He still shows up everywhere. And yet, it was only today when it dawned on me: although I write about Dr. John McLoughlin in my memoir, I have yet to blog about him. After crafting over 150 blogs during the past 3 years, that is a bit surprising. Especially when, without a doubt, my favorite quote from My Music Man, and the line that has generated the biggest laughs at my book and history talks, features Dr. John.
I concluded last week’s blog (They keep coming) imagining that perhaps I could line up a speaking gig at Fort Vancouver, following the success and interest of my recent Murdock Talk in Oregon City. I’m pleased to report that it appears that something will unfold for 2020. I recognize that many historians are much more knowledgeable than I about the life of Dr. John McLoughlin. In writing about him here or talking about him elsewhere, it isn’t my interest to copy or repeat all that they have taught us. Rather, I share personal stories and remembrances, including some from those no longer living, and to recast a few of those memories back to some who were too young to know.
Dr. John was one of the first white people out here in Oregon that both my great great great grandmother and grandfather met, after arriving separately at Fort Vancouver by sailing ship with the first and second Jason Lee Missionary reinforcements. In My Music Man, I write about how, upon William Willson’s arrival in 1837, William made several canoe trips upriver as he and two others transported cargo from their ship the Diana anchored at Fort Vancouver to Lee’s Willamette Missionary. When Chloe Clarke (Willson) arrived three years later, it is said that Dr. John sent men with fresh food to meet the travelers as their sailing ship, the Lausanne, slowly made its way up the Columbia to Fort Vancouver.
And yet, it is really by reading my grandfather’s book, The White Headed Eagle, that I learned more about this Chief Factor (“Chief Trader”). Thanks to the Oregon Historical Society, decades later, I can not only learn what my grandfather hoped to create in the writing of this book, but listen to his recorded voice in this hour-long recording. The intimacy of hearing his recorded voice made me a bit teary as I shared this audio recording earlier this month during the talk I gave at the Museum of the Oregon Territory. This weekend I decided to make a short excerpt of the recording better available for both family members who remember him as our Daddy Dick, and readers who may be familiar with the book he wrote. Enjoy the video below which includes two short clips of this 1986 Oregon Historical Society audio recording, thanks to recent digitizing by my brother Michael. I’ve added in a few photos of this grandfather, Richard Gill Montgomery, Sr.
Yes, Daddy Dick. I didn’t know to tell you this when you were alive but today I would assure you that future generations have appreciated the story you put together. We have learned to view old stories through our lens of today: recognizing both beauty, and sometimes untruths, that may also have been perpetuated at the expense of others. Yet, my grandfather, stories matter. We learn, we change, we atone, we forgive, and then, when we are ready, we retell them our own way.