By Dr. Kathy Marshack
The American West was exactly as depicted in many Hollywood movies. It was wild and dangerous and corrupt. Only the toughest and shrewdest of men and women survived. In the Oregon Territory if you didn’t drown in the Columbia River rapids, or die of some common disease like small pox or pneumonia, then you might be killed or swindled by your neighbor. The local Native Americans caused little trouble for those early American settlers. The real problem was that there was no way to rein in the few ruthless psychopaths who dominated the early frontier. And I’m talking about some of the first big ranchers, businessmen, and lawyers!
Nothing has changed much by the looks of the emails I get at the US~Observer, from some of my neighbors in Clark County Washington. Just a few days ago I heard from James J. O’Hagan who writes, “I have been involved in a legal nightmare in Vancouver that involves very serious crimes. These crimes include the embezzlement of over 5 million of dollars from me and others, by attorneys in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.” While I can’t vouch for the veracity of these claims, since I have not personally investigated, I certainly have heard these types of stories before. It is alarming that US citizens are not safe from our own legal system.
My home town Vancouver, Washington is truly a classic example of a wild-west town, founded in part by scoundrels and grown into a larger town run in part by scoundrels. According to Pat Jollota, historical author and former Vancouver City Council Member, Vancouver was founded by 100 Americans in the 1840s-50s, many of whom have wealthy descendants currently living in the area. She describes these men as ruthless and greedy. For example, the first Mayor of Vancouver, Amos Short was accused of murder but never convicted. Even worse is US Army Captain Hamilton Jordan Goss Maxon who has the distinction of riding the Cavalry into a Nisqually Indian village and killing every man, woman and child. That escapade was published in the Oregonian at the time and proudly described as “Maxon’s Massacre” because he was helping to rid the west of the “Red menace.” Captain Maxon settled on a square mile of land that later became Camas Washington. All over Clark County there are streets named after these “pioneers,” even though none of them are particularly famous for any beneficial contribution to society. . . unless you count the public donation of a park that is now named after Amos Short’s wife, Esther.
Instead of philanthropic community service, these “founding fathers” will go down in history as creating a legacy of murder, theft and corruption that lingers to this day.
I learned first-hand about being victimized by powerful forces in Clark County, and my story has been profiled in the US~Observer. In the course of fighting for my rights, my freedom and my family, I discovered the sordid history that underpins current Vancouver politics. Believe me; it’s no prettier today than it was in the early days of the Oregon Territory.
I just happen to live on a small corner of what was once the Silas Maxon Donation Land Claim (established in 1847). Silas’ was Captain Maxon’s younger brother. The brothers made quite a profitable team. For example, they stole two sawmills from the British Hudson Bay Company. One sawmill was in Camas. The other was down near the current Columbia Springs Park. After stealing the mills the brothers convinced Mayor Amos Short to commit tax money to build a road between the two sawmills and on into Vancouver.
Silas made a ton of money wangling all kinds of deals out of the unsuspecting early settlers. He built the first jail and the first hotel with lumber from the confiscated mill. He was the first County Treasurer and the first Justice of the Peace and he was elected to the Washington Territorial Legislature … all the better to keep an eye on his investments.
To be perfectly honest, Silas didn’t steal the sawmill all by himself. The US government offered him a “stimulus” package. The government agreed to pay the Hudson Bay Company ten cents on the dollar for their property if they would leave town. Then the government gave the sawmill to Silas free of charge. Silas had already been profiting from the sawmill by then, but the government payoff made it all “legal.” History shows us that there is really “nothing new under the sun.”
Silas Maxon is a good example of the legacy that we in Vancouver have to deal with to this day. Not only did Mr. Maxon steal the Hudson Bay Company sawmill and got the US government to pay for it, but he made good use of the primitive frontier legal system when he sued his neighbor Louis Love. The unsuspecting Mr. Love moved in next door to the cunning Silas Maxon and a short time later the sawmill burned to the ground. Sawmills were always burning down in those days, but Silas was successful in convincing a jury that Mr. Love destroyed his mill. Poor Louis had to pay a couple thousand dollars to Maxon for the mill Silas stole from the Hudson Bay Company. . . and was originally paid for by the US government! That was a lot of money in the 1850s and was a crushing blow to Mr. Love.
When I hear stories like Mr. O’Hagan’s I am not surprised. After decades of corruption by crooks like Silas Maxon and those who followed him, how can we possibly clean up this mess? Mr. O’Hagan asks you to contact him if you want to help. He says, “I would like to offer a reward of whatever I recover to anyone willing to investigate and assist me in recovering damages from these individuals, who have attacked my family and I.” He can be reached at 360-267-7911.
I admire Mr. O’Hagan and his courage in fighting this type of corruption by taking legal action. However, I am reminded by the US~Observer with every edition that I read . . . the only real way to attack the incredible and destructive corruption in our American legal system is to take it to the “Court of Public Opinion.” The more others hear your stories, the more the American people have a chance to wake up and take back their rights.
Dr. Kathy Marshack is a practicing psychologist out of Vancouver, Washington. She has helped countless people with her practice and can help you, too.
Send your questions and stories to Dr. Kathy! Write her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.