James John  ( 1809 - 1886 )

The Mysterious James John


James "Jimmy" John was 36 years old when in the winter of 1845-1846 he moved from Linnton to an area across the Willamette River, a few miles upstream, known as the Peninsula. In 1852 he plotted St. Johns on the Willamette, a small 4 block by 2 1/2 tract of property following the waterfront . From that small beginning two additions were to follow as the years went by. John sold off some of his plots of land to others, onto which small houses were built.


John in his later years was not generally well-liked and had few friends. As time went on John became more of a recluse. Keeping to himself and adopting a hermits lifestyle.


John did leave behind a few diaries but most of what is known about him was gathered when he was in his 70's. By then there was evidence he was becoming senile.


He loved children. He loved being around them and to talk with them, but he didn't tell them his stories. He had so many stories he could have shared.


Whether by intention or accident John didn't help historians piece his life together. He was a man of mystery. He didn't talk about himself. He rarely left his own property. When he died at age 77 people didn't know what to make of the old geezer. A ragged man with a dwarfish stature and a large head.


All John wanted to talk about was the future, not the past. He spoke of a great city on the Willamette. And he didn't mean Portland or Canby.


As easy as it was for him to get along with children he had difficulty communicating with adults. He had difficulty expressing his forward-thinking ideas with them. This in spite of being quite humorous and very literate. At the time of his death he had an extensive library. No one seems to know what ever became of it. Another mystery.


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