As was the custom in those days, he was married quite young -
at the age of twenty-three - to Miss Ruth, the youngest daughter of Paul Overfield, the head of one of the most prominent families of Northeastern Kentucky. In obedience to the venturesome spirit inherited form his father, who had abandoned the comforts of civilization in his youth to become one of the conquerors of Kentucky, young Lownsdale, with his young wife, immediately removed to Gibson county, Indiana, which was then almost on the frontier. There he had the misfortune to lose his wife, who died in 1830, leaving him three children, one boy and two girls. Soon after this, making suitable provision for his children, he went south, remaining for a time in Georgia, engaged in mercantile pursuits.
His health failing, he accepted the advice of physicians, and embarked in 1842 on a voyage to Europe, remaining abroad, visiting various countries, until 1844. Returning to the United States in that year, he found the country excited over the Oregon question; and, without parleying, he joined one of those devoted bands that crossed three thousand miles of hostile Indian country to settle our title by actual occupation. He arrived on the present site of Portland late in 1845, and appears to have realized the importance of the position, since he took a claim (now the Amos N. King claim) adjoining that of Lovejoy and Pettygrove, and soon thereafter formed the desire to acquire the river front.
The opportunity offered in 1848, when Mr. Lownsdale purchased the site of Portland from F.W. Pettygrove, for what must then have been considered an extravagant price, - five thousand dollars. This enterprise, now having energy and foresight to steer it, began that advance which will never cease until some revolutionary invention shall change our methods of transportation, or man shall lose his gregarious disposition. With foresight that has been proved by events, he staked his fortune on the issue that Portland was destined to become, what she now is, the metropolis of a great commonwealth. Resting in this faith, he looked constantly towards the main point; and to his energy Portland largely owes the victory she gained over numerous rivals, that seemed to have heavier backing and better chances.
In the spring of 1849, Mr. Lownsdale, feeling the need of assistance in his enterprise, disposed of a half interest in the Portland claim to Mr. Stephen Coffin, then a resident of Oregon City; and, in December of that year, the two disposed of an interest to Colonel W.W. Chapman. Being a man of great energy and nerve, he was not dismayed by obstacles, but kept his ends steadily in view, and surmounted them. As a reward for his faith, he lived to see Portland's supremacy acknowledged by all, and to see Oregon on the road to that degree of prosperity that he had predicted for her.
In 1850 he was married to Mrs. Nancy Gillihan, widow of William Gillihan. By this second marriage he had two children, one boy, M.O. Lownsdale, and one girl, now Mrs. Ruth A. Hoyt, a resident of Columbia county. Of the children of his first wife only one, J.P.O. Lownsdale, of Portland, now survives.
Mr. Lownsdale occupied several public positions, having been United States postal agent during the administration of Fillmore, and having represented his county in the legislature. He was always known as a public-spirited citizen, ever ready to forward any enterprise that promised good to the city or state, and always ready to lend a helping hand to those in distress, as many early immigrants who arrived in destitute circumstances can testify. In the Indian wars of 1847 and of 1855-56 he bore his part, serving in the latter with the regiment of Colonel Cornelius in the capacity of regimental quartermaster, and performing his very difficult duties to the satisfaction of his superior.
He died May 4, 1862, and was buried in Lone Fir Cemetery, near Portland, a neat monument marking his last resting-place.
J.P.O. LOWNSDALE. - There are few business men more favorably known in the metropolis of the Pacific Northwest than the gentleman of whom we write. His operations in real estate have ever been of the most reliable character; and the services that he has rendered the city in calling attention to her advantages have been very great. In his personal character he has maintained not only an integrity worthy of the highest commendation, but worthy of the imitation of young men.
He was born at Princeton, Gibson county, Indiana, January 1, 1830, and is the son of D.H. Lownsdale, the early owner of the central part of Portland, Oregon. At the age of sixteen he operated with his uncle in a dry-goods store in his native place, and at the age of twenty-one (1851) came at the request of his father via the Isthumus to Portland. He was here engaged in merchandising until, in 1853, he embraced the opportunity to return East via the plains route, on horseback, with Captain Hiram Smith. It required four months to make the journey. On his return, he entered into partnership with his uncle in Indiana, the business proving very successful to all parties concerned. He was married in 1854 to Miss Sarah R. Milburn, and during his residence at his old home was honored with various public trusts and offices in the town and county.
In the spring of 1862, however, learning of the failure of his father's health, and desiring to see him again, he undertook once more the journey to our state by the Isthumus route; but, reaching San Francisco, the news was received that the father had died at about the time the journey was begun. The duties of administrator now devolved upon Mr. Lownsdale, and made necessary a protracted stay at Portland. But in due course of administration, notwithstanding many complications, settlements were made to the full satisfaction of all interested. In the meantime Mr. Lownsdale had become a citizen of Portland, and in 1863 was elected to fill a vacancy in the city council. He was afterwards elected to a three-year term, and at the close of this was but narrowly defeated by Thos. J. Holmes for mayor. The city was then Democratic, while Mr. Lownsdale ran on the Republican ticket. This election will be memorable for the sudden and startling death of Mr. Holmes the day succeeding the election, - a demise due to the excitements of the campaign. Mr. Lownsdale was appointed upon the board of county commissioners to fill the position left vacant by the election to the Untied States Senate of the incumbent, Hon. H.W. Corbett; and he held the office a second term by election, declining further preferment.
He continues his real-estate business with unabated interest and success. His family consists of his wife and four grown children. The eldest, a daughter, is the wife of Mr. E.M. hall, who is operating extensively upon claims in the Coeur d'Alene mines. The two elder sons are in successful business of their own.
In Mr. Lownsdale we find exemplified that sturdy devotion to business and progress which have not only realized all that the state is at present, but which contains the promise of a flourishing future.