East Portland was originally called Stephens Addition. James and Elizabeth originally purchased the land that was steaded by a french canadian baker named Porier. Before that time there was man named Ettiene Lucier who had a cabin up on the bluff south of Hawthorne. All of them lived about where OMSI is today. On the West side of Portland the ownership went back and forth in a dizzying history of entreprenuers. But on the East side the one name that you will see over and over is Stephens; buying,selling, trading and developing. Stephens was a land baron and this was his city.
Before Stephens purchased the property from Porier in 1845, as in the case of many parts of Oregon, it was a farm or development that was claimed by the British Government through the Hudson Bay Trading Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company did not “own” the land in the way we think of land ownership today, but rather held rights to trade and establish posts in the area as by its royal charter and the agreements in place at that time. The treaty meant that the HBC’s operations in the south of the 49th parallel were now within U.S. territory, and the company’s control over these areas was effectively diminished.
James Stephens did sell the property back to the Hudson Bay Company through John McLoughlin before he headed down to the Gold Rush in 1846. But he came back to purchase it again in 1850 for $200. He didn’t stop there. He bought and sold properties all over East Portland. Ladd’s addition was even his but like most Real Estate investors he won some and lost some. This notion that he lost everything at the end of his life is not true. Stephens had some bad dealings with family members all surrounding his daughter Lizzy and Loryea who started the Hawthone Insane Asylum. But in the end he was able to generously give to his family, friends and community. His legacy is his family, East Portland and the Historic Stephens house.