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Biography of Napolean McGilvery

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NAPOLEON McGILVERY. – The life of this pioneer is full of interest, and embraces many of the most interesting occurrences on the coast, particularly the campaign of Frémont’s little band, which secured California to the union.

Mr. McGilvery was born in the Lake of the Woods, Upper Canada, at the Hudson’s Bay post, his father being for many years an officer in that company. In 1839 he came to Vancouver with a considerable party, and was occupied in the service of the company until 1844, when he left the British and became his own American master on Howell’s Prairie. In 1846, upon the outbreak of the war with Mexico, he went to California, and at Sonoma joined the American volunteers, who soon crossed San Francisco Bay and were incorporated in Frémont’s forces. He took part in that belligerent captain’s various military excursions, going on board the Sterling to make an attack at San Diego, but returning with that ship upon the news being received at sea that the American forces had suffered defeat at San Pedro. He was in the campaign all the way from Monterey to Los Angeles, and was at the capture of San Luis Obispo.

The next year he was with Commodore Stockton, crossing the plains to Missouri. After a short stop at the Missouri river, he came back in 1848 to Vancouver, but immediately left for California, digging gold for two years. There he again fell in with distinguished company, becoming a member of Captain Warner’s exploring party, which made an expedition to Goose Lake, and had a hot fight with the Indians, in which the Captain was killed and four others wounded, who all died form the poison of the arrows. McGilvery escaped unhurt. After his return to California, he was up and down the Sacramento, paying as much as one hundred dollars for fare between Sacramento City and San Francisco; and he paid another hundred to reach Oregon on the brigantine Pedimont. It cost eighty dollars to get to Portland from Astoria by an Indian canoe. Those were rustling times.

He took another trip south, falling in with General Lane in the Calapooia Mountains, and helped him to drive stock to the mines, and himself stopped awhile at Yreka. Returning, he was in the Willamette valley, until his marriage in 1853. The lad concerned in this affair was Miss Sarah, the daughter of William Flett, a woman of great personal attractions. The same year he occupied his farm near Vancouver, Washington Territory, and has lived upon it nearly forty years. There are four children in the family, – Simon, Edward, Kate and Susan.

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