William Overton

William P. Overton was in Oregon fewer than three years, yet he made a mark on Oregon history. In May 1841, Overton and others from Jackson County, Missouri, joined the John Bidwell and John Bartleson party, which intended to journey to California. Overton was one of at least twenty-three people who left the party at Soda Springs and traveled to Oregon with Father Pierre De Smet and other Jesuit missionaries.

Overton arrived at the Methodist Mission at The Dalles on September 24. He worked and boarded there from November 1 until January 5, 1842, when he left for Fort Vancouver. He met Asa Lovejoy there in November 1843.

The two men set out in a canoe to go to Oregon City. On the way, they stopped on the shore of the Willamette River near a grove of trees known as "the clearing," which Indians had cleared of underbrush. It would be a good location for a townsite, they decided, and filed a claim for what would become the site of downtown Portland.

Lovejoy filed a Provisional Government land claim on 640 acres because Overton reportedly did not have the 25¢ filing fee, and the two became partners. Overton stayed there during the winter, building a crude shelter and making shingles and staves that he sold in Oregon City. In June 1844, a destructive flood on the Willamette discouraged Overton, and he sold his half-interest in the claim to Francis W. Pettygrove for $50.

Overton left Oregon in the summer of 1844. Rumors persisted about his whereabouts, and in  1875 James W. Nesmith reported to the Oregon Pioneer Association that he had heard that Overton was hanged in Texas. There is evidence, however, that he relocated to Hawaii after leaving Oregon.

Author


Map It


Further Reading

Nunis, Doyce B., ed. The Bidwell-Bartleson Party: 1841 California Emigrant Adventure. Santa Cruz, Calif.: Western Tanager Press, 1991.

Reed, Henry E., ed. "Lovejoy's Pioneer Narrative, 1842-48." Oregon Historical Quarterly 31:3 (September 1930): 237-60.

Scott, Harvey Whitfield. History of Portland Oregon. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1890. Online at books.google.com.


Related Articles

Francis Pettygrove with family
Francis Pettygrove (1812-1887)

Entrepreneur and Portland co-founder Francis W. Pettygrove was born in Calais, Maine, in 1812. After being educated in his home town, Pettygrove entered into a number of independent business activities in his native New England. In 1842, he contracted with a mercantile company to ship a stock of general merchandise ...

Portland

Portland, with a 2010 population of 583,776 within its city limits and 2,226,009 in the seven-county metropolitan area, was platted on the west bank of the Willamette River in 1845 on lands utilized by the Multnomah Chinooks. The area received its first few dozen English-speaking settlers in ...

The Portland Penny is on display in the lobby of the Oregon Historical Society
Portland Penny

The Portland Penny is an 1835 American copper penny that was used in an 1845 coin toss to name the new town of Portland. 

By 1843, two New Englanders—Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts, and Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine—had established a land claim approximately fourteen miles upriver from the confluence of ...

Related Historical Records


This entry was last updated on March 17, 2018