Biography of A. Lawrence Lovejoy

A. LAWRENCE LOVEJOY. – The subject of this memoir was born in Groton, Massachusetts, March 14, 1808, and was the third son of Doctor Samuel and Betsey Lawrence Lovejoy, descendants of good English families. His mother, Betsey Lawrence Lovejoy, was a cousin and adopted sister of Amos and Abbot Lawrence of Boston. When quite young he moved with his parents to Townson, Massachusetts, where he was a pupil of the Reverend David Palmer until the age of sixteen, when the death of his mother made it necessary for him to reside with an elder brother in Boston, where he engaged in the mercantile business for a short time. Subsequently he gave up the business and entered as a student at Cambridge College; but, finishing his course at Amherst, he read law with Judge Seth May, of Maine, and was admitted to the bar in that state.

Being imbued with the spirit of migration he started west, came to Missouri and opened a law office in the town of Sparta. In the spring of 1842 he joined Doctor Elijah White and a party of one hundred and twenty-five emigrants to cross the then unexplored region of the vast plains and Rocky Mountains to Oregon. This journey was attended with much hardship and danger. While engaged in carving his name on the face of Independence Rock, he and L.W. Hastings were captured by a large body of Sioux Indians, but were ransomed by Doctor White and party for a few trinkets and tobacco.

While traveling across the plains with Doctor Elijah White, who had spent three years in Oregon connected with the Methodist mission, and listening to his glowing description of the wonderful country beyond the Rocky Mountains, with its large rivers and magnificent forests and beautiful and fertile valleys, Mr. Lovejoy had become very much interested in the future settlement of the country on the Pacific coast; and he was anxious to see it settled and held by Americans. When he arrived at Waiilatpu he met Doctor Whitman, who was anxious to go East, as he had received notice that the Board of Missions at Boston had decided to discontinue the mission at Waiilatpu. The Doctor was very unhappy at the prospect of losing his mission, and often talked with Mr. Lovejoy in regard to the feasibility of a trip across the mountains in the winter. Mr. Lovejoy thought with a good guide it could be accomplished; and in a few days he and the Doctor had arranged to undertake the journey, with the understanding that Dr. Whitman, who had letters of credit, would buy fresh animals if needed, and that they would travel together until they reached the frontier settlements. Accordingly, on the third of October, 1842, they started from Waiilatpu, and had traveled but a few miles when they were met by a large band of Cayuse Indians, who were very hostile and refused to let Doctor Whitman leave the country before he had fulfilled the agreement and promise he had given them to build a gristmill to grind their wheat and corn. After considerable delay and a great deal of parley, and after the Doctor had promised to build the gristmill when he returned, the Indians consented to let him proceed on his journey. They started again, and entered boldly upon a trip they knew would be attended with many hardships and much suffering.

Doctor Whitman was anxious, with earnest christian desire, to reach Boston and try and save his mission. Mr. Lovejoy, with patriotic zeal and love of country, desired to visit the Western states and induce a large emigration of Americans to Oregon the following spring, to settle and hold the country west of the Rocky Mountains and defeat the British scheme to colonize it with emigration from Red River.

When they arrived at Fort Hall they changed from a direct route to a more southern one, via Salt Lake, Taos and Santa Fé. After many narrow escapes form hostile Indians, sleepless nights and dinnerless days, living on mule and dog meat or any animal that came in their way, they arrived at Bent’s fort, on the headwaters of the Arkansas river, with their animals, all of which were worn out, with the exception of one mule. Doctor Whitman declined to use his letter of credit to buy any fresh animals, but took the mule that was able to travel and continued his journey via St. Louis with a party of mountain men.

Mr. Lovejoy’s horse being worn out and completely exhausted, he, with great reluctance, was compelled to give up his scheme to visit the Western states, and remained at Bent’s fort until spring. He then went with a party of trappers to Fort Laramie, where he learned that a large party of emigrants were on their way to Oregon. He wished to join and return with them; and, to procure means to enable him to do so, he accepted a proposition from Father DeSmet, and engaged to dispatch of letters and money for the Catholic missionaries situated among the Flat Head, Coeur d’Alene and Pend d’Oreille Indians. He was provided with a good horse, some provisions and a trusty old Indian named Enos for a guide. He had instructions from Father De Smet to go to a certain camp in the Yellowstone country known to old Enos his guide. If none of the Mission people were there to meet him, he was to remain at the camp three days; and then, if none of the Mission people came, he was to deposit the dispatch under a certain large stone.

