Daniel H. Lownsdale papers, 1850-1906

Overview of the Collection

Lownsdale, Daniel H., active 1848-1858
Daniel H. Lownsdale papers
1850-1906 (inclusive)
1850-1873 (bulk)
0.1 cubic feet, (2 folders in shared box)
Collection Number
Mss 177
Papers relating to the land claim of Daniel Lownsdale (1803-1862) in Portland, Oregon, including indentures, agreements, court documents, and correspondence. Lownsdale came to Oregon in 1845, established a tannery in what would become Portland, and in 1849 purchased additional land from Francis Pettygrove, some of which would later become the South Park Blocks and the North Park Blocks.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Daniel H. Lownsdale was born in Mason County, Kentucky, in 1803. He married Ruth Overfield in 1826, and they moved west to Indiana. The couple had three children before Ruth Lownsdale died in 1830. Daniel Lownsdale lived in Europe from 1842 to 1844. In 1845, he emigrated to Oregon, where he purchased part of Amos King's land claim at what would become the city of Portland, and established a tannery. He served in the Oregon provisional legislature in 1846.

In 1849, Lownsdale purchased an additional land claim from Francis Pettygrove for $5,000. He then resurveyed the land and began selling lots. In 1852, he donated a strip of his land claim to the City of Portland to be used as a firebreak. Parts of this strip of land would later become the South Park Blocks and the North Park Blocks; the central section was never formally deeded to the city, and would later be sold for development.

Lownsdale scouted the route for a road from the Tualatin Valley to Portland, and successfully lobbied the Oregon territorial legislature for a charter to construct what would become the Great Plank Road, which was constructed in 1856. He also served as the federal postal agent for Oregon under U.S. President Millard Fillmore. Lownsdale's later years included a legal dispute with investors led by Josiah Parrish over Lownsdale's 1840s claim to land, levees, and docks on the west side of the Willamette River, with the investors claiming that the land on the banks of the river was public. In 1858, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that because there were no laws governing land in Oregon before 1850, no one could claim title to the disputed lands.

Lownsdale remarried in 1850 to Nancy Gillihan, a widow; the couple would have two children. Lownsdale died in 1862.

Sources: Corning, Howard McKinley, editor, "Dictionary of Oregon History," second edition, 1989; "Daniel Lownsdale (1803-1862)," by Chet Orloff, Oregon Encyclopedia, https://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/lownsdale-daniel/#.YqeEQKjMIuU.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The bulk of the collection consists of property and court documents relating to Daniel H. Lownsdale's land claim in Portland, Oregon. Court records include several documents written by Lownsdale's attorney, Aaron E. Wait, concerning a property dispute that Lownsdale had with Stephen Coffin and William W. Chapman in the early 1850s, and a notice to Lownsdale from Oregon Surveyor General J. B. Preston about said dispute. Other property documents include a printed copy of Lownsdale's purchase of Francis Pettygrove's land claim; indentures and agreements; an agreement for Lownsdale and his wife, Nancy Lownsdale, to sell land to Josiah Failing, William S. Ladd, and Nelson Northrup for use as a cemetery; and deeds for Lownsdale's heirs. The collection also contains two title abstracts: One for Lot 7, Block 154, compiled circa 1865; and one for Land Claim 40, Block 256, compiled 1904-1906.

Other documents in the collection consist of an agreement between Daniel H. Lownsdale on behalf of J.P.O. Lownsdale and Jacob T. Hunsaker (written as "Jacob T. Huntsucker") regarding a purchase of cattle and horses, 1862; a December 4, 1865 letter from James K. Kelly to S. Huelot concerning the dispute between Lownsdale and Coffin, with a note from Huelot to "Mr. Sellwood" about Oregon land law; and an 1869 letter from William Lair Hill, attorney for Lownsdale's heirs, to Jacob Sitzel about proposed development on a lot from Lownsdale's claim.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Daniel H. Lownsdale papers, Mss 177, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society owns the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Some documents acquired in or circa 1903 (RL2022-094-RETRO, RL2022-095-RETRO). Several documents either purchased from or gift of Fred Lockley, 1947-1948 (RL2022-093-RETRO, RL2022-096-RETRO). At least some other materials in the collection likely gift of the estate of Hugh Porter McNary, Jr., February 1971 (Lib. Acc. 11823).

Related Materials

Other collections at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library that include Lownsdale's papers are the Portland Valley Plank Road Company records, Mss 134; the Samuel R. Thurston family papers, Mss 379; the William M. King papers, Mss 1142; and the Joseph Lane papers, Mss 1146; the vertical file Biography - Lownsdale, Daniel H.; and the vertical file Genealogy - Lownsdale family.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Real property--Oregon--Portland

Personal Names

  • Lownsdale, Daniel H., active 1848-1858

Form or Genre Terms

  • civil court records
  • indentures
  • property records

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Wait, Aaron E. (Aaron Emmons), 1813-1898