The History of Fort Vancouver and its Physical Structure
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History and Description of the Physical Structure

Fort Vancouver: The Physical Structure

General View

As can be gathered from the preceding historical summary, Fort Vancouver was an extensive establishment. At the height of its prosperity—between about 1844 and 1846—the multitudinous activities which were centered about the fur-trading post required the occupation of an immense tract of land. The Company's holdings, as determined by the amount of territory actually in use for agricultural, grazing, and other purposes, commenced on the north bank of the Columbia at a spot known as the "Prairie de Thé," about ten miles above the fort, and continued downstream for more than thirty miles, to beyond the mouth of the Lewis, or Cathlapootle River. From the Columbia, the Company's land stretched northward for an indefinite distance generally stated to have been three or four miles in some places and ten or fifteen in others. In addition, several islands in the river were occupied, chiefly for the grazing of cattle and hogs. [1]

Scattered about over these vast holdings were a large number of buildings belonging to the Company. Most imposing, of course, were those within the stockade itself, those comprising Fort Vancouver proper. In the immediate neighborhood of the fort, in 1846, were the Catholic church, several large barns and other farm structures, the homes of the lower grades of employees which collectively made up the "Village," and a scattering of other structures, large and small. Along the river bank were two large boat sheds, a structure known as the "Salmon Store," the hospital, the "Salt House," several stables, workshops, and residences.

East from Fort Vancouver, the Fort Plain contained several dwellings for shepherds and other employees. Five or six miles upstream, the grist mill and the sawmill, with their surrounding residences, formed a sizable settlement. About a mile back from the river near the mills was the Mill Plain, where the Company had about a thousand acres under cultivation. Here also were dwellings for farmers and shepherds, a storehouse, stable, and, in 1846, seven barns. On the rolling plateau between the Mill Plain and Fort Vancouver, and back from the river at varying distances, were several openings in the forest, chief of which were First, Second, Third, and Fourth Plains. Cultivation or grazing was at times conducted on these prairies, and on them were located various more or less temporary dwellings for the employees occupied there.

West of the fort along the river was the five-mile-long Lower Plain, with additional houses, a dairy, a barn, and a "piggery." Below the Lower Plain for some ten miles farther were bottom lands on which the Company ran cattle when the area was not flooded. Here again there were various temporary structures. It is impossible to fix exactly the locations of the several dairies, sheep folds, and other improvements in the region west of the fort, as they were shifted about as part of a definite program to fertilize the soil. The Company also maintained an extensive dairy on Sauvie Island. In 1846 the structures on the island included four dwellings, four "dairies," and a granary. [2]

Actually, very little is known concerning the history and appearance of the many structures erected by the Hudson's Bay Company on the vast holdings at Vancouver. Only a few drawings and photographs of Company buildings on the Columbia are known to exist; descriptions left by visitors are vague and contradictory; and available Company records are fragmentary and give little information concerning the physical history of the post. As might be expected, more information is available concerning the stockade and the buildings within it than the scattered subsidiary structures. The present chapter is an attempt to summarize what is known about Fort Vancouver proper.

Area Enclosed by the Stockade

As determined by excavations conducted during the fall of 1947 by Mr. Louis R. Caywood, archeologist for the National Park Service, the Fort Vancouver stockade at the time of its greatest extent formed a quadrangle approximately 732 feet long and 325 feet wide. The exact lengths of the walls, as revealed by actual measurements of their remains, were as follows:

North wall731 feet
South wall733 feet
West wall326 feet
East wall323 feet [3]

Subsequent excavations during the years 1948, 1950, and 1952 revealed that these were not the only palisade walls to surround Fort Vancouver. Inside of these exterior limits the remains of other stockade walls were uncovered, indisputably proving that at various periods during the fort's history the size of the area enclosed within the pickets had changed. These interior walls were as follows:

1. A four-sided palisade enclosing the square marked BCEF on Plate XXIX. As measured from post stumps found in the ground, each side of this square was approximately 318 feet long. The north wall of this square, line BC, was composed of three parallel rows of posts, about a foot apart, showing that the stockade had been renewed at least twice at this point. From the condition of the posts, Mr. Caywood estimated that the inner row was the oldest. The outer row formed the north wall of the fort at the period of its greatest extent. The east wall of the square, line CF, was an average distance of 56 feet inside the east wall of the fort at the time of its greatest extent, and the south wall, EF, was about five to six feet inside the outermost south palisade.

The west, north, and east walls of this square were uncovered and studied in a number of spots. "In all places where they were exposed," reported Mr. Caywood, "the posts were small, averaging from five to seven inches in diameter. In many instances the evidence of the post was nothing more than a mold core resulting from the complete rotting away of the post. No cultural material was found in any of the [post] trenches." [4]

2. Another four-sided palisade enclosing the square ABDE as outlined on Plate XXIX. This square was almost exactly the same size as that labeled BCEF and immediately adjoined it to the west. The 318-foot wall BE was common to both squares and was composed of but a single line of posts. The north wall, AB, and the south wall, DE, each measured about 320 feet. The north wall of this square was marked by two parallel rows of posts, indicating that this section of the palisade had been renewed at least once.

