Portland late in 1845, and appears to have realized the importance of the position, since he located a claim, (now the Amos N. King claim), joining that of Lovejoy and Pettygrove, and soon thereafter formed the desire to gain possession of the river front. The opportunity offered in 1818, when Mr. Lownsdale purchased the site of Portland from F. W. Pettygrove, for what then must have been considered the extravagant price of five thousand dollars. This enterprise, now having energy and foresight to steer it, began that advance which will never cease until some revolutionary invention shall change our methods of transportation, or man shall lose his gregarious disposition. With foresight that has been proven by events, he staked his fortune on the issue, that Portland was destined to become what she now is, the metropolis of a great commonwealth.

Mr. Lownsdale’s policy as to Portland was quite different from that pursued by many town proprietors. When there were indications of growth in the embryo city, instead of putting up the price of property with a view to his own personal advantage he continued to offer property for sale at very reasonable prices and upon the most liberal terms-there being instances in which the only consideration required, was that the lots should be built upon. The consequence was that Portland soon out-stripped all her rivals in population and business. Mr. Lownsdale was very unsuspicious and confiding in his nature. This was a fault “that leaned to virtue’s side,” but the result was that he was at times wronged by designing and unscrupulous persons. He was singularly free, however, from feelings of revenge and resentment, and accepted his disappointments with a cheerful resignation to the ups and downs of life.

He never doubted the ultimate ascendency of Portland, and in this hope he lived and died. Resting in this faith, he looked constantly toward the main point, and to his energy Portland largely owes the victory she gained over numerous rivals, that seemed to have heavier backing and better chances. In the spring of 1849, Mr. Lownsdale, feeling the need of assistance in his enterprise, disposed of a half interest in the Portland claim to Mr. Stephen Coffin, then a resident of Oregon City; and in December of that year the two disposed of an interest to Col. W. W. Chapman. Being a man of great energy and nerve, he was not dismayed by obstacles, but kept his ends steadily in view, and surmounted them. As a reward for his faith he lived to see Portland’s supremacy acknowledged by all, and to see Oregon on the road to that degree of prosperity that he had predicted for her.

In 1850, he was married to Mrs. Nancy Gillihan, widow of Wm. Gillihan, deceased. By this second marriage he had but two children, one son, M. O. Lownsdale, and one daughter, Mrs. Ruth A. Hoyt, now a resident of Columbia county. Of the children of his first wife, only one, J. P. O. Lownsdale, Esq., of Portland, now survives.

Mr. Lownsdale occupied several public positions, having been U. S. postal agent, for Oregon; during the administration of Fillmore, and representing his county in the legislature. He was always known as a public spirited citizen, ever ready to forward any enterprise that promised good to the city or State and always ready to lend a helping hand to those in distress, as many early immigrants who arrived in destitute circumstances can testify. In the Indian wars of 1848 and ’55-’56, he bore his part, serving in the latter with the regiment of Col. Cornelius, in the capacity of regimental quartermaster, and performing his very difficult duties to the satisfaction of his superiors. He died May 4th, 1862, and is buried in Lone Fir cemetery, near Portland. A neat monument marks his last resting place.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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