Fort Vancouver
Historic Structures Report
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Volume II


History and location

Columbia District inventories and requisitions reveal that large quantities of scrap iron, flat bar iron, "square" iron, round bolt iron, sheet iron, and hoop iron, as well as smaller amounts of steel, were imported annually in standard sizes to meet the needs of the trade and the establishments west of the Rockies. A good deal of this material was turned into axes, traps, hardware, ship fittings, and a host of other articles at Fort Vancouver's two blacksmith shops--one within the pickets and the other up the Columbia at the sawmill.

No separate building for the storage of this iron stock was men tioned in the list of fort structures prepared by Lt. George Foster Emmons in his journal entry for July 25, 1841. [1] Indeed, the location of the Blacksmith Shop, hemmed in as it was at the very southeastern corner of the stockade, did not permit the existence of an iron store nearby (see Plate III, vol. I). Yet, as has been fully discussed in the previous chapter, sketches of Fort Vancouver by two of Emmons's companions seem to show that there were two gable-roofed structures east of the Missionary Store in the southeast angle of the palisade. No explanation of this conflicting testimony can be offered, but the "Line of Fire" map of 1844 seems to support Emmons by showing that prior to 1845 the Blacksmith's Shop was the only building standing in the extreme southeastern stockade corner.

Nevertheless, there undoubtedly was a special area set aside for the metal stockpile. The French traveler, Eugene Duflot de Mofras, who arrived at Fort Vancouver in October 1841 for a six-week visit, noted the existence of an "iron mongery" within the palisade. [2]

Probably somewhere in the process of translation from English to French and then back to English the Company's usual word "store" for warehouse emerged as "mongery." But the location of this store house is not known. Perhaps it formed a special section in one of the four "Store Houses" shown within the pickets on the Emmons ground plan.

At any rate, the authorities at Fort Vancouver must have come to the conclusion that a more convenient storage area was necessary. In fact, Mr. Louis R. Caywood has suggested that the need to have the Iron Store close to the Blacksmith's Shop may have been one of the reasons for extending the fort to the eastward during the early 1840s. [3] Certainly one result of moving the stockade outward was to make room within the pickets for an iron store directly east of the Blacksmith's Shop in the extreme southeastern corner of the fort.

The new Iron Store evidently had not been built when the "Line of Fire" map was drawn about the end of September 1844 (see Plate V, vol. I), but it appears and is named on the Vavasour map made late in the next year (see Plates VI, VII, VIII, vol. I). The building is listed in the Company's inventory of 1846-47; Dr. H. A. Tuzo recalled that it was standing in 1853; and a board of army officers found it still in existence on June 15, 1860, and described it as a "small store-house" long since abandoned by the Company and in a " ruinous condition." [4] That the building continued to stand from 1845 until the United States Army took over the old fur trading post is also demonstrated by a series of maps beginning with the Covington plan of 1846 (Plate XIII, vol. I) and ending with the sketch drawn by the army officers on June 15, 1860 (Plate XXX, vol. I). Though these maps do not name the structure, identification is almost certain through its size, shape, and location (for examples of such maps see Plates XIX and XXIV, vol. I).

The location of this 1845-60 Iron Store has now been designated as Building No. 23 on the site plan of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2003