LANE, RICHARD, HBC clerk, lawyer, and territorial official in Oregon and Washington; b.c. 1816 at Sandgate, Kent; d. 20 Feb. 1877 at The Dalles, Oregon.
Richard Lane was appointed apprentice clerk in the Northern Department by the Hudson’s Bay Company in December 1837; the following June he sailed for York Factory aboard the company ship Prince Rupert. Lane moved to the Red River District in September 1838, where he served as accountant until 11 June 1845 when Governor Sir George Simpson* ordered his transfer to the Columbia Department. Four days later Lane departed for Fort Vancouver with Peter Skene Odgen* and Lieutenants Henry James Warre* and Mervin Vavasour*. The party reached its destination on 26 August, and Lane, whose original instructions were to take charge of a post to be established at Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River, was made accountant at Fort Vancouver, replacing Dugald Mactavish. To protect the company’s lands and improvements at Fort Vancouver, Lane was employed during the later summer in marking out the nine-mile-square claims around the fort which were then recorded with the Oregon provisional government. Lane himself took a claim beginning one-and-a-half miles west of the fort. The claims were abandoned on 4 April 1849 at the request of James Douglas.
Simpson had promised Lane that he could return to Red River in 1846, and he accompanied Warre and Vavasour with the York Factory Express when it departed from Fort Vancouver on 25 March. Lane took with him the annual accounts of the Columbia Department, but his real purpose for making the trip was personal. The express arrived at Fort Garry (Winnipeg) on 7 June, and on 13 June Lane married Mary McDermot, the “country-born” daughter of Andrew McDermot*. Accompanied by his bride and the artist Paul Kane, Lane took charge of the returning express, arriving at Fort Vancouver on 8 Dec. 1846 with confirmation of the final settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute, which had been concluded at Washington, D.C., in June.
The Oregon provisional government had organized the area north of the Columbia River as Vancouver County, and, on 16 Jan. 1847, Governor George Abernethy appointed Lane to the county judgeship which Dugald Mactavish had resigned. A change in the laws of the provisional government in 1846 required that justices of the peace or judges be elected, and on 7 June 1847 Lane was one of three justices elected for Vancouver County, but he did not stand again in 1848.
Although he evidently did not resign from the HBC until 1851, Lane moved to Oregon City in 1850 and became a merchant. At the same time he served, for about a year after his retirement, as the company’s agent at Champoeg, where it had a granary and store. Lane seems to have conducted the business at Champoeg “most shamefully,” and his operations were said “to savour of fraud” because of losses and bad debts. In the 1850 census Lane’s personal real estate in Oregon City was valued at $20,000.
Mary McDermot Lane died at Oregon City after a long and painful illness on 10 May 1851, leaving Lane with two small children. He sent the children back to Red River where they were raised by Andrew McDermot. Early in 1853 Lane cleared land for a farm near Fort Vancouver, but in 1855 he was back in Oregon where he ran unsuccessfully for justice of the peace in Milton Precinct, Columbia County. During the Yakima Indian war (1855–58) he enlisted for nine months in the Lewis River Mounted Rangers. Following this service he moved to Olympia, capital of the Washington Territory, and in November 1857 he was appointed instructor for the Squaxin Indian Reservation and taught there until July 1858. That same month Lane returned to Olympia where he was elected auditor of Thurston County, an office which he held until 1862 and again from 1864 to 1866. Thereafter Lane was a servant of the territorial, county, and city governments until 1870, sometimes holding offices at all three levels concurrently. However there was small remuneration from such offices, and public office-seeking was uncertain, particularly in a time when the Democrats, who had long held a virtual monopoly of territorial offices, were being replaced by Republican appointees and candidates. With his years of experience as a justice of the peace and a clerk of the courts, Lane moved to the other side of the bench. On 20 May 1865 the Washington Standard announced that Lane, a “well qualified” and “affable gentleman,” had been admitted to practise as an attorney. Lane was evidently too reticent to be a successful lawyer, and his habits and attitudes remained those of a competent, amiable, and meticulous clerk.
On 25 March 1873, Lane was declared “dangerous to himself and the community at large” because of “mental derangement produced by long continued use of alcoholic liquors.” Judged insane, he was committed to the Territorial Asylum at Steilacoom for treatment which was expected to take two or three months, and his affairs were placed in trusteeship. Following his release from the asylum, Lane returned to Olympia and his law practice. But his affairs continued to decline. He had married Mrs Anna Gardiner on 9 Dec. 1858, but by 1875 he was listed in the county census as unmarried. In the late winter of 1877 he set out from Olympia en route for Yakima on legal business. Stopping in The Dalles, Oregon, he evidently became despondent and purchased ten grains of morphine. He was found dead in his bed on 20 February, and following a coroner’s inquest which returned a verdict of suicide, he was buried at county expense as he had neither baggage nor funds.
PABC, Thomas Lowe journal, 1843–50. “Documents relative to Warre and Vavasour’s military reconnaissance in Oregon, 1845–6,” ed. Joseph Schafer, Oregon Hist. Q. (Portland, Ore.), X (1909), 1–99. HBRS, VII (Rich). United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, accompanying the annual report of the secretary of the interior, for the year 1858 (Washington, 1858). Daily Pacific Tribune (Seattle, Wash.), 1 March 1877. Pioneer and Democrat (Olympia, Wash.), 10 Dec. 1858. Washington Standard (Olympia, Wash.), 29 March, 19 April 1873; 3 March 1877. H. H. Bancroft, History of Oregon (2v., San Francisco, 1886–88); History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845–1889 (San Francisco, 1890). Mrs G. E. Blankenship [Georgiana Mitchell], Early history of Thurston County, Washington, together with biographies and reminiscences of those identified with pioneer days (Olympia, Wash., 1914). G. R. Newell, So fair a dwelling place (Olympia, Wash., 1950). J. C. Rathbun, History of Thurston County, Washington (Olympia, Wash., 1895). T. C. Elliott, “Peter Skene Ogden, fur trader,” Oregon Hist. Q. (Portland, Ore.), XI (1910), 229–78.