James Birnie papers, 1845-1916 PDF
- Birnie, James
- James Birnie papers
- 1845-1916 (inclusive)
- 4 cubic feet, (3 document cases, 2 flat boxes)
- Collection Number
- Mss 920
- 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.
- Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open to the public.
- 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
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.
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.
|1858 Nov. 3-30; 1864|
|1853 Apr. 21-1858 Nov. 1|
Fishery Accounts, including Pillar Rock Fishery Co.
Bills and receipts, A. D. Birnie
Bills and receipts, James D. Birnie
Bills and receipts, general
Steamship Lot Whitcomb —accounts
Steamship John H. Couch —accounts
Steamship Multnomah —accounts
Steamship Grasshopper —accounts
Series 2: Correspondence, 1846-1862, undatedReturn to Top
See also letterpress copybook in Series 4, Bound Volumes.
Business letters, general
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."
Cathlamet wharf records
Cathlamet real estate
Contains register to lots in Cathlamet, Wash., owned by James Birnie.
Cathlamet Territorial Road
Cathlamet Justice of the Peace records
Series 3: Vendors, 1852-1864Return to Top
Abernethy & Co. (Oak Point Mill, Abernethy & Clark)
Allan, Lowe & Co. (San Francisco)—Accounts
Allan, Lowe & Co.—Invoices
Allan, Lowe & Co.—Letters
Allan, McKinlay & Co. (Oregon City)—Accounts
Breck & Ogden (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
Breck & Ogden—Letters
Corbett, Henry W. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
Hodge & Calef (Portland, Or.)—Receipts
Hudson's Bay Co. (Vancouver, Wash.)—Accounts
Hudson's Bay Co.—Letters
Ladd, Reed & Co. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
Leonard & Green (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
Leonard & Green—Letters
McKee & Co. (Portland, Or.)—Accounts
Peterson, K.A. (Portland, Or.)—Letters and accounts
Trenchard & Hustler & Co. (Astoria, Or.)—Letters and accounts
Van Dussen & Brown (Astoria, Or.)—Accounts
Series 4: Bound Volumes, 1845-1864Return to Top
Accounts and inventories
Accounts and inventories
Estate of James Scarborough—Ledger
Estate of James Scarborough—Ledger
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 :
- Letterpress copybooks