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Ewing Young

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Ewing Young

Ewing Young
Born 1799
Died February 9, 1841
Occupation Trapper

Ewing Young (1799 – February 9, 1841) was an American fur trapper and trader from Tennessee who traveled in what was then Northern Mexico and California before settling in the Oregon Country. Young traded along the Santa Fe Trail, across the Mexican north, including Alta California. He later moved north to the Willamette Valley. As a prominent and wealthy citizen in Oregon, his death was the impetus for the assemblies that several years later established the Provisional Government of Oregon.[1]

Early life

Ewing Young: His expeditions across Western North America.

Young was born in Tennessee to a farming family in 1799.[1] In the early 1820s he had moved to Missouri, then the far western edge of the American frontier, not far from the border of the Spanish-controlled territories of present day Texas, New Mexico and the Southwestern United States. While residing in Missouri he farmed briefly on the Missouri River at Charitan.[1]

New Mexico

Under the Spanish colonial system, trade between Americans and the Spanish outpost at Santa Fe was prohibited, but with the end of the Mexican War of Independence Spanish authorities were removed from the area in 1821. Residents of Missouri were eager to test whether commercial activities in Santa Fe would now be allowed, and a small group of Americans returned successfully in December 1821 from a small trading foray. At age 18 Young sold the farm he recently purchased and eagerly signed up to join a somewhat larger group bound in Santa Fe.[2] In May 1822 this party departed, becoming the first overland wagon train to cross the Santa Fe Trail.[2] Young and the others found that they were welcomed by the new Mexican authorities in Santa Fe.[2]

The Spanish and later Mexicans had not focused on trapping fur-bearing animals of the Southwest as demand was small within the Spanish trading system. The American expeditions found fur-bearing animals in abundance and there was demand for furs in American and European markets, trapping operations were commenced. For the next nine years Young pioneered trapping in the Santa Fe de Nuevo México province, dividing his time between Santa Fe and Missouri.[2] He led many of the first American expeditions into the mountains and watercourses of the present-day states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.

Young and his associates established a commercial route between Nuevo México and Missouri that exchanged Mexican furs, horses and mules for American produced trade goods.[3] When they returned to Nuevo Mexico, they sold the American goods for gold and silver coin.[2] During the trapping expedition of 1827–1828, Young employed a teenaged Kit Carson.[4] Despite tension that developed with Mexican authorities trying to restrict American activities, Young became a successful trapper and businessman. He eventually set up a trading post in Pueblo de Taos in northern Nuevo Mexico, in the late 1820s.[4] During his time in Mexico he was generally called Jaochin John[3] or Joaquin Jóven by fellow inhabitants.[5]


In the spring of 1830, Young led the first American trapping expedition to reach the Pacific Coast from Santa Fe de Nuevo México, traveling across Alta California. The party crossed over the Colorado River and the Mojave Desert, eventually arriving at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel where they recuperated. The group then visited the Mission San Fernando Rey de España in the nearby San Fernando Valley, and headed further north into California's great Central Valley via its southern San Joaquin Valley section. It was the first trapping expedition from the United States to do so.[6]

Once there the group moved north to the Sacramento Valley, where they encountered Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). The two groups jointly trapped the valley before the Americans set off for the Tule River.[5] After a short trapping excursion there, the party encountered an official from the Mission San José, who was trying capture members of the mission, possibly Ohlone people.[5] With the aid of eleven of Young's trappers the "fugitives" were taken back to the mission, where Young visited on 11 July.[5] From here the Americans moved on to San Francisco Bay to trade their pelts. After this they went south to Pueblo de Los Angeles and then back to Taos before the end of 1830. At the time of his return to Taos with the proceeds of this expedition, Young was established as one of the wealthiest Americans in Mexican territory.[6]

Over the next few years, Young and his group continued traveling to Alta California to trap and trade. In 1834 in San Diego, Young encountered Hall J. Kelley, the great promoter of the Oregon Country from Boston. Kelley invited Ewing Young to accompany him north to Oregon, but Young at first declined. After re-thinking, Young agreed to travel with Kelley and they set out in July 1834, with a group including Webley John Hauxhurst and Joseph Gale, both prominent figures in the Willamette Valley, accompanying them.[7]

Oregon Country

Young and Kelley arrived at the Hudson's Bay Company post Fort Vancouver on October 17, 1834, center of the Columbia District.[8] The HBC was the preeminent economic force in the region's fur trade.[8] At the time the Oregon Country was jointly occupied by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of America. Young decided to settle permanently on the west bank of the Willamette River near the mouth of Chehalem Creek, opposite Champoeg.[9] His home is believed to be the first house built by European Americans on that side of the river.[9] Dr. John McLoughlin of the HBC tried to discourage American settlers in the region. The Mexican government of Alta California accused Young and his group of having stolen 200 horses when they left.[9] The group denied this, saying some uninvited traveling companions had stolen the horses.[9] McLoughlin blacklisted Young from doing business with the HBC.[10]