The trenches in which the posts of walls AB and AD were placed were excavated at several points by the National Park Service crews and were found to contain artifacts. This fact might indicate that these walls were built after the fort was occupied and refuse began to accumulate; or, it might merely indicate that repairs were made along these lines of posts after the beginning of occupation and that surface dirt, containing artifacts, was shoveled into the trenches during the process. The posts of wall AD were found to be small and badly rotted. Those in AB were also small but appeared to be in "slightly better condition."

3. A west stockade wall, HG, located parallel to, and about 21 feet west of, wall AD. It was linked to square ABDE on the north and south by walls HA and GD, which were extensions of walls AB and DE, respectively. Like wall AB, wall HA was marked by two lines of posts. Wall HG itself was made up of a single line of posts, as far as is evident from the short sections of it which were excavated. It was about 318 feet long.

4. Two short walls, westward extensions of walls HA and GD, which enclosed the northern and southern ends of the space created when the outer west wall of the fort, a shorter version of line IJ, was built approximately 18 feet west of wall HG. [5] The extension of wall HA was a double line of posts.

5. A wall, an eastward extension of line EF, which enclosed the southern end of the space created when the outer east wall of the fort, a shortened version of line KL, was erected an average distance of 56 feet east of wall CF. The northern end of this space was enclosed by a single row of posts which formed part of the north wall as it stood at the time of the fort's greatest extent.

Although these excavated remains show that changes did take place in the size of the Fort Vancouver stockade over the years, and although they shed considerable light upon the sequence and directions of these changes, they do not supply much information as to the exact times at which the enclosure was expanded. Neither, it seems, does an analysis of available plans and descriptions made by visitors to Fort Vancouver from the time of its construction until it reached its ultimate size. A sampling of measurements or estimates of the dimensions of the stockade, as given by various travelers or Hudson's Bay Company officials, is presented in the following table:

Year of
Dimensions as
Originally Given
Converted to Feet
Source of Estimate
or Measurement
1828-9300 ft. x 300 ft.300 x 300Jedediah Smith
183537 rods x 18 rods610.5 x 297Samuel Parker
1837750 ft. x 450 ft.750 x 450W. A. Slacum
1839250 yds. x 150 yds.750 x 450T. J. Farnham
1839300 yds. x 300 yds.900 x 900Edward Belcher
1841780 ft. x 260 ft.780 x 260S. Holmes
1841600+ ft.x 200+ ft.600+ x 200+George Simpson
1841240 m. x 130 m.787.4 x 426.5E. Duflot de Mofras
1841700 ft. x 400 ft.700 x 400G. F. Emmons
n.d.250 yds. x 150 yds.750 x 450J. Dunn
1844250 yds. x 110 yds.750 x 330Line of Fire Map
1845800 ft. x 500 ft.800 x 500G. Hines
1845220 yds. x 100 yds.660 x 300H. J. Warre & M. Vavasour
1845c. 680 ft. x c. 318 ft.c. 680 x c. 318Vavasour Map
1846226 yds. x 106 yds.678 x 318M. Vavasour
1847750 ft. x 330 ft.750 x 330H. B. C. Inventory
1854200 yds. x 175 yds.600 x 525I. I. Stevens
724.2 x 340.8B. L. E. Bonneville Survey as checked by C. A. Homan

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from this summary is that human beings, even trained engineers, are not good at estimating distances. Several of the figures given above were clearly mere guesses, but others, presented in official or semi-official reports to the governments of Great Britain and the United States, purported to give the dimensions of the fort with some degree of accuracy.

If the earliest estimate, that made by Jedediah Smith in 1828-1829, is excepted, it will be noted that, on the whole, no trends are observable in the series of measurements. The later figures apparently refer to an enclosure of about the same size as the one described by the estimates of 1835-1839. Yet it is known from the archeological evidence and a comparison of available maps that some not-insignificant changes took place in the dimensions of the fort between 1835 and 1854. At the very least, the east-west measurement increased by about 95 feet and the north-south by about six feet during this period.

Fortunately there exists in the available documentary record certain evidence which assists in evaluating and interpreting the archeological findings and the maps and measurements. By analyzing all these types of sources, a fairly satisfactory chronology of the expansion of the Fort Vancouver stockade can be achieved.

The earliest estimate of the stockade dimensions known to the present writer was that made by Jedediah Smith in 1829. In a letter written during the following year, he stated that a fort "three hundred feet square" had been started during the spring of 1829. [6] What appears to be a confirmation of Smith's description is given in the journal of Nathaniel Wyeth, an American trapper and business man who first reached Fort Vancouver in October, 1832. "The Fort is of wood," he wrote, "and square." [7]

These descriptions quite clearly refer to one of the square stockades, ABDE or BCEF, revealed by the archeological excavations. As has been seen, each of these enclosures measured approximately 318 feet square.

Between 1834 and 1836 evidence begins to appear in the record that this original square fort was soon enlarged to about double its size. This change may have occurred as early as September, 1834. It almost certainly had been accomplished by the end of 1836.

