Guide to the Philip Foster papers

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Foster, Philip, 1805-1884
Title: Philip Foster papers
Dates: 1834-1967 ( inclusive )
1844-1874 ( bulk )
Quantity: 3 cubic feet (4 document cases, 1 custom box)
Collection Number: Mss 996
Summary: Papers of Philip Foster, a native of Maine who came to Oregon in the 1840s, established businesses and farms in the Willamette Valley, served as treasurer of the Oregon provisional government, and helped to build and maintain the Barlow Road. He was the brother-in-law and business partner of Francis W. Pettygrove, one of the founders of Portland, Oregon. Papers include business, family, and political correspondence, records of businesses in Maine and Oregon; financial records of the Barlow Road, and papers relating to the Clackamas County, Oregon, school district.
Repository: Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Contact Information: Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Languages: Materials in the collection are inEnglish 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical Note

A native of Maine, Philip Foster was born at or near the town of Argyle in 1805, the son of William and Lucy (Spencer) Foster. In 1832 he married Fanny Cummins (or Cummings) and the couple had one son. Mrs. Foster died in 1829, probably in childbirth, and Foster re-married in 1837. His second wife was Mary Charlotte Pettygrove, the sister of Francis Pettygrove, with whom Foster had entered a business partnership in Calais, Maine. Pettygrove later pursuaded Foster to join him in a venture that would take them both to the Oregon Country.

In March of 1842 the Foster and Pettygrove families sailed from New York City to the Pacific on the ship Victoria. After six months in Hawaii they sailed to Oregon in April of 1843 on the Fama. Settling for a time at Willamette Falls (later Oregon City), Foster established a general store there and later built a flour mill in partnership with Walter Pomeroy. Meanwhile his former partner, Francis Pettygrove, purchased a portion of a new townsite up-river that would later become Portland. Foster eventually purchased a half-interest in a 640 acre land claim situated on the Clackamas River at the mouth of Eagle Creek. He also served as treasurer of the Oregon provisional government from July 1844 to July 1845 and was a partner in the Willamette Cattle Company. At the end of 1845 he joined with Samuel K. Barlow to construct and maintain a road for overland emigrants, known as the Barlow Road. Foster's farm at Eagle Creek became a stopping point and supply depot for many of the migrant wagon trains that travelled this route.

In his later years, Philip Foster served as postmaster at Eagle Creek, Oregon (1867-1874) and was involved in local school district affairs. He continued farming and stock raising on his Eagle Creek claim until his death in 1884.

Content Description

The collection includes: correspondence, records, documents, poll books, accounts, business agreements, legal papers, bills and receipts, newspaper clippings, and genealogical notes. Materials relate to the Columbia River-Hawaii trade; a general store in Oregon City; the firm of Foster & Pomeroy; the Willamette Cattle Company; the Barlow Road; the Eagle Creek mill, the provisional government of the Oregon Territory; the estate of Lot Whitcomb; and Clackamas School District number 17. Also included are correspondence and business papers (1832-1839) from Maine (Calais, Tallmadge Township, and Argyle), F. W. Pettygrove & Company store accounts in Calais, Maine, and Galveston, Texas; and a book titled Sketches of the town of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, from its earliest settlement, to 1879 by David Norton.

Correspondents include: Forbes Barclay, William Barlow, Francis Norbert Blanchet, John N. Colcord, George Law Curry, Francis Ermatinger, Overton Johnson, Joseph Lane, John McLoughlin, Joseph McLoughlin, Howard Maupin, John Hipple Mitchell, Robert Newell, Joel Palmer, Francis Pettygrove, Joseph N. Prescott, and Samuel Royal Thurston.

Use of the Collection

Alternative Forms Available :  

Portions of the collection are available on Mss Microfilm 996, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Restrictions on Access :  

The collection is open to the public.

Restrictions on Use :  

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation :  

Philip Foster papers, Mss 996, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series A: Maine correspondence and business papers, 1832-1881
  • Series B: General correspondence, 1837-1886
  • Series C: General files, 1842-1902
  • Series D: Historical background materials, 1844-1967

Custodial History :  

The bulk of the collection was discovered around 1925 in a trunk in Eagle Creek, Oregon, by Elroy L. Meyers, husband of Philip Foster's granddaughter. He presented the papers to the Oregon Historical Society in 1964.

Acquisition Information :  

Library Accessions 8851, 10111, and others.

Additional Reference Guides :  

A detailed item-level inventory to the collection and a list of correspondents is included with the collection in Series C, "Historical background materials."

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Maine correspondence and business papers, 1832-1881
Correspondence, Maine
1/1 1834-1854
1/2 1855-1870
1/3 1871-1881
1/4 Business papers, Maine 1832-circa 1850
1/5 Receipts and bills, Maine 1832-1841
1/6 Ledger with accounts and other information
Contains accounts for F. W. Pettygrove & Co., Calais, Me., 1837-1840; and Philip Foster's business, Oregon City, 1843-1846. Includes index.

