Fur Trade Era Fort, Headquarters & Depot
NPS Painting by Richard Schlect
Founded by the Hudson's Bay Company during the winter of 1824-1825 as a fur-trading post and supply depot, Fort Vancouver for the next twenty years was the most important settlement in the Pacific Northwest, from San Francisco Bay to the Russian outposts in Alaska. Here were the headquarters for all the Hudson's Bay Company's activities west of the Rockies. From the fort's warehouses went out supplies for all the many interior posts, for the fur brigades which ranged as far distant as the present Utah and California, and for the vessels and forts of the coastal trade, the activities of which extended well up the shore line of the present Alaska. And here the furs of the entire western trade were gathered for shipment to England.
At Fort Vancouver was established the first of the series of great farms which the Hudson's Bay Company and its subsidiary, the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company, maintained at several widely scattered posts in the present states of Oregon and Washington. Thus it was here that large-scale agriculture in the Northwest had its beginnings. Furthermore, the fine crops raised at Vancouver and its subordinate settlements demonstrated the agricultural possibilities of the Oregon country to visitors from the United States and thus indirectly promoted American interest in the region.
Here too, were the first real industrial plants in the Northwest. Lumber, pickled salmon, and other products of Vancouver's mills, drying sheds, dairies, and shops supplied not only the wants of the fur trade but also a brisk commerce with such distant ports as those of the Hawaiian Islands, California, and the Russian settlements in Alaska. It was not without reason that early visitors sometimes called Fort Vancouver the "New York of the Pacific."