Capt. John H. Couch


Oregon Native Son and Historical Magazine
Vol. 1 May, 1899 No. 1

Biographical * Captain John H. Couch

Captain Couch was born February 21, 1811, at Newburyport, Mass. Upon arriving at an age when he could set out for himself, he chose the seafaring life, and until 1840 his voyages were confined to the waters of the Atlantic. In that year he rounded the Horn in command of the brig Maryland, and was soon in the waters of the Columbia. This vessel was sold in the Sandwich islands, when he returned home. In 1843 his employers again sent him to this coast in the brig Chenamus, and on his arrival at Oregon City he opened a general merchandise store, remaining in charge of the same until 1847, in the meantime sending the vessel back to its home port. In 1848 he was again at Newburyport, when he received the commendation of his employers for his fidelity and prudence in the management of their affairs in this far away section. Again they tendered him further employment of a like nature, but he declined. He was, however, prevailed upon to again return in the interests of another firm, and in 1849 the Madonna unloaded cargo at Portland which he was to dispose of, leaving the ship in command of Captain Geo. H. Flanders, his brother-in-law. After Captain Flanders had made several trips, he also gave up following the sea, and went into co-partnership with Captain Couch. This firm remained unbroken until the death of the latter. Captain Couch was treasurer of the provisional government; he was commissioner of Multnomah county; he was the first appointee to the office of inspector of hulls, a position which he retained under all administrations until his decease. After the organization of the state government he served as port warden and pilot commissioner. In each and every trust confided to him, never did a custodian more wisely, honestly and with greater fidelity fulfill the duties devolving upon him. As in public employment, so in private life. He was an exemplary citizen, and so genial and whole-souled in disposition that he was personally known and esteemed by every man, woman and child in Portland. What is known as Couch's addition to Portland was his donation claim, but little of it now remains uncovered by residences or buildings devoted to the various trades, manufactories and enterprises known to the city. Early in life Captain Couch was married to Miss Caroline E. Flanders. The union was blessed with four daughters, the three eldest becoming the wifes of Dr. R.B. Wilson, C.H. Lewis and Dr. Rodney Glisan; the youngest, Miss Mary H., is a native daughter. Captain Couch died January 19, 1870; his wife survived him until July 19, 1885.

Mrs. Couch was also born in Newburyport, Mass. She was a little over three years older than her husband, having been born October 24, 1807.

Of all the people who have been Oregonians, and especially residents of Portland, none were more highly esteemed during life, or their death more regretted, than this pioneer father and mother.

COUCH, Capt. John H. (1811-1870): m'd FLANDERS, Caroline E.; a sailor who made many voyages during the years preceding 1839; a representative of the Cushing family in Massachusetts; entered the Columbia River in the spring of 1840 on board the brig Maryland; arrived again in 1843 in command of the brig Chenamus of Boston; remained in Oregon country kept a store in Oregon City until 1845; moved to Portland and took up claim; went east in 1847; arrived back in Portland in August 1849 on the bark Madonna; located permanently in Portland; held many offices and positions.