Something of the character of John McLoughlin, "father of Oregon," can be ascertained by his antipathy for Rev. Herbert Beaver, the first Anglican cleric for Fort Vancouver.

Beaver had been personally selected by Hudson's Bay Company Governor George Simpson in England during a visit there in 1835-1836. When Beaver and his wife arrived on the HBC ship Nereide, via Honolulu, on November 6, 1836, Reverend Beaver immediately disapproved of the common-law marriages of HBC personnel as concubinage. Rather than have Beaver solemnize his union with his mixed-blood wife, McLoughlin boycotted his services and chose to be married in a secular ceremony conducted by his assistant, James Douglas, as a justice of the peace. McLoughlin, a former Catholic, also didn't like Beaver's resolve to make the children of the district learn the Anglican catechism instead of Catholic exercises.

More trouble arose after McLoughlin learned that Beaver, in a private report to Simpson, referred to McLoughlin's wife as "the kept mistress of the highest personnage in your service" and "a female of notoriously loose character." Upon learning of these unwarranted slights, McLoughlin gave the clergyman a sound thrashing on March 19, 1838. Soon after his altercation with McLoughlin, Reverend Beaver returned to live permanently in England where he wrote an article in a Church of England publication condemning McLoughlin as "this monster in human shape."

Herbert Beaver has been described by bibliophile Kim Whale as "a nasty little man." Certainly he was narrow-minded and ill-prepared to cope with pioneer life, but in defence of Beaver it must be said that he also had the gumption to criticize "many acts of cruelty and murder committed upon natives, by persons in the Company's service, some of which I narrated by letter to the Deputy Governor of the Company at home, and to the Governor of the Company's foreign possessions, in the hope that a stop might be put to the recurrence of these horrible atrocities; but from both I incurred a rebuke for my undue interference in matters which did not professionally concern me." To Beaver's credit, he broke the code of silence by publicizing acts of unmitigated cruelty and genocide with the Aborigines' Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings in London.

Beaver also cited abortion and venereal disease as just two of the effects of unlimited fraternization on the Chinook people nearest the fort. "Among crimes which are certainly not indigenous, infanticide stands foremost. It is committed by the mother, or at her desire, but never when an Indian is the father, generally in consequence of the desertion of the white father. Abortion is likewise resorted to with the design of not putting him to the expense and trouble of maintaining his offspring. Yet the unhallowed connexions, which lead to these crimes, are permitted, nay, encouraged by the Company, who night easily restrain them. Infidelity in Indian women living with their natural husbands is of rare occurrence; that of those living with the lower servants of the Company notoriously common. Of its dreadful effects let the records of the hospital at Vancouver testify. Nor are the ravages of the malady alluded to confined to that spot, I believe that the blood of the whole Chinook race is tainted with it, and that through the agency of sailors it is disseminated along the coast for hundreds of miles, and perpetuated at the other posts of the Company."


Beaver, Herbert. Reports and Letters of Herbert Beaver, 1836-1838, Chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company and Missionary to the Indians at Fort Vancouver (Portland, Oregon: The Champoeg Press, 1959). Thomas E. Jessett, ed.

[BCBW 2005] "Missionaries" "Forts and Fur"