In 1836, Young secured a vat from [10] McLoughlin and the HBC prohibited alcohol sales to the Indigenous peoples, as they had seen that it caused problems.[10] Late in the year, U.S. Navy Lieutenant William A. Slacum arrived on the ship Loriot and helped to dissuade Young from following through on the venture.[10]

Willamette Cattle Company

Slacum was an agent of the U.S. President; he helped put together a joint venture among the men to purchase cattle.[10] In January 1837, Young was selected as the leader of the Willamette Cattle Company. He traveled to California on the Loriot (assisted by Slacum). After purchasing 630 head of cattle, he brought them back along the Lawrence Carmichael, Pierre De Puis, B. Williams, and Emert Ergnette.[13] During the drive Gay and Bailey murdered a native boy, rationalising it as justice for the attack several years earlier by the Rogue River Indians on Young’s group.[1]

Marriage and family

He took María Josefa Tafoya, the daughter of a prominent Taos family who were Mexican citizens, as his wife in a common-law marriage.[4] By the late 1820s and early 1830s, the Mexican authorities were growing concerned about American settlers and their influences in Nuevo México. They began to impose increasingly severe restrictions on trade and trapping. Perhaps in part to avoid these restrictions, Young was baptized a Catholic in 1830 (perhaps he also became a Mexican citizen and formalized his marriage to Maria Tafoya; however, if he did so, no record of these two events survives).[14]


In February 1841, Young died without any known heir and without a will.[8] This created a need for some form of probate court to deal with his estate, which had many debtors and creditors among the settlers.[8] Doctor Ira L. Babcock was selected as supreme judge with probate powers to deal with Young's estate.[15] The activities that followed his death eventually led to the creation of a provisional government in the Oregon Country.[8]

The Ewing Young Historical Marker located along Oregon Route 240 notes the location of Young's farm and grave.[16][17] A round-topped oak tree that is said to have grown from an acorn planted on his grave is present at that location.[17]

Ewing Young Elementary School in Newberg, Oregon, is named in his honor.[18] In 1942 the Liberty ship Ewing Young (hull #631 from Calships in Terminal Island, California) was named in his honor. The Ewing Young served in the Pacific theater during World War II and was scrapped in 1959.


  1. ^ a b c d "Ewing Young Route". Oregon's Historic Trails. End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Archived from the original on 2006-12-10. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Holmes, Kenneth (1967). Ewing Young:master trapper. Portland, Oregon: Binsford & Mort. pp. 9–20. 
  3. ^ a b Young, F. G. and Joaquin Young "Ewing Young and His Estate: A Chapter in the Economic and Community Development of Oregon." The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 21, No. 3 (1920), pp. 171-315.
  4. ^ a b c Holmes, Kenneth (1967) p. 40-43.
  5. ^ a b c d Bancroft, Hubert History of California, Volume III San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Co. 1885, pp. 174-175
  6. ^ a b Holmes, Kenneth (1967) pp. 46-60
  7. ^ The American Rocky Mountain Fur Trade
  8. ^ a b c d e f Bancroft, Hubert and Frances Fuller Victor. History of Oregon, San Francisco: History Co., 1890
  9. ^ a b c d Hussey, John A. Champoeg: Place of Transition, A Disputed History. Portland: Oregon Historical Society. 1967, pp. 73-74
  10. ^ a b c d e Terry, John (October 15, 2006). "Oregon's Trails - Pariah eases into spirited endeavor".  
  11. ^ Allen, A. J. Ten years in Oregon. Ithaca, NY: Mack, Andrus, & Co. 1848. p. 78
  12. ^ Slacum, William A. "Memorial of William A. Slacum." The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society p. 196
  13. ^ "Wallamette Settlement Articles of Agreement". Provisional and Territorial Records (Oregon Provisional Government): 406. 1837-01-13. 
  14. ^ Holmes, Kenneth (1967) pp. 64-65
  15. ^ Horner, John B. (1921). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Company:Portland, Oregon. 
  16. ^ "Ewing Young Historical Marker".  
  17. ^ a b Munford, Kenneth; Charlotte L. Wirfs (1981). "The Ewing Young Trail". Benton County Historical Society & Museum. Retrieved 2010-06-11. 
  18. ^ Ewing Young History. Newberg School District. Retrieved on March 24, 2008.


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