After Portland we drove across the bridge to Washington. We decided to stop at Fort Vancouver. This was the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company, the fur trade capital of the Pacific coast. We learned first hand from a volunteer about Dr. John McLoughlin who was in charge of the fort. When settlers arrived in 1830’s and 1840’s they were forced to leave the things they needed to survive on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. British leaders did not want him to help these Americans, but he supplied what they needed. He gave it to them on credit and said they could farm on the other side of the Columbia River (in what is now Oregon.) In return they provided him with wheat. With the wheat he made sea biscuits for the 200-300 fort employees and also baked them for the brigades, for use by ship crews and others post and for trade. This influx of American population resulted in -contrary to British hopes, Fort Vancouver being on American soil. So because the lives of the Americans were saved (they would not have made it through the winter without supplies) the land was lost by the British.
At the entrance to the fort were colorful flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. We were glad to see rhubarb, figs and lemon balm.
We visited the building used as a kitchen and talked with two knowledgeable volunteers about what the the inhabitants of the fort would have eaten. The forts warehouses stocked supplies for the fur brigades and Indian and settler trade. Most Native Americans were shrewd traders, so trade goods were carefully chosen. If we had visited when the fort was at its peak the shop’s would have been bustling. We talked to the blacksmiths and the carpenter about what they would have been fabricating.
By 1860 the trade industry was no longer here…… The volunteers at this fort were incredible. They were so friendly and ready to help us better understand life at the fort. We would say they made this visit very memorable.