Fort Vancouver
Historic Structures Report
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Volume II


History and location

Known as the "countinghouse," the "clerks' office," or, more generally, simply as the "office" until a second or "new" office was built in the late summer of 1845, the Old Office was one of the oldest structures within the stockade by the 1845-46 period. [1] In fact, a visitor of 1841 had described it as "old" at that time. [2]

Situated within the stockade lines of the fort as it was constructed in 1829, the office as an essential feature of district administration probably was erected at that time. Indeed, it may have been brought down piece by piece from the first fort site on the hill and reconstructed.

It stood a few yards from the east palisade wall of the 1829 fort and about seventy-five feet from the north wall. When the fort was doubled in size ca. 1836 by an expansion toward the east, the old east palisade of the 1829 post was demolished, leaving the office, the chapel, and a carpenter shop as an isolated row of buildings that divided the expanded enclosure into two courtyards (see Plate III, vol. I).

Archeologists have not yet excavated the site of the Old Office. "Considerable" testing was conducted in the vicinity during 1947-52, but no traces of footings were encountered. [3] Thus the exact outlines of the structure cannot be plotted at present, though the maps by Emmons and Vavasour permit the location to be fixed within close limits. The position of the Old Office is today known as Building No. 11 on the site plan of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

As is well documented by the Emmons, the "Line of Fire," and the Vavasour ground plans (Plates III, V, VI, vol. I) and by much other evidence, the countinghouse continued to stand well into 1846 and probably until 1847. But on August 8, 1845, an event occurred that marked the beginning of the end for the Old Office. Clerk Thomas Lowe noted in his diary that day: "Commenced building a new Office, in front of the bellfry [sic]." [4] There seems to be no record of when this New Office, as it was called, was completed, but it is known that it was habitable by late December 1845. [5]

Evidently it had been intended to move the accounting functions into the new structure as soon as it was finished and then to demolish the Old Office. But on November 29 the old structure got a reprieve. On that day Her Majesty's Sloop Modeste anchored off the fort for her second visit, and her captain, Commander the Honourable Thomas Baillie, was given quarters ashore in the New Office before the end of the next month. Thus, noted Lowe on June 18, 1846, "we cannot as yet move into it from the old one." [6]

The Old Office was listed in the inventory of 1846-47, but strangely enough it does not appear on the map by Richard Covington that is said to have been drawn in 1846 (Plate XIII, vol. I). [7] In fact, the old countinghouse cannot be found on any known map drawn later than 1845. It would appear, then, that the Old Office was torn down about the time of Captain Baillie's final departure from Fort Vancouver on May 3, 1847. [8]

Office operations. From information in earlier chapters of this report concerning the conduct of business in the Sale Shop, the ware houses, the Fur Store, and the Indian shop, it has been made evident that the management and operation of the Columbia District involved a vast amount of bookkeeping. Only by examining the work of the depot office, however, can the nature, importance, and sheer bulk of the records be truly comprehended.

The limits of this project have not permitted a detailed study of the Company's accounting system, but an examination of a fairly wide range of records in the search for data on the physical structure of Fort Vancouver has resulted in an impression that the bookkeeping was somewhat more complicated than described in available secondary sources. Having had absolutely no training or experience in accounting, the writer freely admits that he has not always been able to understand the nature or import of certain account entries. Thus the following description of the work of the depot clerks must be regarded merely as a preliminary sketch, and it is presented with considerable trepidation.

The various types of records maintained and processed by the clerks at Fort Vancouver can be roughly classed under the following headings:

a. Journals. The Standing Rules and Regulations of the Northern Department of Rupert's Land required that each district and each post maintain a "Journal of Occurrences," in which were recorded the principal happenings of each day, particularly such matters as how the men were occupied, the weather, arrivals of Indian trading parties or of employees from other posts, and construction of new buildings. This record was to be transmitted annually to the superintendent of the district along with a report "conveying every requisite information" concerning the state of the trade, with comparative statements of the closing and immediately preceding outfits, suggestions for the improvement of the business , and an "abstract" of the local Indian population. After the district manager had reviewed these documents, he forwarded them to the accountant at York Factory. [9]