John Kirk Townsend, a young ornithologist from Philadelphia, reached Fort Vancouver in September of 1834 after a journey across the continent with the Wyeth party. In his published narrative of the trip he stated that the stockade formed an oblong square, about 250 feet by 100 feet. Since it is known that no wall of the palisade was ever as short as 100 feet, it is probable that Townsend meant to write "yards" in place of "feet." If so, his estimate of 750 feet by 300 feet does not compare unreasonably with the 638 by 318-foot area known to have been enclosed by the stockade from at least 1839 to at least 1841. [8]

Additional evidence of the enlargement of the stockade seems to date from the next year. The Reverend Samuel Parker, an American missionary, visited the Columbia depot in 1835 and spent the winter of 1835-1836 at the fort. From observations evidently made shortly after his arrival he estimated that the stockade measured 37 rods by 18 rods, or 610.5 feet by 297 feet. [9] These figures are so close to the known dimensions of the fort as it existed from at least 1839 to at least 1841 that they cannot be dismissed as mere guesses.

There also exists a positive statement that the fort was increased substantially in size "about" 1836. During the 1860's the Hudson's Bay Company claimed that the Fort Vancouver stockade had been doubled in extent between 1836 and 1846; and the firm found at least one witness who was willing to testify under oath to this fact. "I think the fort was increased to double its original size about the year 1836," stated William Henry Gray on August 11, 1866. Gray was an American missionary who came to Oregon in 1836. At the time of his arrival at Fort Vancouver in that year he noticed that the stockade was much decayed and was being replaced by a new one. Perhaps it was the memory of this construction work which caused him to state, thirty years later, that the palisaded area was doubled in size about the time of his first arrival; but his testimony agrees so well with the other available evidence that it must be given credence. Unfortunately, his "about 1836" date for the enlargement is not as precise as could be wished. [10]

At any rate, by mid-1839 there can be no doubt that the area of the fort had been increased substantially. As shall be seen in detail later in this chapter, visitors during the summer and fall of that year describe the fort as being comprised of about thirty-six buildings grouped to form two courts or squares within the stockade walls. Given the locations of certain buildings known to have been standing by that date, this condition could have existed only if the stockade dimensions were at least as great as those shown on the Emmons plan of 1841. For instance, the bachelors' quarters, standing very close to the east fort wall as depicted by Emmons, was completed in late 1838; the granary, standing in the northwestern section of the 1841 fort, was completed before mid-October, 1839. As revealed by the archeological evidence, the smallest stockade which could have encompassed both of these structures was that formed by the combination of squares ABDE and BCEF.

Therefore, it is certain that by mid-1839, the original 318-foot-square fort had been enlarged by adding another square of the same size to it and removing the old wall (BE) between them. This new, "doubled-in-size" fort measured about 638 feet by 318 feet. Upon the basis of the evidence already reviewed, it seems most probable that this enlargement had been accomplished by the end of 1836, and it may have taken place as early as 1834.

The next question which arises, of course, is which square, the western (ABDE) or the eastern (BCEF), was the original fort? In the opinion of the present writer, the problem is incapable of positive solution on the basis of the evidence at hand. A more detailed presentation of the known facts concerning this matter will be given in another section of this chapter, but it seems advisable to summarize the case for each square at this point.

After analyzing the condition of the remains uncovered, Mr. Caywood was of the opinion that, on the basis of the archeological findings, the eastern square appeared "to have been the first construction at this site." He based this tentative hypothesis upon the fact that the post remnants in the eastern square seemed more rotted and to show more evidence of age than those in the western. Also, no cultural material was found in the post trenches which were excavated. And, seemingly, he considered the fact that wall BC was marked by three lines of posts could indicate that wall BC was older than wall AB, which showed evidence of only two lines of posts. He did, however, recognize the fact that a palisade along wall AB might have been rebuilt in the same trench at some time during the fort's existence; and he did point out that there was certain historical and structural evidence which appeared to contradict his hypothesis. [11]

In actuality, there is some convincing historical evidence which tends to support the possibility that the eastern square was the older. As shall be seen, there is good reason to believe that the chief factor's residence, which is known beyond any doubt to have stood in the area of the eastern square from 1841 to 1860, was in that same location as far back as at least 1836 and possibly even as far back as about 1829. It does not appear likely that the manager's house would have been permitted to stand outside the pickets, at least not for any considerable period of time.

On the other hand, there exists a formidable body of historical and structural evidence pointing to the fact that the western square might have been older. Most positive is the sworn testimony of W. H. Gray in 1866 that he thought the fort was enlarged about 1836 and that new quarters for the clerks and several other structures were then built in the new part. The buildings he named were all situated in the eastern part of the fort, thus indicating that the western square was the older. Also, a brick or stone powder magazine existed in the fort as early as 1832, and in 1947 the foundations of a powder magazine were uncovered in the area of the western square. It is known that there was a magazine on that site as early as 1841, and there is no evidence that it was ever in any other location. It seems rather unlikely that so substantial a structure would ever have been moved from its original place of construction.

Furthermore, the only well which existed inside the fort in 1841 was situated within the area ABDE. Although not positive proof, since it is known that at least one well at Fort Vancouver was moved, this fact lends support to the theory that the square ABDE marked the original stockade. Also, some of the buildings forming the western quadrangle within the walls were described as "old" in 1841, which probably would not have been the case had they been built after about 1836.

