Philip Foster (1805-1884) was a businessman in Argyle, Maine in the early 19th century. In 1842 he sailed to the Oregon Territory with his wife Mary Charlotte. Also on the voyage were Mary Charlotte’s brother, Francis William Pettygrove, and his family. They were delayed in the Sandwich Islands for several months but eventually arrived in Oregon City in 1843. Foster and Pettygrove established a store in Oregon City and Foster formed several other business partnerships in the city as well as serving as the second Treasurer of the provisional government.
Foster became a business partner of Samuel Barlow in 1846. Foster moved his family to a farm along the nearly completed Mount Hood Toll Road (Barlow Road) where he built a house, store, cabins for rent as well as gardens, orchards and pastures for grazing stock. His farm was a welcome sight to the many travelers over the Oregon Trail as they neared the end of their journey.
The Philip Foster Farm, 29912 SE Hwy 211, Eagle Creek, OR 97022, is open for tours June through October and special tours can be arranged. For more information call 503-637-6324 or visit their website: Philip Foster Farm
Following is correspondence between Philip Foster and his brother-in-law Thomas Rowe, husband of Foster’s sister Lucy, in Eddington, Maine. It is not known how successful his cranberries were, but the Oregon Encyclopedia credits the beginning of the industry in Oregon to Charles McFarlin, one of the many prospectors who came west looking for gold and planted cranberries brought from Massachusetts In 1885. There is no mention of Foster’s large orders in 1860-1861. These letters, written in the year leading up to the Civil War and after the outbreak of hostilities, also include a few political sentiments from Mr. Rowe.
Eddington April 2nd 1860
I have delayed writing till the last day for the mail in hopes that I could write that I could send you some cranberry plants this spring but I cannot. It has been slow work getting information but I believe I have got all you will need on the subject. Enclosed I send you a circular from Mr. Bates of Massachusetts and also send you a pamphlet from a Connecticut nursery, which are two of the most noted places for raising cranberries in spring as you can be preparing your ground and be all ready for them in the fall. You can by what I send about the prices and can order accordingly.
I think there is no doubt but you can make it a profitable business write soon so that I can know how many to send this season in regard to your state I shall probably get the money sometime next month on the first of June and will send it as requested.
My family are well at present Lucy was very sick about two months ago with Bilious Fever but is better now the twins grow nicely.
We have not had a letter from Foster since last fall, he was out Pikes Peak then and as he thought there was a good prospect of doing something this season he is probably there yet we want to hear from him very much. We were sadden to hear of the death of Josephine and sympathize deeply with his family till them we should be much pleased to have best respects to Mr. Hillenbrand and family till then, we should be much pleased to have a letter from them we heard from Argyle last week the folks there were all well.
Lucy sends her love to Mrs. Foster and Martha and not forgetting you Mr. H and the children.
Write as soon as you get this my best respects to yourself and family and I remain.
Thom J Rowe
Eddington Oct. 7th 1860
Your plants left New York in the boat of the 5th of this month so says Mr. Bates and I hope you will receive them in good condition.
5000 Bell Cranberries
2000 Cherry Cranberries
1000 Barberry Cranberries
2 doz. Whortleberries
2 doz. improved Blackberries
We have not been able to find out what the freight will be but have paid ten dollars what the agent here thinks it will be still there may be a balance for you to pay when the plants reach you. Mr. Bates says he has written a number of times to as certain about the freight but they could not tell till they saw the boxes I shall get Mr. Bates bill soon when I will write you again, there will be balance in your favor which you can write me about when you get my next letter.
We are all well as usual hoping these lines may find you the same I subscribe myself Your brother & friend.
Thomas J Rowe
Mr. Philip Foster
P.S. Lucy sends her love to Mrs. Foster and the children.
Thom F Rowe
Eddington Sept. 17th 1860
I received both your both letters of June in relation to the cranberries and have been in correspondence with Mr. Bates since he writes that the vines will ship about the 20th of this month so you will probably get them about the middle of November. He has not found out yet what the freight will be but there will be a balance in your favor after all is paid which I will write you about when I get the Bates Bill. He will send 5000 bell 2000 cherry 1000 barberries and 2 dozen Whortleberries & 1 dozen Blackberries; I have wrote him to be particular about packing and to direct to you at Portland Oregon by Wells & Fargo Express I shall write to you again when the plants are ready to ship so that you will know when they will arrive.
We are all well as are all of our folks that I know of.
We were at Camp Meeting last week and saw Isaac & Tom and their wives they said the folks at Argyle were all well Lucy wants Martha to write to her.
We have not had a letter from Foster for some time but suppose he is at Pikes Pike yet.
Give our best respects to all Lucy sends love to Mrs. Foster and Children Write soon.
Your Brother and Friend
Thom J. Rowe
Eddington May 18th 1861
I received your letter of March 26th two days ago and was very glad to hear from you. Glad to hear of your good health and also glad to hear that you received your cranberries or a part of them at least. I will write to Mr. Bates and I think he will do what is right I will write you again when I get a letter from him.
Lucy is very much obliged for your present to her and would be glad to thank you in person.
I will try to have the balance sent you in season to set out this fall if nothing in the present political trouble prevents we are all well and so far as I know all of our folks are the same.
Uncle John Philips died last March, Mother Foster died in March.
We should be much gratified to hear from Martha as we have not heard from her since she first got to Oregon.
There is no news here now but the news in fact there is not much else doing have one regiment left Bangor for Washington, Tuesday and another will be ready to start in a few days in fact there are four times as many ready to enlist as government wants. The late Democratic party here have entirely disappeared and the leaders of it are if possible the most active for strong War measures and determined to have the question of slavery settled now and forever.
I voted for Fremont four years ago and for Lincoln now and think we elected the right man at the right time as four years more of such misrule in government as we have had the past four years would not leave us any government at all
Write as soon as yet get this and Lucy wants you to send her your daguerreotype you can have it taken on leather and come in letter.
Give our best respects to Mrs. Foster and the children and all of our friends there That the present national trouble may be of short duration is the earnest wish of your friend & brother,
Thomas J Rowe
Eddington Oct. 27th 1861
I have sent you seven thousand cranberry vines, five thousand in addition to the 2 thousand that was due you for fall short last year.
They were delivered to Wells & Fargo Express the 12th of this month at New York, I have not paid any freight on them as we could not make any bargain or find out what it would be and our express men here tell me if I pay a part of the freight here you will have to pay as much there as if I had not paid any and that you will get them sooner.
There well be some fifteen or twenty dollars due you which is subject to your order in plants or otherwise.
Lucy is much obliged to you for her present and sends her love to all, she has been quite sick, but is well again.
Eva Jane has been sick with typhoid fever about eight weeks but is getting about again the rest of us are as well as usual as are all of our folks. Foster is in California and may come to Oregon if he does he will come to see you the children all send there love to their cousins in Oregon.
Give our best respects to Mrs. Foster and keep a large share for yourself.
Your friend and Brother
Thom F Rowe