John C. Ainsworth

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John C. Ainsworth
John C. Ainsworth portrait
Born(1822-06-06)June 6, 1822
DiedDecember 30, 1893(1893-12-30) (aged 71)
Occupationbusinessman and steamboat owner
Known forfounded Oregon Steam Navigation Company
John C. Ainsworth house in Oregon City

John Commingers Ainsworth (June 6, 1822 – December 30, 1893) was an American pioneer businessman and steamboat owner in Oregon. A native of Ohio, he moved west to mine gold in California before immigrating to Oregon where he piloted steamships and became a founder of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company and several banks.

Early life[edit]

Ainsworth was born in Springboro, Ohio, on June 6, 1822.[1] His parents died while he was 13 years old, so he went to work for his uncle in Farmington, Iowa.[1] They became partners in a business selling goods from boats along the Ohio River, but soon he split from his uncle and bought a store with a partner, which was sold at a good profit after only one year.[citation needed] He married a young woman, Josephine Augusta Kendall, who died fifteen months later.[citation needed]

American West[edit]

Ainsworth was not done partnering with his uncle. In 1844 they bought a steamboat and started a successful packet delivery service along the upper Mississippi River.[citation needed] Then the Gold Rush hit in 1849, and he sold his share of the business to go to California. The Gold Rush did not live up to his expectations, so he found a job piloting a steamer on the Willamette River in Oregon.[citation needed]

In 1851, he married the daughter of Judge S.S. White, and built a house in Oregon City.[2] In late 1860, Ainsworth and several investors started the Oregon Steam Navigation Company (OSNC).[1] The OSNC controlled the shipping routes of steamers, railroads, and freight lines in Washington and Oregon.

In 1868, Ainsworth had an annual income of $14,651, one of the highest in the state of Oregon.[3]

By 1869, the OSNC monopolized the Columbia River transportation market. In April 1879, Henry Villard purchased the OSNC for its full value of $5 million. Ainsworth retired to Oakland, California, after the sale.[4][5]

Later years and family[edit]

After selling out, he entered the banking business in 1883 with the Ainsworth National Bank in Portland.[1] In 1892, he started the Central Bank of Oakland.[1] Ainsworth had seven children: George (with his second wife Nancy White) and John, Harry, Daisy, Laura, Maud, and Belle (with his third wife Sarah Frances "Fanny" Babbitt). Ainsworth was a Freemason, and eventually the third Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Oregon. In 1870, Ainsworth founded the Orient of Oregon and the Valley of Portland of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, S.J. and served as the first Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Orient of Oregon. After retiring to California he wrote his autobiography. He died near Oakland, California, on December 30, 1893.[1]

He is the namesake of Ainsworth, Washington.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Corning, Howard M. (1989). Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 5.
  2. ^ "Oregon - Clackamas County". National Register of Historical Places.
  3. ^ "Oregon Incomes", Morning Oregonian, Portland, OR: Henry L. Pittock, vol. 9, no. 93, 1, col.4, May 22, 1869
  4. ^ Smith, Rose M. (2004). "Guide to the John C. Ainsworth Papers 1858-1911". Archives West.
  5. ^ "Husted's Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley Directory". 1889–90.
  6. ^ Meany, Edmond S. (1923). Origin of Washington geographic names. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 2.

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