Fort Vancouver
Cultural Landscape Report
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Administrative and Political Context

During this period the official curtain was finally drawn on the historic drama enacted by the Hudson's Bay Company in the Oregon Country, although it fell far distant from Fort Vancouver's Jolie Prairie.

Final Resolution of the Boundary

The Oregon Treaty of 1846 had left vague the westernmost boundary between the United States and Great Britain, through the San Juan Islands. By the late 1850s, both British--the Hudson's Bay Company--and Americans had settled in the islands, and both countries attempted to collect taxes and customs from the settlers. In 1858 Whatcom County, Washington, attempted to tax Company sheep grazing on San Juan Island; in 1859 a pig belonging to a Company employee was shot by an American who caught it rooting in his vegetable garden on the island, and who threatened to shoot any British authorities that might attempt to take action against him. The incident prompted General William Harney at Fort Vancouver, on his own, unsanctioned authority, to send a company of soldiers from the post to "protect American inhabitants," under the command of Captain George Pickett, later reinforced by troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey. Three British ships, under the command of Captain Hornby, arrived at the island to reinforce British interests. The escalating tensions of the Pig War--which the sequence of events came to be called--was largely defused through an agreement reached between General Winfield Scott, sent from Washington D.C. to the Pacific Coast to take command of the Pacific Division, and Chief Factor James Douglas, by then in charge of the Hudson's Bay Company post at Victoria. The agreement, later sanctioned in Washington and Great Britain, allowed for joint occupancy of the islands until 1873. Both American and British troops occupied the island; eventually interaction between the two camps became one of parties, races and picnics. In 1872 the British and American governments agreed to the submit this final boundary issue dispute to arbitration by Emperor William I, who awarded the San Juan archipelago to the United States.

Final Resolution of Claims

Throughout most of this period, the Company set a price of one million dollars for their possessory rights--including Fort Vancouver, the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company farms, and other posts--of property left below the 49th parallel. Negotiations on these issues dragged on until 1863, linked to the settlement of the Northwest water boundary dispute in the San Juan Islands. An 1863 treaty allowed the companies' claims to be settled separately from the final boundary resolution, and it was agreed each country would appoint a representative to settle all claims provided for in the 1846 treaty. With the establishment of the British and American Joint Commission on the Settlement of Claims, the Hudson's Bay Company presented a claim of over five million dollars, which included Puget's Sound Agricultural Company lands and holdings, 1.2 million of which was an estimate of the value of the land and improvements at Fort Vancouver. It was not until September of 1869, after gathering voluminous testimony regarding the lands in question, that the Commission filed its awards, a total of $450,000 to the Hudson's Bay Company, and $200,000 to the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company. These monies were paid to Great Britain by the United States in the early 1870s, terminating the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company in the United States.

Puget's Sound Agricultural Company

During this period, the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company's operations were locally supervised and directed from Fort Victoria, where a small farm had been established in the mid-i 840s. In 1848 The British Colonial Office granted Vancouver Island to the Hudson's Bay Company; the terms of the grant required that the Company undertake the promotion of independent colonization. In December of that year, Chief Factor Douglas, under instructions from London reserved a large area of land for the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company on the southern end of the island. During the 1850s, the farms were operated by baliffs, hired and supervised by the company; it was during this period that most of the remaining livestock at Fort Nisqually were moved to Vancouver farms. As previously noted, the farms at Cowlitz and Fort Nisqually gradually ceased operations during the 1850s and '60s until the 1869 claims settlement: at Nisqually, Edward Huggins conduct a small company operation on the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company's much reduced acreage between 1856 and 1869, and at Cowlitz Farm, George Roberts occupied the central buildings and some acreage between 1859 and 1871. Farming operations on Vancouver Island were largely unsuccessful; by 1870 the Puget's Sound Agricultural Company was debt to the Hudson's Bay Company for £37,440, and by the mid-1880s most of the farm lands had been sold. In 1920, the original deed of settlement was replaced by a Memorandum and Articles of Association, and the company was registered as The Puget Sound Agricultural Society Limited. In 1934, the company, with no assets and no operations, ceased to be listed on the register of the Joint Stock Companies. [1138]

The U.S. Army at Fort Vancouver/Vancouver Barracks

With the withdrawal of the Hudson's Bay Company from the ruins of its much diminished site at Vancouver, the United States Army was left in control of the 640 acre military reservation it had declared in the 1850s, with the exception of the St. James Mission enclosure to which, along with its associated disputed donation land claim, the Roman Catholic Church laid claim. [1139] The story of the Fort Vancouver site during this period, then, is primarily associated with U.S. military activities in the region.

During the first half of this period the military forces at Fort Vancouver/Vancouver Barracks were generally engaged in enforcing U.S. government domestic policies throughout the Pacific Northwest. In the 1860s and '70s soldiers stationed at the post were primarily engaged in battles with Indians throughout the region and in escorting them to reservations. In the '70s and '80s, commanders at Vancouver Barracks organized and directed survey and exploring expeditions of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, which had been purchased from Russia in 1867. During the late '80s and throughout the depression of the last decade of the nineteenth century, the forces stationed at Vancouver Barracks primarily served as a police force, in Alaska and in Washington during episodes of civil strife. Beginning in the late 1890s, soldiers at the post were sent abroad large numbers from the post, as the United States entered into an expansionist foreign policy. Later, troops were sent to police foreign countries.

In 1887 the army evicted the Catholic church from the St. James Mission compound; the Holy Angels College building was used for a number of years by the army. In 1889 the old St. James church burned down. In the 1890s, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled the church was entitled only to the lands occupied by the mission--about one-half an acre--and not the 640 acres originally claimed, effectively ending an almost fifty year dispute between the church and the United States government over what had once been Hudson's Bay Company land. [1140]

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Last Updated: 27-Oct-2003