Since no clear-cut case can be made for the greater antiquity of either square, it seems the better part of wisdom to leave a decision in abeyance for the present. Perhaps Mr. Caywood had the solution to the problem when he suggested that McLoughlin probably intended originally to construct the stockade as a quadrangle measuring about 636 feet by 318 feet but, because of lagging construction due to acute shortages of personnel and the ravages of intermittent fever, was forced as a temporary measure to build wall BE to close in one half of the fort until the entire stockade could be completed.

In 1841, Lieutenant George Foster Emmons, U.S.N., visited Fort Vancouver as a member of the United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. In his journal Emmons drew a ground plan of the post (see plate II). Although the Lieutenant remarked that he could not "vouch for its being correct in every particular," the diagram shows every evidence of having been carefully executed. Probably because, as a guest of the Hudson's Bay Company, he did not feel free to make careful measurements, he erred somewhat in depicting the dimensions of the stockade; but the sizes nd relative positions of most of the buildings were represented with a fair degree of accuracy, as is shown by comparison with later maps and the archeological findings. The principal problem raised by the Emmons map results from the fact that it shows a number of the fort's principal buildings as being backed directly against the stockade. To date, archeological excavations have revealed the remains of no walls so close to the buildings; and it is most unlikely, from the relative positions of the structures, that they were later moved inward from the stockade. Therefore, it seems that Emmons was in error when he showed the buildings abutting the palisade. [12]

A comparison of the Emmons map of 1841 with the archeological findings reveals that the diagram almost certainly represents the fort as it stood in the "doubled-in-size" period (quadrangle ACDF) before any of the end additions had been made. In point of time, the next available map of the fort is the "Sketch of Fort Vancouver and Plain, Representing the Line of Fire in September 1844" (plate XXV). Although drawn on a small scale, this official Hudson's Bay Company record depicts the stockade and its enclosed structures with obvious care. It shows quite clearly that between 1841 and September, 1844, the dimensions of the fort were changed.

On the Emmons map the east stockade wall is shown as being only a short distance—about 20 feet—east of the bachelors' quarters. On the 1844 map, as nearly as can be determined by the use of the rather unsatisfactory scale, the east wall is depicted as being about 75 or 80 feet east of the same building. This new location corresponds almost exactly with that of the outer eastern wall as revealed by archeological excavations. Also, the 1844 map shows the bakery built into the east wall, as it is known to have been at the time of the fort's greatest extent. Therefore, it can be stated with confidence that the 56-foot addition to the eastern side of the stockade was made between mid-1841 and September, 1844.

There is no clear evidence in the Line of Fire map to indicate that the west end of the fort had been extended by 1844. Indeed, a comparison of the building and stockade relationships on the 1841 and 1844 maps would seem to show that the west wall had not been moved, even to the extent of the 21 feet necessary to advance it to the position HG. It must be admitted, however, that the small scale of the Line of Fire map makes it impossible to be positive in this matter.

In chronological sequence, the next known detailed diagram of Fort Vancouver is that prepared by Lieutenant M. Vavasour, of the Royal Engineers, during the winter of 1845-1846 (see plate IV). This map reveals that the north, east, and south walls remained in the same positions as shown on the Line of Fire map but that the west wall had been moved outward during the intervening year. As shown by the scale on his map, Vavasour placed this new west wall about 45 to 50 feet west of the Company's trading shop and store. This location corresponds almost exactly with the position of the outer west wall as uncovered by National Park Service archeologists.

Further confirmation of the hypothesis that Vavasour's west wall was also the extreme west wall of the fort at the time of its greatest extent is found in the fact that Vavasour shows a bastion at the northwest corner of the stockade, exactly where the foundations of a bastion were uncovered in 1947. As far as is known, there was only one bastion in the northwest angle of Fort Vancouver between 1845 and 1860, and no evidence, historical or archeological, has yet come to light to demonstrate that it was ever moved from the spot upon which it was originally constructed.

It seems certain, therefore, that the west end of the fort was expanded to its ultimate extent during the winter of 1844-1845 when, it is known, the palisade underwent repair and when the blockhouse was built. The date of this latter construction can be fixed quite precisely as January, 1845. [13]

The last change in the dimensions of the stockade apparently occurred when the south wall was moved outward about five to seven feet (the distance being a little more on the west end than on the east) to the position JL. That this move was an outward one and that it occurred after the building of the outermost west wall is demonstrated by construction details uncovered during the archaeological explorations. For instance, the extension of wall DG to the westward would not have been undertaken if there had been in existence an outer south wall which could have been lengthened to close the southern end of the additional fort area created when the outer west wall was built. The exact date of this expansion to the south is not known. It certainly occurred after January, 1845; and it probably occurred before 1854, when maps show that the main gate in the south wall was in a different position than the one shown on the Vavasour map.