Because no journals from Fort Vancouver are known to be extant, the notion has been advanced that Chief Factor McLoughlin was lax in this respect. [10] Clerk George B. Roberts, however, said that a journal was kept at Fort Vancouver and that for many years he personally was responsible for making the daily entries. Such work, he said, was the duty of the gentleman in charge of the out side work. [11] It may be assumed that a clean copy was made by the clerks in the office for transmittal to York Factory. Evidently four or even five copies were made of the annual reports or "despatches"--one to be retained at the post, one for the district headquarters, two to be sent overland to York Factory (one of which was forwarded to London), and one copy to be sent by the annual ship from Vancouver to London. [12]

b. Correspondence books. The Standing Rules and Regulations also required the clerks and officers in charge of each post and district to keep "correct copies" of all official correspondence. Letter books containing these copies were transmitted annually to the district headquarters and to York Factory. [13]

At small posts the clerk in charge generally wrote his own letters, often drafting each directly into a letter book that was kept at the post. The letter to be sent was then copied from the draft, and later a clean copy was made in a second letter book to be transmitted to headquarters.

Dr. Burt Brown Barker, who in 1940 acquired one of Dr. McLoughlin's letter books, believed that the usual procedure at a large post was for the writer to "communicate his ideas to a clerk who wrote them in the letter book and then transcribed them in letter form to go to the person addressed. The writer of the letter signed it." [14] At Fort Vancouver Dr. McLoughlin evidently operated in this manner, though he often wrote out the drafts in the letter book himself. [15]

Of course clean copies of the letters were later entered by the clerks into a second letter book that was forwarded to York Factory and eventually to London. A comparison of the only known extant original letter book made during Dr. McLoughlin's tenure as Columbia District manager with the clean copy in the Company's archives reveals that a fairly substantial number of letters, mostly of minor significance, were not reproduced in the book sent to York Factory. Also, there occasionally were material differences between the original letter book copies and those that reached London. The handwriting demonstrates that more than one clerk was involved in transcribing both the drafts and the clean copies. [16]

This use of clerks to copy Columbia District letters, particularly the annual reports, or "despatches," caused the Governor and Committee in London some concern, because they felt that such correspondence should "be open only to persons holding an interest in the business." Dr. McLoughlin did not promise any change in procedure when informed of this opinion, but he did reveal that he maintained a private letter book for sensitive correspondence. [17]

c. Inventories. When considering the various accounts kept in the depot office, perhaps the most logical place to start is with the inventories. When received from all the posts of the district, they permitted the superintendent to judge which goods traded well and which were in little demand, they helped him to estimate the types and quantities of goods that should be ordered from London for future operations, and they told him what trade articles and supplies were excess to the needs of each post and which were in short supply so that he could transfer the surpluses at one post to meet the shortages at another. [18]

The Northern Department's Standing Rules and Regulations provided that at the close of each business year, or outfit, every gentleman in charge of a post or district was required to furnish a priced inventory showing in detail all trade goods, country-made articles, and country produce remaining on hand, together with a list of the articles in use at each post, "distinguishing them according to their condition as Good, Half worn, much worn, also a list of Cattle or other live stock and the number of Acres in cultivation, and quantity of seed sown for the next crop with quantity reaped the preceding Summer." [19]

Although the inventories were generally labeled as having been taken in the spring of each year, and although in later years and at eastern posts the inventories seem actually to have been taken on May 31, the day each outfit closed, the realities of geography required that in places as distant from York Factory as the Columbia District the accounting be made much earlier, in time for the results to be carried eastward by the express that usually left Fort Vancouver each March. [20] At Fort Nisqually, four instance, the inventory was usually taken in January or February of each year, and a copy was sent off to the Columbia depot shortly thereafter. [21] At Fort Vancouver the inventory was begun still earlier. November or December was the usual time, but occasionally, as in 1846, the clerks started to take the depot inventory in September. [22]

