James Birnie papers, 1845-1916  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Birnie, James
Title
James Birnie papers
Dates
1845-1916 (inclusive)
1845-1864 (bulk)
Quantity
4 cubic feet, (3 document cases, 2 flat boxes)
Collection Number
Mss 920
Summary
Papers of a Hudson's Bay Company agent, justice of the peace, and early merchant of Cathlamet, Washington Territory. Includes Birnie & Co. accounts with Abernethy & Co.; Allan, Lowe & Co.; Henry W. Corbett; Ladd, Reed, & Co.; and other business in northwestern Oregon and California. Also inlcludes fishery accounts; real estate records of Cathlamet; estate papers of James A. Scarborough; and guardianship records of Edwin and Robert Scarborough.
Repository
Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
97205
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
libreference@ohs.org
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

James Birnie was born in Scotland in 1800. He arrived in Canada in 1816 where he studied the French language. In 1818, he was employed by the Northwest Company and was sent to Fort Spokane. After the consolidation of the Northwest Company with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, Birnie was sent to Fort George, near present-day Astoria, Oregon, where he performed the tasks of Indian trader and bookkeeper until 1831. He then went to Fort Simpson in British Columbia to help in the completion of the Fort, remaining there for two years. His name was given to an island outside a harbor in British Columbia. He was then sent back to Fort George, where he was put in charge of the trading post until 1845. In that year he left the Hudson Bay Company and settled in Cathlamet, Washington Territory, where he opened a store. Birnie was the first European-American to settle in the area. He had a native wife from the Red River Indians in the east, and the couple had thirteen children – eight boys and five girls. He died in Cathlamet on December 31, 1864.

In 1852, on the death of James A. Scarborough, James Birnie was appointed the legal guardian of Scarborough's two young sons, Edwin and Robert. Scarborough had been a ship captain and long time employee of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Pacific Northwest. He had taken a donaton land claim on Chinook Point on the north shore of the Columbia River, an area now called Scarboro [sic] hill. After Scarborough's death in 1852, Birnie administered his holdings until 1856, when he sold the property to another Hudson's Bay Company employee, Rocque Ducheney.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The materials in the collection date mainly from 1845-1865 and relate primarily to Birnie’s Cathlamet business ventures and real estate holdings. The Financial Statements include tax statements and a ledger. The ledger covers a five year period and provides detailed documentation of Birnie’s investments. Also included is an extensive collection of bills and receipts related to Birnie’s store.

Correspondence includes Justice of the Peace verifications and real estate manuscripts. Also included is correspondence related to building a wharf in Cathlamet.

The vendor series, arranged alphabetically, contains various documents from vendors to the Cathlamet store. These include: Hudsons Bay Co., Leonard & Green, and Allan, Lowe & Co. of San Francisco. Here can be found invoices, financial statements, letters regarding receipt of goods, and letters regarding shipments and payments. The letters from Allan, Lowe & Co. provide details of shipping and commerce between San Francisco and the Columbia River area.

Among the bound volumes is Birnie's letterpress copy book, which contains copies of his outgoing correspondence from 1853 to 1858. Two volumes detail the transactions of the estate of James Scarborough, including expenses for Scarborough's sons.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collection. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

James Birnie papers, Mss 920, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1:  Financial Records, 1853-1916Return to Top

See also series 4, Bound Volumes.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1
Day book
1858 Nov. 3-30; 1864
1/2
Ledger
1853 Apr. 21-1858 Nov. 1
1/3
Fishery Accounts, including Pillar Rock Fishery Co.
1853
1/4
Fishery accounts
1854-1858
1/5
Bills receivable
1853-1858
1/6
Bills and receipts, A. D. Birnie
1898-1916
1/7
Bills and receipts, James D. Birnie
1845-1863
1/8-12
Bills and receipts, general
1850-1915
1/13
Steamship Lot Whitcomb —accounts
1854
1/14
Steamship John H. Couch —accounts
1863-1865
1/15
Steamship Multnomah —accounts
1855-1862
1/16
Steamship Grasshopper —accounts
1853
1/17
Shipping accounts
1853-1863

Series 2:  Correspondence, 1846-1862, undatedReturn to Top

See also letterpress copybook in Series 4, Bound Volumes.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/18-19
Business letters, general
1853-1969; undated
1/20
Shipping letters
1853-1864
1/21
Personal, James D. Birnie
Includes short biography of Birnie, land claim for property, letter to Julie Birnie, and index to journal of "J. B. & Co."
1846-1858; undated
1/22
Cathlamet wharf records
1854
1/23
Cathlamet real estate
Contains register to lots in Cathlamet, Wash., owned by James Birnie.
undated
1/24
Cathlamet Territorial Road
1854-1862
1/25
Cathlamet Justice of the Peace records
1855-1858

Series 3:  Vendors, 1852-1864Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/1
Abernethy & Co. (Oak Point Mill, Abernethy & Clark)
1854-1858
2/2
Allan, Lowe & Co. (San Francisco)—Accounts
1853-1857
2/3
Allan, Lowe & Co.—Invoices
1853-1857
2/4
Allan, Lowe & Co.—Letters
1853-1858
2/5
Allan, McKinlay & Co. (Oregon City)—Accounts
1852-1858
2/6
Breck & Ogden (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
1853-1855
2/7
Breck & Ogden—Letters
1853-1854
2/8
Corbett, Henry W. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
1861-1863
2/9
Hodge & Calef (Portland, Or.)—Receipts
1863
2/10
Hudson's Bay Co. (Vancouver, Wash.)—Accounts
1853-1855
2/11
Hudson's Bay Co.—Letters
1853-1858
2/12
Ladd, Reed & Co. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
1854-1864
2/13
Leonard & Green (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
1853-1858
2/14
Leonard & Green—Letters
1853-1859
2/15
McKee & Co. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
1858
2/16
Peterson, K.A. (Portland, Or.)—Letters and accounts
1855-1856
2/17
Trenchard & Hustler & Co. (Astoria, Or.)—Letters and accounts
1857-1864
2/18
Van Dussen & Brown (Astoria, Or.)—Accounts
1859-1864

Series 4:  Bound Volumes, 1845-1864Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
3/1
Accounts
1852-1855
3/2
Accounts and inventories
1852-1853
3/3
Accounts
1854-1858
3/4
Day Book
1858-1864
3/5
Letterpress copybook
1853-1858
4/1
Accounts
1853-1856
4/2
Accounts
1853-1855
5/1
Accounts
1845-1850
5/2
Accounts
1854-1856
5/3
Accounts and inventories
1855-1858
5/4
Ledger
1856-1857
5/5
Estate of James Scarborough—Ledger
1855
5/6
Estate of James Scarborough—Ledger
1855-1860

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Merchants—Washington (State)—Cathlamet—History—19th century
  • Trading posts—Washington (State)—Cathlamet
  • Personal Names :
  • Birnie, Alexander D.
  • Birnie, James--Archives (creator)
  • Scarborough, James Allan, d. 1852
  • Corporate Names :
  • Allan, Lowe & Co. (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • Birnie & Co.
  • Breck & Ogden (Portland, Or.)
  • Hudson's Bay Company
  • Ladd, Reed & Co. (Portland, Or.)
  • Leonard & Green
  • Abernethy & Co.
  • Geographical Names :
  • Cathlamet (Wash.)—History
  • Chinook Point (Wash.)—History
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Accounts
  • Ledgers
  • Letterpress copybooks
  • Letters