Biography of Daniel H. Lownsdale

DANIEL H. LOWNSDALE. – Mr. Lownsdale, the son of one of the earliest settlers of Kentucky, was born in Mason county, of that state, April 8, 1803. As was the custom in those days, he was married quite young – at the age of twenty-three – to Miss Ruth, the youngest daughter of Paul Overfield, the head of one of the most prominent families of Northeastern Kentucky. In obedience to the venturesome spirit inherited form his father, who had abandoned the comforts of civilization in his youth to become one of the conquerors of Kentucky, young Lownsdale, with his young wife, immediately removed to Gibson county, Indiana, which was then almost on the frontier. There he had the misfortune to lose his wife, who died in 1830, leaving him 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, engaged in mercantile pursuits.

His health failing, he accepted the advice of physicians, and embarked in 1842 on a voyage to Europe, remaining 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, he joined one of those devoted bands that crossed three thousand miles of hostile Indian country to settle our title by actual occupation. He arrived on the present site of Portland late in 1845, and appears to have realized the importance of the position, since he took a claim (now the Amos N. King claim) adjoining that of Lovejoy and Pettygrove, and soon thereafter formed the desire to acquire the river front.

The opportunity offered in 1848, when Mr. Lownsdale purchased the site of Portland from F.W. Pettygrove, for what must then have been considered an extravagant price, 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 proved 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. Resting in this faith, he looked constantly towards 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 Colonel 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 William Gillihan. By this second marriage he had two children, one boy, M.O. Lownsdale, and one girl, now Mrs. Ruth A. Hoyt, a resident of Columbia county. Of the children of his first wife only one, J.P.O. Lownsdale, of Portland, now survives.

Mr. Lownsdale occupied several public positions, having been United States postal agent during the administration of Fillmore, and having represented 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 1847 and of 1855-56 he bore his part, serving in the latter with the regiment of Colonel Cornelius in the capacity of regimental quartermaster, and performing his very difficult duties to the satisfaction of his superior.

He died May 4, 1862, and was buried in Lone Fir Cemetery, near Portland, a neat monument marking his last resting-place.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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