Taking the inventory was an arduous task for the clerks. Isaac Cowie, at another post and at a later date, remembered working "from dawn to dark" until everything belonging to the Company was "weighed, messured and counted, both inside and outside the establishment." Once all the thousands of items were recorded in pencil, the list was taken to the office, where it fell to one of the clerks, "day and night," to recapitulate them in alphabetical order under the various headings, such as "Depot," "Sale Shop," "Fort Vancouver Indian Trade," etc. Then the items had to be priced, the total values calculated, and the whole entered in the post account book for the outfit. [23]

Further, the inventories from all the subordinate posts had to be checked and then copied to make up the district inventory. Copies were made four York Factory and evidently for London.

d. Indents. The gentleman in charge of each post submitted annually to the district superintendent a list of the goods, provisions, stationary, medicines, and other supplies that would be needed to operate his establishment for a year, exclusive of what the post itself could provide. These orders, requisitions, or indents, as they were variously called, were made out several years in advance.

The basis of the indent was the inventory four the previous outfit. To the amounts in that list were added all goods and pro visions received during the current outfit by invoices from the district depot, transfers from other posts, or local production. These amounts were the receipts. From them were deducted the items transferred to other posts or districts and the inventory for the current outfit. The remainder was the expenditure, which served as the general guide for making the requisitions for future outfits. Allowances were made for such contingencies as changes in taste on the part of the natives, unusual fluctuations in the numbers of furs available, and the need to meet increased competition. [24]

When these local indents from the posts and subdistricts (such as Colvile and New Caledonia) reached Fort Vancouver, the district manager examined and adjusted them in accordance with certain overall requirements and limitations. These requisitions were employed to form the "scheme indents" or "scheme books four outfits," which showed the goods necessary for district operations during the outfit under consideration. The "scheme," in turn, was the basis upon which the manager prepared the Columbia order, or requisition, for transmission to York Factory by the spring express. As has been explained previously, this requisition during the 1840s was sent about three and a half years in advance of the time the ordered goods would finally be employed in the trade. [25]

Some idea of how this process actually was conducted in the Fort Vancouver office may be gathered from the brief notes kept by Clerk Edward Ermatinger in a personal memoranda book. On January 12, 1828, he wrote, "Assisted the Doctor [Chief Factor John McLoughlin] 2 Days with Schemes for Outfits 28 & 29." Eleven days later he noted: "1st took Inv[entor]y of the Stationary provs. &c then worked out the Expenditure thereof--afterwards with the Doctor carried them thro' 3 Schemes four O's 28, 29, 30. . . . settled the order for Sales [Shop?], Fort Vancr. & New Cal[edonia]--a [?] Requisitions--in Scheme '31. . . ." On February 3 his entry included: "last week--2 days Classing the order according to the Tradesmens Bills-- then copied one Scheme for Ot 31 ready to enter the figures when completed--."

On March 2 Ermatinger reviewed his work for the preceding week: "Sunday employed copying the Order into Order Book . . . filled up the Order Scheme--valued the Order." Finally, seven days later, he noted: "last week . . . made a copy of the Order & finished it for Eng[lan]d." [26]

Needless to say, the lengthy annual requisitions were made out in several copies. Two went east with the spring express, one four the Northern Department accountant at York Factory and the other to be forwarded to London. Then, in the fall, an additional copy was sent to England in the vessel bearing the returns. [27]

e. Returns. As has been seen in Chapter II of this volume on the Indian Trade Shop, all furs and other returns received were first entered in a "blotter," a rough book that could be carried around by the clerk. At some posts, at any rate, these notations were later copied into a more permanent "day book." These records, in turn, formed the basis of the "fur receipt book," in which the pelts received were noted on double pages ruled into columns. Each column was headed by the name of a kind of skin, ranged alphabetically from badger to wolverine, with subcolumns for the size and condition. At the close of the outfit the furs in each column were totaled and checked against the number of pelts counted and packed for shipment. If the figures in the fur book did not agree with the actual returns, "there was a strict investigation." [28]

A copy of a consolidated version of this fur book, called a " statement of furs traded," or "returns--furs by kind," was forwarded by each post, including the Fort Vancouver Indian shop, to the Columbia headquarters, where all were again checked with the actual returns. [29] From these copies, consolidated statements of returns, invoices, and bills of lading were prepared for the home office.

