James W. Garrett and Black-owned Property in Territorial Oregon, 1853-1858.

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Author: Kenneth Hawkins
Date: Summer 2021
From: Oregon Historical Quarterly(Vol. 122, Issue 2)
Publisher: Oregon Historical Society
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,098 words
Lexile Measure: 1540L

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"'A PROPER ATTITUDE OF RESISTANCE'," published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly, highlighted the work of free Black people--including A.H. Francis and I.B. Francis--who, although small in number, successfully resisted Oregon's racist exclusion laws and constitution in the 1850s, improved their financial positions, and helped found Portland, the state's mercantile depot. (1) An additional archival record, a long-misfiled deed belonging to James W Garrett, was rediscovered only after the article was complete. The document records one of the earliest known purchases of real property in Oregon by a Black person and further highlights African Americans' agency and achievements during that time period.

James W. Garrett (1812-1858) had partnered with A.H. Francis in Buffalo, New York, as a clothing merchant and abolitionist since the late 1830s. Garrett moved briefly in 1849 to Detroit, where he assisted Frederick Douglass in July when Douglass fell ill on an anti-slavery speaking tour. (2) Like the Francis brothers, Garrett immigrated to the Pacific Coast in 1851. (3) On December 19, 1853, Garrett purchased the northwest quarter of block 17 in Portland from town proprietor Benjamin Stark for $800, in a transaction witnessed by A.H Francis. (4) Its location at Third and Oak was a street intersection in name only, the ground still covered with a dense forest of fir and cedar that yielded to stumps and boardwalks as one approached the river. Even five years later, when he sold it, Garrett said it was at "Oak and Third streets, so called." (5)

Garrett remained in Portland until the following spring, when he traveled to San Francisco with A.H. Francis on the steamship Peytona. Garrett joined...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A667264816