Arriving there, he waited three days, and, no one coming, made the deposit under the stone as directed and replaced the sod, leaving signs so that the Mission people would know that he had been there. This trip was a hazardous undertaking, as he had to pass through a hostile Indian country. To elude the Indians he traveled by night and kept quiet during the daytime in some recess or niche in the forest or hills, where he and his guide rested, one watching while the other slept.

He had accomplished his mission and started to return to Fort Laramie when he was intercepted and taken prisoner by a war party of Snake and Blackfeet Indians that was traveling south. They kept him nine days, during which time they had little to eat; but on the ninth day the Indians killed a young buffalo, and that night had a great feast and war dance. The next morning, when Mr. Lovejoy awoke, he and old Enos were alone, his captors having all left in the night. He was free; but his guide said that they had traveled so far south that he could not return to Fort Laramie, but thought he could guide him to the Green river. They traveled as rapidly as possible, and succeeded in reaching Fort Boise in time to join the emigration for Oregon. He arrived in Oregon City in November, 1843, opened a law office and commenced the practice of law, and from the first had a lucrative business.

In 1844 he was elected a member of the legislature, and was re-elected in 1846, serving as speaker of the house. In 1844 he became attorney-general for Oregon. In 1845 he was elected mayor of Oregon City. In the summer of 1845, with F.W. Pettygrove, he laid out the city of Portland. In 1845 he was nominated by the People’s party for governor of the territory. In 1848 he was appointed chief justice of the courts.

When the news of the massacre at Waiilatpu was received in the Willamette valley, the settlers rose en massé to chastise the Indians; but they had neither arms nor ammunition. the legislature appointed Jesse Applegate, A.L. Lovejoy and G.L. Curry as a committee to negotiate a loan for the purpose of securing munitions of war, etc. They went to Vancouver and sought to procure the funds form the Hudson’s Bay Company. On applying to Sir James Douglas, the chief factor of that company, they were refused, as the security offered was deemed insufficient. Mr. Douglas, however, loaned Messrs. Lovejoy, Applegate and Governor Abernethy a thousand dollars on their joint note; and soon a company of men were equipped and on the way to the scene of the massacre. Mr. Lovejoy was appointed adjutant-general, and did good service in the war.

In August, 1848, at Oregon city, he, with Colonel Jennings, Peter G. Stewart, Captain Orrin Kellogg and a few others, met and organized the first Masonic lodge ever established on the Pacific coast. In the summer of 1848, Oregon, as was the rest of the world, was startled with the news that California was one solid gold mine. With a large party of Oregonians, Lovejoy started for the great El Dorado, and was absent from his home about four months. In 1849, when the United States extended her laws over Oregon and organized a territorial government, he was elected to the legislature, and served from time to time in the house of representatives. In 1852 he was a member of the constitutional convention. In 1858 he was a member of the constitutional convention. In 1859 he was appointed special mail agent for Oregon; and in 1860 he was appointed receiver of the land-office and depository of public money at Oregon City.

In 1862-63 A.L. Lovejoy, D.P. Thompson and William and John Dement organized a company and built a line of steamboats to run on the Willamette river, and a rail tramway around the falls at Oregon City.

In 1867 he built a house and made his home in Portland, where he took an active interest in the public schools, serving as director for years, and using his influence to establish the High School. In 1871 he was among the first to enter into the project of building a railroad from Oregon to California.

He spent his summers at his farm near Oregon City, where he took great pleasure in setting out and cultivating an orchard of choice fruit-trees. He was a life-long Democrat, but from the firing on Fort Sumpter was a firm friend of the Union. He was a supporter of religious institutions, and favorable to all efforts to promote morality. He was a firm believer in Oregon, and an enthusiastic admirer of her beautiful landscape and mountain grandeur. Few if any of the pioneers have done more to entitle them to celebrity that General A.L. Lovejoy. His name and acts deserve to be indelibly stamped upon the pages of Oregon history.

He was married on the 4th of March, 1845, to Miss Elizabeth McGary, a young lady possessed of many personal attractions, refined manners and accomplishments. She was the daughter of James and Martha McGary of Madisonville, Kentucky, and came to Oregon with her mother and brother with the emigration of 1843. Her ancestry was Scotch and English. In subsequent years she was much admired for her energy and kind hospitality. For the interest and prosperity of Oregon, she was a co-worker with her husband.

General A.L. Lovejoy was a true type of a New England gentleman. With a kind and generous heart and liberal hand, he dispensed charity and hospitality, furnished his home and family with all the comforts and luxury that could be obtained in Oregon, and gave freely of his means to establish and maintain religion, the ministers and bishops of the various denominations being received and kindly entertained at his home.

He died in Portland, on the 11th of September, 1882, leaving his wife, two sons, two daughters and one grandson. He was buried in the Masonic cemetery at East Portland.



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

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