f. Invoices, packing accounts, and bills of lading. When the annual ship from England landed its cargo, generally in March, a busy time began for the clerks. The incoming goods had to be checked against both the requisition and the invoices that accompanied the order. Then came the arduous task of "working out the cost landed of every article." [30] This labor seemingly resulted in a document called "Abstract, Cost & Charges of Goods Received," which, together with a detailed, priced list of the goods landed, was in due time sent off to London. [31]

Then, of course, there were invoices to prepare four all shipments of goods and supplies dispatched from the depot to the subordinate posts for the annual outfits or four other purposes. As has already been detailed in Chapter XII volume I, every shipment was accompanied by a packing account listing the contents of each bale, bundle, box, or other container. There may even have been a smaller list tucked into each bundle enumerating its contents.

Every cargo going by sea to London or to a foreign port was accompanied by a bill of lading that listed the contents. Those made out for the annual returns, for instance, listed the number of each kind of fur, the weight of such items as feathers and isinglass, and the number and type of damaged skins. Bills of lading were generally printed forms on which the particulars of each shipment were noted in ink. [32] Also accompanying the returns was an "Invoice of Furs and Peltries, Returns of the Columbia District, Outfit --- , which listed in detail the mark and contents of each bale, cask, keg, puncheon, and case. [33] In addition, a "Valuation of Furs, Returns of Columbia, Outfits --- ," which listed the numbers and types of skins, with their estimated values, was also prepared. [34]

g. Post and district accounts. Each post, subdistrict (such as New Caledonia and Colvile), and district maintained a complicated series of accounts to determine its annual profit our loss. [35] Of course the actual results could not be determined until the returns were auctioned in London--a process that could take several years-- but estimated or assigned values for the several types of skins were used for drawing tentative balances. Fort Vancouver, as an individual trading post, as a subdistrict headquarters (the Fort Vancouver Indian Trade), and as Columbia District depot and headquarters, was involved at all three accounting levels.

The types of accounts kept were so numerous that it would be impractical to list them all here. In fact, the writer would be unable to do so. Suffice it to say that in addition to the inventories, indents, statements of returns, invoices, and other records described above, the determination of the account between Fort Vancouver and the Company involved the keeping of records that included the following:

Servants' accounts. It has been seen that the officers, clerks, and "servants"of the Company were not paid in cash. At the end of each outfit the wages, gratuities, our, in the case of chief traders and chief factors, specified shares of the profits were credited to the accounts of every employee. Deducted from the income were items such as charges for clothing, blankets, extra provisions, and other articles purchased at the posts or depot; penalties for the careless loss of Company equipment, unauthorized granting of gratuities, etc ; drafts or bills authorizing payments to relatives in Canada or Britain, payments to London merchants, or for investments; and such miscellaneous charges as those for freight. Credit balances, when there were such, were retained in London, where they accumulated interest. Each year every employee received an individual statement of his account. [36]

As may be imagined, the preparation of these accounts involved a vast amount of bookkeeping, beginning at the trade shops of the individual posts and depots. These detailed accounts, called "Sales to Servants," were sent annually, in duplicate, to the district head quarters at Fort Vancouver along with other information needed to determine the balances. [37] It was the task of the clerks in the district office to reconcile all this data and to prepare summaries, or "abstracts," for shipment to York Factory with the spring express. [38]

This chore was not easy, as Edward Ermatinger's notebook reveals. On December 30, 1827, he recorded: "Began 1st abstract--Names, Parishes &c then the Balances with various other perplexing matters such as Snake Balances & Sailors Accts. --laid this job by four the present-- to be re-considered bye & bye--." [39]

The end products of this labor, evidently, were three account books known as "Abstract of Servants' Accounts," "District Statements 'A,'" and "District Statements 'B.'" These records, which between them detailed the name, place of origin, wages, occupation, years of service, balances, and other information about each employee in the district, provided important checks on expenditures for labor. As usual, copies were prepared for York Factory and London.