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Series B:  General correspondence, 1837-1886
Letters to Philip Foster
1/7 A-B 1843-1880
1/8 C-D 1844-1881
1/9 E-F 1845-1889
1/10 G-H 1844-circa 1870
2/1 I-K 1843-1880
2/2 L-M 1843-1886
2/3 N-P 1837-1882
2/4 R-V 1850-1872
2/5 W-Y 1844-1881
2/6 Letters from Philip Foster (originals and photocopies) 1843-1862
2/7 Unidentified letters, envelopes, poetry, other papers 1846-1876
4/10-11 Envelopes circa 1840-1890

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Series C:  General files, 1842-1902
2/8 Account book, possibly of Isaac Foster, brother of Philip Foster 1842-1844
Barlow Road papers
2/9 General 1846-1868
2/10 Business accounts, Barlow Road and other concerns 1845-1855
2/11 Stray livestock on Barlow Road 1852-1866
2/12 Bigilow vs. Moss, Hosted vs. Abernethy, United States vs. W. W. Loving, McLoughlin vs. Durham undated
Bills and receipts, general
2/13 1843
2/14 1844
2/15 1849
2/16 1850-1854
2/17 1855-1859
2/18 1860-1877; undated
3/1 Business and legal documents 1844-1872
3/2-3 Clackamas County School District No. 17 records 1850-1902
3/4 David Waldo vs. Administration of the Estate of Ewing Young--Legal papers 1845-1847
3/5 Eagle Creek Mill 1850-1855
3/6 Eagle Creek Post Office 1867-1875
3/7 Eagle Creek Post Office--Ledger 1867-1875
3/8 Etoile du Matin (ship)--Legal papers 1849
3/9 General store, Oregon City--Accounts receivable 1843-1846
3/10 General store, Oregon City--Accounts 1843-1846
3/11 Hawaiian trade 1842-1845
3/12 Land claim survey documents circa 1853-1875
3/13 Land records 1851-1896
3/14 Land records, Foster family 1843-1881
3/15 Ledger 1851-1853
5/1 Ledger (day book), Maine and Oregon
Contains records for the following firms:
  • F. W. Pettygrove and Co., Calais, Me., 1837 April 12-1838 October 19
  • F. W. Pettygrove and Co., Galveston, Texas, 1839 October 2-1840 May 6
  • Philip Foster, New York City, 1841 July 2-1842 April 6
  • Foster general store, Willamette Falls (Oregon City), 1843 May 6-1846 December 26
  • Foster's Eagle Creek mill, farm, School District 17, and personal accounts, 1853 February 5-1867 October 4
3/16 Livestock transactions 1844-circa 1865
3/17 McGruder vs. Vanderpool 1851
3/18 Newspaper subsrciption receipts 1846-1884
3/19 Oregon provisional, territorial, and state government documents 1843-1860
4/1 Pomeroy & Foster account books (3 volumes) 1843-1848
4/2 Pomeroy & Foster business papers 1843-1845
4/3 Whitcomb, Lot--Estate papers circa 1854
4/4 Willamette Cattle Company records 1843-1844

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Series D:  Historical background materials, 1844-1967
4/5 Historical information 1844-1967
4/6 Original inventory to the Philip Foster papers circa 1964
4/7 News clippings 1921-circa 1939; undated
4/8 Sketches of the town of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, from its earliest settlement, to 1879Bangor : S. G. Robinson
Norton, David, fl. 1881 (creator)
4/9 "They called it Jack-Knife : history of Eagle Creek community and School District No. 17" 1961

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This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Personal Names :
  • Foster, Philip, 1805-1884--Archives  ( creator)
  • Whitcomb, Lot
  • Family Names :
  • Foster family
  • Corporate Names :
  • Willamette Cattle Company
  • Geographical Names :
  • Argyle (Me.)--History.
  • Barlow Road (Or.)
  • Calais (Me.)--History.
  • Clackamams County (Or.)--History.
  • Eagle Creek (Or.)--History.
  • Hawaii--History.
  • Oregon City (Or.)--History.
  • Oregon--History--To 1859.
  • Oregon--Politics and government--To 1859.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Education--Oregon--Clackamas County--History.
  • General stores--Oregon--Oregon City.
  • Overland journeys to the Pacific.
  • Pioneers--Oregon.
  • Postal service--Oregon--Clackamas County--History.
  • Roads--Oregon--History.
    • Form or Genre Terms :
    • Accounts.
    • Diaries.
    • Ledgers
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Titles within the Collection :
    • Sketches of the town of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, from its earliest settlement, to 1879
    • Other Creators :
    • Barclay, Forbes, 1812-1873--Correspondence.
    • Barlow, William, b. 1822--Correspondence.
    • Blanchet, Francis Norbert, 1795-1883--Correspondence.
    • Colcord, John N.--Correspondence.
    • Curry, Geo. L. (George Law), 1820-1878--Correspondence.
    • Ermatinger, Francis, 1798-1858--Correspondence.
    • Johnson, Overton--Correspondence.
    • Lane, Joseph, 1801-1881--Correspondence.
    • Maupin, Howard--Correspondence.
    • McLoughlin, John, 1784-1857--Correspondence.
    • McLoughlin, Joseph--Correspondence.
    • Mitchell, John H. (John Hipple), 1825-1905--Correspondence
    • Newell, Robert, 1807-1869--Correspondence.
    • Palmer, Joel, 1810-1881--Correspondence.
    • Pettygrove, Francis W., 1812-1887--Correspondence.
    • Prescott, Joseph N.--Correspondence.
    • Thurston, Samuel Royal, 1816-1851--Correspondence.
    • Foster & Pomeroy (Oregon City, Or.)
    • Pettygrove & Company (Calais, Me.)--Archives.

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