Fort Vancouver
Cultural Landscape Report
NPS Logo

I. FORT VANCOUVER: 1824-28 (continued)


After Simpson's party arrived at Fort George, Chief Factors Kennedy and McLoughlin were dispatched to find a suitable site for a new post on the north side of the Columbia. Historians assume Simpson either had received direct instructions from London to withdraw to the north side of the river, or he independently reached the conclusion that it was best to enact such a policy, given his knowledge of the international situation. [12] In addition to the greater issues surrounding the disputed territory, Fort George, was, in fact, legally the property of the United States, although occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company. Also, its location was not suitable for large-scale farming. In 1825 Simpson wrote to London: " abandoning it [Fort George] at once it will to them [the Americans] be useless and we can at no expense and little inconvenience erect a Fort sufficient for all purposes of Trade." [13] Simpson later wrote that the principal reason for finding a new site was to "...render ourselves independent of foreign aid in regard to the means of Subsistance." [14] However, as noted earlier, Governor Pelly told the British Foreign Office secretary the establishment of the new site was in conformance with the foreign office's expressed wishes. Long after the fact, John McLoughlin said the new site was selected because it "...was a place where we could cultivate the soil and raise our own provisions." [15]

The site nearest the Columbia's mouth which McLoughlin and Kennedy deemed suitable was a low-lying plain which projected into the Columbia River about six miles upriver from its confluence with the Willamette River. The site was known as the Jolie Prairie or Belle Vue Point. [16] Above the plain rose a second terrace of densely wooded land, about sixty feet above the plain. The lower plain appeared to be suitable for cultivation; the second bench offered a commanding view of the plain below and was suitable terrain for establishing a defensive position against hostile natives. Apparently, immediately after their return to Fort George, a party was dispatched to start construction. [17]

Simpson, describing the site and his plans for it, wrote:

They [deer] are so numerous about the Jolie Prairie say the Stag or Red Deer and the Dhevreuil or Roe that a good Cree Hunter could support a small Establishment; I expect however we shall soon be independent of the Chase in the way of living as with a little attention to our Farm we shall be enabled to rear more Beef and Pork than will be required for the business of the whole Department; had any pains been taken in that way much expence might have been saved for several years past in Imported Provisions but the good people of Fort George have been so averse to the rearing of live Stock and so dainty that they would not eat their sucking Pigs but by way of keeping down the Stock for want of more rational pastime actually used to amuse themselves in practising Pistol Shooting by making War on the poor little Grunters at Twelve paces distance... [18]

Pelly, writing in December to George Cummings, cited Simpson in describing the new post's site, and its advantages:

He considers the soil and climate of this place so well adapted for agricultural pursuits that in the course of two or three years, it may be made to produce sufficient Grain and animal Provisions to meet not only the demands of our own Trade but almost to any extent that may be required for other purposes and he considers the possession of this place and a right to the navigation of the river Columbia to be quite necessary to our carrying on to advantage not only the Trade of the upper parts of the Columbia River, but also that of the country interior from the mouth of the Fraser River and the coasting Trade, all of which can be provisioned from the place. [19]

It is believed that construction of the new post started in late November or early December of 1824, after McLoughlin and Kennedy returned to Fort George. By March of 1825, Simpson recorded in his journal that some structures had been erected and a stockade at least partially completed. [20] By the spring of 1825, a field had been prepared for potatoes and other unnamed vegetables. [21]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 27-Oct-2003