Transfer books. For one reason or another there amount of trade between posts and between districts. instance, pack cords were imported into New Caledonia was a fair At times, for from across the Rockies. Certain establishments produced agricultural surpluses of items, such as pickled salmon, which were sent to other posts, exported, or shipped to the depot for redistribution. Articles, produce, or services supplied or received in this manner were charged for or credited exactly as if the dealings had been with outsiders. Records of all such transactions were kept in local "Transfer Accounts, " copies of which were forwarded to Fort Vancouver for use in determining the profit and loss of both the individual posts and the district depot. [40]

At Fort Vancouver the transfer accounts were extensive, because not only supplies going to other posts were recorded, but also pro visions to the Company's shipping and a number of other business dealings. Charges were made four items such as milling flour for other establishments and four barrels produced in the depot cooper's shop and used for shipping flour or salmon, etc.

All of these transactions were summarized, or sometimes listed in detail, in two sets of books--"District Transfer 'A,'" and "District Transfer 'B.'" Again, copies went to both York Factory and London.

Miscellaneous. Other accounts mentioned in various sources include one for the receipt and expenditure of provisions at each post and at the depot. The outlays noted in these books were listed under headings such as "Officers' Mess," "Servants," "Voyaging," "Visitors," "Charity," etc, [41]

An annual "Expenditure Scheme" was prepared, as was a "Recapitulation of Book Debts." Then, of course, there were expected records such as the "Cash Account," "Bills Receivable," "Abstract of Accounts Current," "Accounts Current, " and several more.

Plainly, the Northern Department accountants at York Factory and the Governor and Committee in London, with these books before them, could analyze the operations of the fur trade in minute detail. And, when contemplating the number of these records, one can readily under stand why each fall a cart was used to haul the accounts going to London from the Old Office down to the wharf on the riverbank. [42]

h. Summary. Perhaps information was issued periodically by the Company specifying the types of accounts that were to be kept at the several levels of fur trade operations. But if any such explanations of the accounting system exist in the firm's archives, the writer has not yet encountered them. Governor George Simpson came close to providing such an overview in 1822 when he sent to the London directors a list of documents that he considered "of the most consequence four arranging the general accouncs of the Northern Department." [43] This very useful enumeration has been employed in preparing the material presented in this chapter, but it was not applicable in its entirety to the Columbia District, and it appears to have been obsolete in certain respects by the period of our chief interest.

Perhaps of more utility in understanding the work conducted in the Fort Vancouver office are two later lists. The first was prepared by James Douglas when he left John Kennedy in charge of Fort Taku on the Northwest Coast in 1840. "The following," he advised, "are the Accounts you have annually to furnish L to Fort Vancouver], vizt.

1stSales to Servants in Duplicate
2dStatement of furs traded
3dTransfer Account
4thInventories to include provisions
5thScheme of annual Expenditure
6thProvision Expenditure."[44]

The second is a packet list itemizing the contents of "a box containing a copy of the Oregon Department accounts for Outfit 1858" forwarded "by Express to the Hudson's Bay House, London." The list was as follows:

No. 1. Abstract of Servants Accounts
2. Importation from England
Invoices Outwards
Recapitulation of Book Debts
3. General Inventories
Country Produce Inventories
4. District Transfer "A"
5. District Transfer "B"
6. Vancouver Cash Account
Bills Payable
Servants Bills on London
Bills Receivable
Invoice Furs
Disposal of Returns
Abstract of Accounts Current
Results of Trade
7. District Statements "A"
8. District Statements "B"
9. Accounts Current
10. Cash Account, Vancouver for Outfit 1859 from 1st January to 30th June 1859
11. Packet List [45]

A clerk's life. George B. Roberts, who had firsthand knowledge, later recalled that three clerks were generally employed in the Fort Vancouver office. [46] But as has been seen in Chapter IV on the Bachelors' Quarters, the clerks were so frequently transferred to other duties or to other posts that there was an almost constant fluctuation in the number of persons working in the office. Actually, during the mid-1840s there were only two men classified as bookkeepers or accountants at the depot, and one of them was absent for much of the year accompanying the accounts to York Factory and then returning with the fall express. Other clerks evidently were called in from their duties elsewhere about the depot to help with the "writing" when the occasion demanded.

