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As It Was: Historian Traces Naming of Mount McLoughlin

Ashland historian Jeff LaLande has traced the convoluted naming of Mount McLoughlin, the dominant landmark of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley.

Fur trader Peter Skene Ogden displaced indigenous names in 1827 with Mount Sastise after the Sastise, or Shasta, Indians to the south.  Ogden also named the Pit River east of today’s Mount Shasta after pits dug by Indians to capture elk, but Ogden skipped naming that mountain.  Map makers called it Pit Mountain until mapping errors transposed the names, showing present-day Mount McLoughlin as Mount Pitt, with one or two letter “t’s,” and the volcanic peak in Southern California as Mount Shasta.

Early settlers variously called the mountain east of Medford, Ore., Mount Pitt, Snowy Butte, Big Butte, and Mount Clear View.

The Oregon Legislature confirmed “Mount McLoughlin” in 1905, named for Dr. John McLoughlin, the Hudson’s Bay Co. agent since christened the “Father of Oregon.” An attempt in the 1930s to rename it Mount Adams after President John Quincy Adams didn’t stick.

“Yes, it’s complicated,” LaLande says in the Southern Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, and concludes, “…we can all agree that its snow-capped peak remains a stunning landmark when viewed from our valley.”

LaLande, Jeff. "What's In A Name." Southern Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, Summer Issue, 2018, p. 6; Ibid. "Mount McLoughlin." Oregon Encyclopedia, Portland State University and Oregon Historical Society, 17 Mar. 2018, oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/mt_mcloughlin/#.XOV28ohKiUk. Accessed 22 May 2019.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.