It will be noted that in this chronological analysis no date has been suggested for the construction of wall HG, which ran parallel to and about 16 to 18 feet inside of the outer west wall. There seems to be no clear indication as to when it was built. It certainly was not the west wall pictured on the Emmons map of 1841 (AD); and almost as surely it was not the west wall shown on the Vavasour map of 1845. It probably came between these two walls in time as it did in space. As has been seen, this wall likewise does not appear to be the west wall depicted on the 1844 Line of Fire map, yet it seems highly improbable that it was built after September, 1844, only to be torn down and replaced by the outermost west wall in January, 1845. Therefore, it is most reasonable to conclude that wall HG was built between 1841 and 1844 and that its position is shown incorrectly or indistinctly on the Line of Fire map.

Construction of the Stockade

The Fort Vancouver stockade was constructed of logs which were ranged vertically to form pickets or pales. Visitors to the establishment described the logs quite indiscriminately as pine, cedar, or fir. In answer to a direct question as to what kind of wood was used for the pickets, an old employee of the Company testified in 1867 that they were "principally pine, probably with some cedar among them." [14] The terms "pine," "cedar," and "fir" were used rather loosely in the Northwest in the 1830's to '60's, however, even by scientists. Samuel Parker, a missionary who visited Fort Vancouver in 1835, was more precise than the usual run of travelers. He noted that there was no pine along the Columbia below the Cascades and that as a consequence the only timber sawed at the Fort Vancouver mills was fir and oak. [15] Since oak was not suitable for use as pickets, it seems inescapable that the only wood available to any extent was fir.

This conclusion is borne out by the remains of the stockade discovered still in the ground in 1947. Parts of three posts were sent for analysis to the Forest Products Laboratory of the United States Forest Service, in Madison, Wisconsin. All three proved to be Douglas fir. [16]

According to an employee who resided for a number of years at Fort Vancouver, only "very choice" logs were used for pickets. When the palisade was constructed in 1829 there was probably a sufficiency of suitable timber within a reasonable distance of the building site; but in later years, particularly, when rotting timbers had to be replaced, it was necessary to go "a great distance from the fort" to obtain satisfactory timber. The logs were cut, dragged by oxen to the Columbia, rafted downstream, and then hauled again by oxen to the depot. [17]

Three visitors, who were at Fort Vancouver in 1836, 1841, and 1843, respectively, described the pickets as being about eight or ten inches in diameter. [18] Ends of posts found in the ground during the 1947 excavations measured between five and thirteen inches, roughly confirming the reports of the earlier observers. The excavations revealed that the larger posts were employed at the corners of the stockade, while the smaller ones formed the walls. [19]

The length of the posts appears to have varied according to the date at which they were cut. Visitors to the depot prior to the winter of 1844-1845 generally give the height of the stockade as between 20 and 25 feet, although Captain Edward Belcher of the Royal Navy, who visited the fort in August, 1839, stated that the pickets were 18 feet high, "composed of roughly split pine logs." Those describing the post in 1845 and later give figures which range from 12 to 20 feet, with 15 feet as the most frequent estimate. [20] It seems clear, therefore, that when the stockade was renewed during the winter of 1844-1845, the posts were not cut as long as they had been previously.

In addition to the length of the logs exposed above ground, several feet were buried in the earth. It was the usual custom at Hudson's Bay posts west of the Rockies to plant the pickets about four feet in the ground, and several visitors to Fort Vancouver say this same procedure was followed at that establishment. [21] But Lieutenant Emmons, in 1841, noted that the posts at Vancouver were buried only two or three feet in the ground. [22] Evidently Emmons was a more accurate observer than the other witnesses, for the 1947 excavations confirm his report. The posts were found planted to a depth of between two and three feet from the original ground level. [23]

After being cut to size, the logs were prepared for use as pickets by being sharpened to a point on one end. [24] If usual Hudson's Bay Company practice was followed, the logs were alternately sharpened on the thin and thick ends so that, when placed side by side in the palisade with the sharpened ends up, they would fit together without large gaps, as would have been the case if all the thin ends had been placed up or down. At many Company posts it was ordinary procedure to square two sides of the log so that the pickets would butt together more evenly. [25] Whether or not these practices were followed at Fort Vancouver is not known.

According to the evidence uncovered by the 1947 excavations, the ends of the pickets which were buried in the ground had been saw-cut and were not sharpened. If the Company lawyers were correct in statements made in the 1860's, however, the buried ends were not put into the ground without any preparation. The usual practice, as intimated by their cross-questioning, was to strip the bark from the ends to be planted and to char them thoroughly on the outside. This procedure evidently helped to preserve the posts from rotting. [26]

After the posts were raised, it was the usual practice of the Hudson's Bay Company to attach them to cross pieces which ran horizontally around the inside of the wall about four feet from the top. The pickets were fastened to this girth with wooden pegs or by means of an "oblique notch," as illustrated below:

Figure 1.
(After Compton, Forts and Fort Life in New Caledonia, MS, 6.)