Ordinarily, clerks entered the Company's service through the route of apprenticeship, engaging for a term of five years at an annual salary that started at £20 and could be increased gradually to a maximum of £50. Nearly all apprentice clerks came from Britain, where there was an excess of applicants for the few openings to be filled each year. Those accepted nearly always had some family connection with the firm or were sponsored by a director or other influential officer. [47]

According to Isaac Cowie, who started with the Company as an apprentice clerk in 1867, most of the recruits were well educated and knew something of accounting prior to their employment. But there were a few, "foisted into the service by family influence, " whose penmanship and spelling, to say nothing of bookkeeping, did not meet the firm's standards. Such persons were given old journals and records to copy until they learned the arts they should have acquired in school. [48]

That some such training took place in the Columbia District may be indicated by the fact that an account book in the Fort Nisqually Collection at the Huntington Library shows evidence of having been employed to practice handwriting. Blank pages are covered with phrases such as "Keep your crop clear of weeds and reap it in season, " "Honesty is the best policy," and "Oh Caledonia, stern and wild," repeated over and over. [49]

If an apprentice proved himself competent by the end of his five year engagement, he was eligible for promotion to the rank of clerk. Salaries of clerks could begin as low as L40 per annum and were raised with increased responsibilities to a maximum of L150. After a service of about thirteen or fourteen years a clerk could begin to anticipate pro motion to chief trader and a share of the Company's profits, but this entrance into the commissioned officer ranks was sometimes long in arriving, and for some it never came. [50]

Every attempt was made to see that only reliable and loyal clerks were permitted to work in the office. The Company desired that its affairs remain a closed book to the outside world, and it kept as much information from its employees as was reasonably possible. Thus in 1843 Governor Simpson reprimanded Dr. McLoughlin, saying, "Considering the circumstances under which Mr. [J. ] O'Brien was removed to Vancouver, he ought not to have been employed in the countinghouse, where he must necessarily have acquired more information connected with the details of our business than it is desirable a retiring clerk should possess." But as McLoughlin pointed out in reply, the chronic shortage of help made it necessary to employ whoever was available. [51]

This same paucity of personnel meant that the office clerks frequently were required to work long hours at the Columbia depot. At York Factory during the 1840s it was customary during the winter for the gentlemen to have breakfast at nine o'clock, after which the clerks applied themselves in the office until one, when dinner was served. After that meal, work at the desks continued until tea at six o clock, following which there was more writing until eight. The remainder of the evening was free. [52]

But in 1830 Chief Factor McLoughlin wrote that both officers and clerks at Fort Vancouver "Kept Constantly Employed from day light to Eleven at night." [53] A decade later conditions were not much better. "I do not believe that there is an office in Montreal that has so much to do as ours," wrote Clerk John McLoughlin, Jr. from Fort Vancouver to a friend: "We are in it from 1/2 past 6 in the morning till nine at night." [54] Two years later one of Clerk Dugald Mactavish's acquaintances reported that at the Columbia depot Dugald "begins work at 4 AM, & leaves off at 11 at night the whole year round." [55] What was more, even on supposedly free evenings McLoughlin would occasionally call the clerks back to copy letters or perform other chores. [56] Similarly, the imminent departure of a vessel or express would often mean that the clerks in the office would have to work all day on Saturdays and on holidays. [57]

There naturally was grumbling at these long hours. On December 13, 1849, Thomas Lowe noted in his journal, "I am suffering much from sore eyes brought on by working too much in the office by candlelight." [58] And perhaps the clerks suspected that sometimes there were other reasons for their confinement than the press of business, for Dr. McLoughlin once wrote that "most young men are ruined by not being kept busy."

In actuality, all was not work four the clerks, even for those in the office. On April 23, 1845, Thomas Lowe recorded that he had "left off going to the office after supper." [59] Lowe's journal reveals that during the summers the gentlemen were usually able to get away each day long enough for a "bath" in the river; and Friday and Saturday afternoons and Sundays were usually free for rides through the woods, for sailing, picnics, and hunting. One of the favorite sports was lassoing the beef cattle, long-horned brutes brought from California and as wild and dangerous as buffalo. Holidays in a country where most of the servants were Roman Catholics were not in frequent, and they were often marked by card parties, balls, and various types of excursions.

