First Advisor

William L. Lang

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Agriculture economics, Agriculture -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley -- History, Agriculture -- Oregon -- Umpqua River Valley -- History, Agriculture -- Oregon -- Rogue River Valley (Klamath County-Curry County) -- History, Oregon, Western -- Commerce -- History -- 19th century



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 156 p.) : maps


This thesis examines how the pursuit of commercial gain affected the development of agriculture in western Oregon's Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue River Valleys. The period of study begins when the British owned Hudson's Bay Company began to farm land in and around Fort Vancouver in 1825, and ends in 1861--during the time when agrarian settlement was beginning to expand east of the Cascade Mountains. Given that agriculture in Oregon, as elsewhere, would eventually reach a standard of national development, and given that most of Oregon's immigrants arrived poor and lacked the farm implements needed for subsistence, the question this study asks is what methods and motivations guided Oregon's first agrarian settlers to improve their industry? It is the central premise of this study that commerce was the sine qua non of agricultural development, and that commercial gain was the incentive that underpinned the improvements necessary to its progress. The question itself necessarily involves physiographical and climatological conditions, existing and potential markets, and a merchant class whose commercial motivations were beyond doubt. Two additional matters that weigh substantially through most of this paper need to be mentioned: First, because not all farmers were commercially-oriented, the focus is on individuals, including merchants, whose entrepreneurial activities contributed the most to agriculture; second, the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and in southern Oregon in the early 1850s, had a huge and lasting influence on Oregon agriculture and on the overall economy.


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Portland State University. Dept. of History

Persistent Identifier