Immigration Society

Bancroft's Works - Pg. 694 & 695;
Pub. 1888 Vol. XXX


The first society for the promotion of immigration was formed in 1856, in New York, under the title of New York Committee of Pacific Emigration. S.P. Dewey and W.T. Coleman of San Francisco, and Amory Holbrook and A. McKinlay of Oregon City, were present at the preliminary meeting at the Tontine House. An appeal was made to the people ofr Oregon to interest themselves in sustaining a board of immigration, and keeping an agent in New York in common with the California Emigration Society. Or. Statesman, Feb. 3, 1857. The matter, however, seems to have been neglected, nothing further being heard about immigration schemes until after the close of the civil war, and after the settlement of Idaho and Montana had intercepted the westward flow of population, reducing it to a minimum in the Willamette Valley and everywhere west of the Cascades. About 1868 the State Agricultural Society appointed A.J. Dufur, its former president, to compile and publish facts concerning the 'physical, geographical, and mineral' resources of the state, and a 'description of its agricultural development,' which he accordingly did in a pamphlet of over a hundred pages, which was distributed broadcast and placed in the way of travellers. Dufur's Or. Statistics, Salem, 1869.

In August 1869 a Board of Statistics, Immigration, and Labor Exchange was formed at Portland, with the object of promoting the increased settlement of the country, and furnishing immigrants with employment. The board consisted of ten men, who managed the business and employed such agents as they thought best, but the revenues were derived from private subscriptions. Ten thousand copies of pamphlets prepared by the society were distributed the first year of its existence, and the legislature was appealed to for help in furnishing funds to continue these operations, which were assisted by a subordinate society at Salem. Or. Legisl. Docs, 1870, 11, app. 1-11.In 1872 E.L. Applegate was appointed a commissioner of immigration by the legislature, with power to equip himself with maps, charts, and statistics in a manner properly to represent Oregon in the United States and Europe, and to 'counteract interested misrepresentations.' Or. Laws, 1872, 38. The compensation for this service was left blank in the law, from which circumstance, and from the additional one that Applegate returned to Oregon in the spring of 1872 as a peace commissioner to the Modocs under pay, it is just to conclude that his salary as a commissioner of immigration was insufficient to the service, or that his services were inadequate to the needs of the country, or both.

At the following session in 1874 the State Board of Immigration was created, October 28th, the members of which were to be appointed by the governor to the number of five, who were to act without salary or other compensation, under rules of their own making. This act also authorized the governor to appoint honorary members in foreign countries, none of whom were to receive payment. Or. Laws, 1874, 113. The failure of the legislature to make an appropriation compelled the commissioners appointed by the governor to solicit subscriptions in Portland. Considerable money was collected from business firms, and an agent was sent to San Francisco. Upon recommendation of the state board, consisting of W.S.s Ladd, H.W. Corbett, B. Goldsmith, A. Lienenweber and William Reid, the governor appointed twenty-four special agents, ten in the United States, ten in Europe, two in New Zealand, and two in Canada. The results were soon apparent. Nearly 6,000 letters of inquiry were received in the eighteen months ending in September 1876, and a perceptible movement to the north-west was begun. The eastern branch of the state board at Boston expended $24,000 in the period just mentioned for immigration purposes; half-rates were secured by passenger vessels and railway lines from European ports to Portland, by which means about 4,000 immigrants came out in 1875, and over 2,000 in 1876, while the immigration of the following year was nearly twelve thousand. Or. Mess. and Docs, 1876, 14, 10; Portland Board of Trade, 1877, 17.

On the 24th of January, 1877, the Oregon State Immigration Society organized under the private-corporations act of 1862, with a capital stock of $500,000, in shares of $5 each, the object being to promote immigration, collect and diffuse information, buy and sell real estate, and do a general agency buriness. The president of the incorporated society was A.J. Dufur, vice-president D.H. Stearns, secretary T.J. Matlock, treasurer, L.P.W. Quimby. By-Laws Or. Emig. Soc., 16. An office was opened in Portland, and the society, chiefly through its president, performed considerable labor without any satisfactory pecuniary returns. But there was by this time a wide-spread interest wakened, which led to statisical and descriptive pamphlets, maps, and circulars by numerous authors, whose works were purchased and made use of by the Oregon and California and Northern Pacific railroad companies to settle their lands, and by other transportation companies to swell their passenger lists. The result of these efforts was to fill up the eastern portion of Oregon and Washington with an active population in a few years, and to materially increase the wealth of the state, both by addition to its producing capacity, and by a consequent rise in the value of lands in every part of it. The travel over the Northern Pacific, chiefly immigration, was large from the moment of its extension to the Rocky Mountains, and was in 1885 still on the increase.


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R. GESS SMITH