The Old Office as residence. It is known that the office included living quarters as early as 1833. In May of that year Dr. W. F. Tolmie noted in his journal: "Sat chatting with Mr. [Robert] Cowie [Chief Trader] last night in his apartments adjoining the office till nearly 11."[60]

On May 16, 1845, Apprentice Clerk Thomas Lowe, one of the depot "accountants," recorded in his diary: "I slept to night in the Office, having removed my quarters from Bachelors Hall to one of the rooms in the office." [61] But Lowe was temporarily evicted on August 27 after the arrival a day earlier of Chief Factor Peter Skene Ogden from Canada. "I slept in Mr. Grahame ' s room, Mr. Ogden occupying mine in the office, as all the others were full," Lowe noted in his journal. Two days later he recorded, "Sleep in the office to night, though Mr. Ogden is still there." Ogden left the next day for Fort George, but when he returned to the depot on September 9 Lowe wrote, "He slept in my room in the Office." [62] As has already been seen , Apprentice Postmaster William Sinclair "removed his quarters " from Bachelor's Hall to the Old Office on June 15, 1846, to make room for two visiting British naval officers. [63]

These entries do not make clear how many bedrooms were located in the Old Office structure. That there was one is certain, and the evidence seems to indicate that there was at least one more room that served as living quarters during emergencies. It is entirely possible, of course, that another clerk in addition to Lowe lived in the office on a permanent basis and that Lowe merely failed to mention him in his journal.

As far as is known, no married clerk was ever quartered in the Old Office at Fort Vancouver, but it is quite possible that visiting Company officers and their wives and children may have been housed there for short periods. For such family groups accommodations in the countinghouse were far from ideal.

Clerk Robert Clouston discovered this fact when he brought his bride to York Factory in 1849. As quarters he was assigned a room next to the office. In fact, his chamber and the office were heated by the same stove, which was placed in a hole cut in the wall between the two rooms. "During office hours," Clouston wrote his father-in-law, "there is nothing like privacy for in one room with the door shut, you can hear a pin drop in the other." The clerk asked to have the space around the stove "shut up" with sheet iron, but the request only produced from his superiors a "tirade about what people had to put up with formerly--and that 'the Company did not recognize families'--they were merely tolerated." [64]

Thomas Lowe. The only person who can be identified as a "permanent" resident in the office during Outfit 1845 was Thomas Lowe. Born on November 30, 1824, Lowe was the son of Dr. John Lowe of Coupar Angus, Perthshire, Scotland. He entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company as an apprentice clerk during January 1841, and in August of that year he sailed in the firm's ship Vancouver for the Columbia River.

Upon reaching Honolulu, Lowe was upset at being abruptly ordered to transfer to the Cowlitz by Sir George Simpson, who was bound for Sitka in the latter vessel. The reason for the change became clear during the northward voyage, when Lowe found himself kept constantly busy reading to the Governor and acting as his amanuensis. His private journal kept during this period reveals Lowe to have been a well-educated and literate young man.

At Fort Durham (Taku), far up the present Alaska "panhandle," Lowe was left ashore as assistant to Dr. John Kennedy, the clerk in charge. But about a year later that post was closed and its staff moved to Vancouver Island. There, in 1843, nineteen-year-old Thomas Lowe witnessed the beginnings of Fort Victoria. Within a few days he set out with Chief Factor James Douglas for Fort Vancouver, where he arrived on June 15. The very next day Dr. McLoughlin put him to work in the office.

During Outfit 1845 young Lowe was still a bachelor. He did not marry Rose Birnie, daughter of retired Clerk James Birnie, until May 26, 1849.[65]

Lowe himself retired from the Company's service in 1850. He became a well-known merchant in Oregon City, San Francisco, and Victoria. In 1872 he returned to Scotland and lived there until his death in 1912.[66]

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2003