The ends of the cross pieces, which were about fifteen feet long, were mortised into larger pickets called "king posts." [27]

This same general type of construction was followed at Fort Vancouver, but with certain important variations. For a considerable period, certainly between 1841 and 1845, there were two sets of horizontal girths running around the inside of the Vancouver palisade, one four or five feet above the ground and the other a foot or two below the tops of the pickets. The cross pieces were fitted into notches cut in each log and were mortised into king posts at the ends in the usual manner. Each picket was fastened to the girths by wooden pegs. For additional support, necessary because the posts quickly rotted at the ground level, diagonal bracing timbers ran at intervals from the upper girth to the ground. One of these supports is clearly shown in a sketch of the inner side of a section of the palisade drawn by Lieutenant Emmons in 1841 (see plate II). [28]

A photograph of the interior of the Vancouver stockade, taken in the spring of 1860, reveals, however, that by that date the construction of the palisade had reverted to the more usual Hudson's Bay type. The picture clearly shows that there was but one set of girths and that this line of horizontal cross pieces was four or five feet below the tops of the pickets (see plate XXIII). This change would indicate that there was a major rebuilding of the stockade between 1846 and 1860, but the exact date is not known.

A stockade post ordinarily lasted for about four or five years. By the end of that period it would be so rotted at the surface of the ground that it would have to be replaced. As a consequence, new pickets were inserted in the walls nearly every year. [29] But it appears that occasionally such repairs were neglected for long periods. A visitor in 1841, for instance, noted that nearly all the posts were more or less decayed. [30] Such neglect on occasion subjected the Company's officials to considerable embarrassment, for once or twice ten or fifteen-foot sections of the supposedly strong protecting wall were blown down by the wind. [31]

After each of these periods of neglect, the management at Fort Vancouver was forced to make extensive repairs, amounting in some instances to practically the rebuilding of the entire stockade. As has been seen, W. H. Gray noticed that such an operation was under way at the time of his arrival during the fall of 1836. Three years later, during the fall of 1839, 350 yards of the palisade were renewed. [32] Another considerable section was replaced in the autumn of 1842, and the balance was renewed before and during the winter of 1844-1845. [33] It has already been shown that there was at least one additional rebuilding before 1860.

Stockade Gates

Knowledge of the gates in the Fort Vancouver stockade is scanty. Captain Belcher noted in August, 1839, that there were three gates. The Emmons diagram (see plate II) and the Eld pencil sketch (see plate III), both made during 1841, provide the earliest known information concerning the location of the gates. According to these sources, there were three gates in the palisade: two in the south, or front wall and one in the north, or rear wall. From the ground plan drawn by Lieutenant Vavasour in 1845 (see plate IV) and from the view sketched by Lieutenant Henry J. Warre at about the same time (see plate VI) it is apparent that the number and relative positions of the gates remained unchanged between at least 1841 and 1845.

Since the Emmons map does not have a scale, it is impossible to determine the exact positions of the gates in 1841. Lieutenant Vavasour's rather rough ground plan is not too accurate as far as the dimensions of the stockade are concerned. According to the scale accompanying his sketch, the area enclosed by the palisade was about 680 by 318 feet. Actually, the area was about 732 by 318 feet. Yet, lacking better evidence, the Vavasour plan must be used if any determination is to be made of the approximate locations of the gates as they existed in 1845.

According to Vavasour's ground plan, the gate in the north wall was approximately 12 to 16 feet wide and was situated about 208 feet west of the northeast corner of the palisade. In the front wall, the east, or main gate appears to have been about ten feet wide and to have been located about 208 feet west of the southeast corner of the stockade. The west front-wall gate in 1845 apparently was some twelve or fourteen feet wide and was about 200 feet east of the southwest corner. It was this latter gate, seemingly, which was known as the "business gate." [34]

Excavations in 1952 revealed no positive evidence of the "business gate" in the inner of the two south palisade walls. This inner wall, evidently, marked the stockade line at the time Vavasour drew his map in 1845. In the outer wall, about six feet farther south, however, the gate opening definitely was located. It was about 200 feet from the southwest corner and was marked by the remains of two large gate posts, each about 13 inches in diameter and sunk four and one-half feet in the ground. The centers of the posts were ten feet apart, making the gate opening seven and eight-tenths feet wide. In all probability this outer wall was built after 1845.

Exactly how long the gates maintained these positions is not known. In 1854, Lieutenant Colonel B. L. E. Bonneville, Commanding the United States Army post at Fort Vancouver, made a survey of the Government military reservation. On his original plan he plotted the stockade and buildings of the Hudson's Bay post with evident care (see plate XV). According to his map, the main, or east gate, located in the south wall, had by 1854 been moved somewhat to the west from the position it occupied in 1845. A survey made at the direction of General W. S. Harney in 1859 (see plate XXI) and a ground plan made by a board of Army officers in 1860 (see plate XXIV) indicate that the main gate remained in this new position as long as the fort continued to be occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company. As closely as can be determined from these maps, the new location was about 335 feet west of the southeast stockade corner. These same maps also indicate that the position of the other two gates remained essentially unchanged between 1845 and 1860, except that between 1859 and June, 1860, the business gate may have been moved about 100 feet to the west.

