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Jane Barnes

Jane Barnes, or "the first Lady of Astoria" as she became known, has been a popular subject in barrooms and classrooms throught the area for nearly two centuries. Jane was the first woman of European descent to arrive in the Oregon Country and her stay was filled with scandal and mystery.

When Jane Barnes first arrived to Astoria in 1811 it was at the time known as Fort George. Fur traders employed by John Jacob Astor erected a small fort which they named Fort Astoria near what is today 15th and Exchange. In 1812 Astor's emissaries sold the fort and its wares to the Northwest Company after it was under the threat of an attack from a British Warship. The forst was later rechristened Fort George by The Nor'westers in honor of their king. The Northwest Company appointed Donad McTavish as governor a veteran partner of the firm.

In 1913 while his ship was being outfitted for a voyage McTavish spent his time in a tavern in Portsmouth, England. There he met a beautiful woman named Jane Barnes. He asked her to join him on his latest voyage and in a "temporary fit of erratic enthusiasm" she agree. Thirteen months later in April 1814 they arrived and dropped anchor off Fort George.

Shortly after they arrived a young secretary name Alexander Henry was conducting business with McTavish when he was quite taken with Jane. HIt was decided that Hengry would become Barne's protector. When they set sail and arrived at their next destination, Jane Barnes was on the arm of Alexander Henry. Although Henry had a wife and children home in England he described the relationship as stricly business in his journal.

On May 22, 1814 both Hengry and McTavish perished when their canoe capsized while crossing the columbia river. Doctor Swan, the post's psychican become Jane's would be suitor but was rejected by her. Many Euro-American fur traders were vying for Jane's affection but they were not the only ones. Cassakas, a son of the Chinook trival leader Comcomly, took a liking to Barnes. He offered Jane one hundred sea otter skins, a life of leisure, and superiority over his other wives is she became his bride. She rejected his offers.

The rejection of the Chinook prince caused a diplomatic rift and made her presence at Fort George a libility. With rumors of kidnapping plot by the Chinook's and even attacks on the fort, she left Fort George in later summer or fall. She left for China where she met a wealthy Englishman and faded from history. She later reppeared several eyars later in Montreal to collect an annuity promised by Donald McTavish. The was the last record of Janes Barns but there are legends of a return to Astoria and happy endings.
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