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John Shivley, Dreamer Extraordinaire

Pioneer John M. Shivley (1804-1893) followed a rocky pathway in his journey, his quest to capture even one of his dreams. He taught school, but turned to business as a storekeeper, attempting to build a dry goods empire in St. Louis, Missouri. Economic panic swept away his five stores in 1837. He had married in 1836, but his wife died in 1842. With the voices of Jason Lee and others ringing in his thoughts, he decided to travel to the Oregon country. A practiced salesman, Shivley convinced 300 settlers to travel with him, using the promise of a military escort. However, he found he could not commit military forces to the enterprise, nor could he persuade the government to do so. The prospect of unprotected travel over the Oregon Trail reduced his followers to six. In 1843, they joined the first large 'migration' wagon train to the Oregon country, and in 1844 John Shively claimed a tract of land at Astoria, and platted Shivley's Addition to Astoria, at which point he encountered yet another stumbling block in his journey. The region was still disputed territory, and was still dominated by the Hudson's Bay Company, who forced Shivley to abandon his claim and leave the area after the company officer hired an assassin to kill Shivley. He retraced the Oregon Trail in 1845, traveling to Washington, D.C., and, perhaps out of self-interest, he took part in the negotiations to establish the border between Canada and the Oregon territory. Ever one to promote the settlement of Oregon (again, perhaps out of self-interest), he invested his time in Washington writing a guidebook for others who might travel the Oregon Trail, in which he was less than forthright concerning the difficulties encountered on the journey. Married again and appointed postmaster of Astoria, he traveled the Trail again in 1847, this time with his wife, and the first overland mail sent to Oregon. He also carried his plat for his addition to Astoria. His stay in Astoria was brief. He rushed south to California with other gold seekers, then, planning to enter the shipping business, he invested the gold he had found in a steam engine, but lost the profits of his labor when his ship was wrecked at the mouth of the Rogue River on his return voyage to Astoria. When gold was discovered in the southern corner of Oregon, he headed south again, and fared well in an area near Jacksonville he named for himself, Shivley's gulch. Returning to Astoria, Shivley found the work easier and the profits greater managing his property holdings. He was the first postmaster west of the Rocky Mountains, but his skill in laying out a town left much to be desired. He had platted Oregon City for John McLoughlin of the Hudson's Bay Company, and his addition to Astoria, both of which included impossible terrain. Early settlers built some of the roads he planned, and the twenty-first century city still struggles with the result.



His journey ended in 1893. After several years as an invalid, he was taken along the watery path, known now as Young's Bay, that preceded roads to Greenwood Cemetery, south of Astoria. The gray traceries in the stone that marks his grave shadow the intertwining pathways he followed in life.

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