Nothing is known concerning the appearance or construction of the gates except that they were not as high as the stockade. They were evidently cut out of the palisade wall, and the pickets continued in an uninterrupted row across the top of each gateway opening (see plates III, VI). But if the gates followed the usual pattern of those of other Hudson's Bay Company posts in the West, they were "massive structures," about six or seven inches thick and heavily studded with large nails. There was usually a small door cut in each gate so that a single person or a small party could enter without the necessity of opening the entire gate. [35]

Fort Vancouver Bastion

It has been stated that when the fort was shifted from the bluff to the plain, bastions or blockhouses were placed at the corners of the new stockade but that they were removed before 1841. [36] However, John Kirk Townsend, who visited Fort Vancouver as early as 1834, reported that the establishment had no bastions. [37] It seems unlikely that, if there were blockhouses in 1829, they would have disappeared by 1834. At the time of his visit in 1841, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes noted that Vancouver differed "from all the other forts in having no bastions, galleries, or loop-holes." [38]

As has been seen, however, the officials of the Hudson's Bay Company and, in particular, McLoughlin began during the early 1840's to fear that Fort Vancouver might be attacked by the American settlers who were pouring into the Oregon country. It was almost certainly for this reason that the Doctor determined to strengthen the depot's defenses. During the winter of 1844-1845 an extensive building program was carried on: much of the stockade was renewed, and a three-story blockhouse was built at the northwest corner of the palisade. The date of this work is fixed with some exactness by a letter which McLoughlin wrote to Governor Simpson on March 20, 1845. "In the Month of January last," he said, "some Americans seeing us repair our pickets erect a bastion, our Blacksmiths making small Axes for the Indian Trade spread a report among their Countrymen that we were fortifying the Fort and making Axes to set the Indians against the Americans." [39] This blockhouse was completed before Lieutenants Warre and Vavasour visited Vancouver in the fall of 1845, and it continued to stand at least until June, 1860, when the Hudson's Bay Company abandoned the post.

Late in November, 1847, the Cayuse Indians massacred Dr. Marcus Whitman and a number of other residents at the Whitman mission at Waiilatpu on the Walla Walla River. Almost immediately the Oregon Provisional Government raised a force and proceeded against the murderers. The Americans found some difficulty in equipping their troops for the Cayuse War, as the ensuing struggle with the Indians came to be called; and there were rumors that the Provisional Government intended to "levy contributions" upon the Hudson's Bay Company, whose warehouses at Vancouver were believed to be bulging with food, arms, ammunition, clothing, and other necessities for a campaign. Taking cognizance of these reports, Chief Factor James Douglas, temporarily in charge of Fort Vancouver, informed Governor George Abernethy of the Provisional Government that "instant measures" were being taken for the protection of the Company's property. "I trust," he wrote from the post on December 31, 1847, "this explanation will satisfactorily account for any unusual precautions observed in the present arrangements of this establishment." [40]

These words have been taken by certain writers and historians to indicate that one or more additional bastions were erected at Fort Vancouver during the winter of 1847-1848. [41] It is true that Lieutenant M. Vavasour, of the Royal Engineers, who with Lieutenant Henry J. Warre made a military reconnaissance of the Oregon country for the British Government in 1845-1846, had recommended, in an official report dated March 1, 1846, that another small blockhouse should be built at the southeast corner of the stockade, but there is no conclusive evidence to show that this action was ever taken. [42]

In 1849, Major D. H. Vinton, United States Army quartermaster, made a survey of the Company's buildings at Fort Vancouver with a view to determining their cash value. In his inventory of the buildings within the stockade he noted but one blockhouse. [43] Even the Hudson's Bay Company, in later claiming damages for the buildings it was practically forced to evacuate in 1860, mentioned only the one bastion in the northwest corner. [44] A board of United States Army officers examined and appraised the Company's improvements in June, 1860, and found but one blockhouse, "in a ruinous condition." [45]

Between 1850 and 1860, the military authorities at Vancouver Barracks made a number of maps of the military reservation. Several of these charts (see plates XV, XXI, XXIV) show the buildings of the Hudson's Bay Company with an obvious attempt at accuracy. It is significant that all of them show but the one bastion at the northwest corner. Neither do any of the pictures of the fort reveal evidence of a bastion at any other angle of the stockade. [46]

From the above cited evidence, therefore, it would appear that there were no blockhouses or bastions whatever at Fort Vancouver between at least 1834 and the winter of 1844-1845. After January, 1845, there was a bastion at the northwest corner of the stockade, and probably this was the only bastion or blockhouse at the fort during the remainder of its existence.

It must be admitted, however, that there may have been some additional and lesser defensive structures at Fort Vancouver, particularly after 1847. Reminiscences of visitors to the post prior to that date sometimes mention one or more bastions besides that in the northwest corner, but these statements may safely be dismissed as errors, probably resulting from confusing conditions at other posts with those at Fort Vancouver. [47] For the period after 1847, however, mentions of two or more "bastions" at the establishment become so numerous and so detailed that they cannot be ignored. On November 27, 1847, for instance, an emigrant named Loren B. Hastings arrived at Vancouver, and he remained there overnight. In his diary he mentioned seeing "bastions built at the corners containing cannon." [48] Describing the fort in 1854, Governor Isaac I. Stevens of Washington Territory said that the post was defended by bastions at the northwest and southeast corners. [49] No less an authority than General Philip H. Sheridan, who was stationed in Washington Territory during 1855 and 1856, recalled several years later that there had been "blockhouses" inside the stockade at diagonal corners. [50] Several other witnesses for the United States before the British and American Joint Commission for the Final Settlement of the Claims of the Hudson's Bay and Puget's Sound Agricultural Companies testified that there were at least two bastions at Fort Vancouver, although still others could recall only one. [51] There is a possibility, therefore, that a small, temporary blockhouse, or a small gallery or platform was constructed inside at least the southeast corner of the stockade sometime about 1847. Such galleries, built about four or five feet below the tops of the pickets, were almost standard equipment in Hudson's Bay posts west of the Rockies. [52]

