Once upon a time, in 1843, Tennesee drifter, William Overton and Boston lawyer, Asa Lovejoy were floating down the Willamette River in a canoe when they came upon the beauty of the place we now call Portland. They beached their canoe at “the Clearing” and they marveled at the beautiful mountains with the rich potential of the many trees.
Overton didn’t have the quarter to file a land claim, so he sold half of his 640-acre site to Lovejoy for 25 cents. They began to clear the many trees, build roads and build the first buildings. After a while, Overton decided to move on and sold his half of the share to Francis Pettygrove.
Portland got its name when Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove flipped a coin in 1845. Lovejoy was from Massachusetts and wanted to name the new settlement Boston. Pettygrove was from Maine and wanted to name it Portland. Pettygrove won the coin toss two out of three times and the rest as they say is history. Portland’s first Post Office opened in 1849, and the steam sawmill’s whistle could be heard at Fort Vancouver.
By 1850, about 800 residents made their home in Portland, there was a log-cabin hotel and a newspaper, the Weekly Oregonian. Portland was incorporated in 1851 and it has grown into the second largest city in the Northwest. People who settled in this region made their living from fish, lumber, wheat and cattle, and Portland became a major transportation center because of its proximity to Railroads and Rivers.
Portland existed in the shadow of Oregon City, the territorial capital of the Oregon Territory, which was 12 miles upstream on the falls of the Willamette River. Oregon City was laid out and named by Dr. John McLoughlin in 1842 and he would later become the Father of Oregon. McLoughlin was hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish Fort Vancouver, a fur trading outpost on the Columbia River. The outpost, which was established in 1825, served as the headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Oregon Territory.
The very first settlement of Americans on the Pacific Coast was established in 1811 at the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, where John Jacob Astor of New York established the Pacific Fur Company Trading Post in 1810.
Portland also triumphed over early rivals like Milwaukie and Sellwood. Milwaukie was founded by Lot Whitcomb in 1847 as a rival to Oregon City. Sellwood was named for the Reverend John Sellwood in 1882 and a post office was established there in October 1883. Sellwood became part of Portland in 1893. There were numerous platted additions with fancy names like: Council Crest, Hawthorne, Hyde Park, Irvington, Ladd’s Addition and Mount Tabor. Many of these additions had come into being before Portland had become a metropolis and many of them had their own post offices.
Linnton was laid out in 1843 by pioneers Peter Burnett (the first governor of California) and M.M. McCarver. Linnton had a post office from 1889 to 1936. James John, who had crossed the plains to California in 1841 with General Bidwell, came to Oregon in 1843. Settling first in Linnton, John moved to the site of the town that bears his name soon thereafter. He operated a ferry there in 1852. A plat for Saint Johns was filed July 20, 1865. It was annexed to Portland in 1915. A post office operated in St. Johns from 1873 to 1912. A post office was established at Portsmouth, southeast of St. John’s on April 17, 1891. Several months later, on August 25, 1891, the Portsmouth Post Office closed and moved to nearby University Park, where a plat for the town was filed in April 1891. The University Park Post Office operated until November 14, 1903.