Construction of the Bastion

As described by Lieutenant Vavasour in March, 1846, the bastion in the northwest corner was a "block house 20 feet square." The two lower stories were loop-holed, while the upper was an octagonal cap containing eight 3 lb. iron guns." [53] A photograph of Fort Vancouver in 1860 confirms the accuracy of Vavasour's description and reveals the further information that each of the three visible surfaces of the octagonal third story contained one square gun port (see plate XXIII). A drawing of the fort made by George Gibbs in 1851 shows similar openings in three other faces. Available pictures do not prove beyond a doubt that the remaining two surfaces likewise each contained one port, but it is reasonable to assume that such was the case, in accord with the usual practice in building this type of bastion on the West Coast (see plate VII, showing a bastion at Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island).

During the excavations of 1947, the foundation timbers of the Fort Vancouver bastion were found still in place. The foundation of each wall consisted of two 8" x 8" sawed timbers placed side by side, the distance between them being from one to five inches. The overall dimensions of the foundation proved to be about twenty feet six inches on each side. But as Mr. Caywood points out, the foundation timbers had "undoubtedly moved outward a few inches from pressure and perhaps from buckling" during the fire which destroyed the structure during the 1860's. Mr. Caywood further states that "a door undoubtedly had existed in the southeast corner of the bastion, but evidence of this was not too conclusive, except for the fact that no great amount of rotted timber showed in that section." [54]

Photographs and drawings clearly reveal that the type of construction employed for the bastion was that known as "French-Canadian," "Canadian," or "posts in the sill." In this type of construction, a sill of heavy timbers was laid down as a base for the proposed structure. The ends of these timbers were ordinarily fastened together at the corners by interlocking joints (see plate VIII). This sill sometimes rested directly on the ground but more often was elevated by wooden blocks or piles.

At the corners and at convenient intervals along the sill, usually six to ten feet, heavy upright posts were planted by means of mortises. These uprights were grooved, and into the grooves were slid the tenoned ends of horizontally-lying logs or timbers which filled the empty spaces between the uprights and formed the wall. [55]

In 1933 and 1934, at the time of the reconstruction at Tacoma of Fort Nisqually, a Hudson's Bay post originally located on Puget Sound near the mouth of the Nisqually River, a study was made of the Company's methods of building. "Gray haired pioneers" who as children had played around Fort Nisqually were interviewed, and from one of them was received a description of the original bastions at that post. His words, while referring specifically to Fort Nisqually, contain certain information which probably would apply equally as well to the blockhouse at Vancouver. He wrote:

Heavy fir logs were adzed to timbers 10 by 14 inches square with tenons on the ends. These tenons were mortised into grooves in heavy upright corner posts and pinned with oak dowels. Oak pegs three feet long were driven down through holes bored in the horizontal timbers, making a very strong construction. [56]

Timbers used on the Fort Vancouver blockhouse were almost certainly sawed rather than adzed. A photograph reveals that in addition to the corner posts, there was one upright in each wall of the two lower stories. The roof was shingled, and at its peak was an ornament.

Armament of the Bastion

Lieutenants Warre and Vavasour, of the British Army, arrived at Fort Vancouver on August 25, 1845, while on their secret military reconnaissance of the Oregon country. They spent the fall and winter making surveys throughout much of the territory, but their headquarters were at Vancouver, and presumably they made a thorough inspection of that establishment. On October 26, 1845, the two officers made a joint report to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in which they stated that the Fort Vancouver blockhouse contained six 3-pound iron guns. In March, 1846, Lieutenant Vavasour reported to the commander of the Royal Engineers in Canada that the same structure contained eight 3-pound iron guns. [57] To complicate matters still further, Lieutenant William Peel, an officer of the Royal Navy and son of Sir Robert Peel, visited Vancouver during September, 1845, and reported to the captain of H.M.S. America on September 27, that there were seven small 3-pounders in the bastion. [58] Doctor Henry Atkinson Tuzo, who reached Fort Vancouver in 1853 to take up his duties as postsurgeon for the Company, later testified that at the time of his arrival the blockhouse mounted "eight small cannon" in its third story. [59] There seems to be no way of judging which of the witnesses was most accurate or whether or not the number of guns varied from time to time.

General Survey of the Buildings Within the Stockade

The number and locations of the buildings within the Fort Vancouver stockade changed considerably throughout the years of the establishment's existence. Between 1829 and 1846, particularly, new structures were erected at frequent intervals. Sometimes these new buildings were in addition to those already existing, and sometimes they were replacements for older structures which were torn down as they fell into disrepair or were outgrown. [60] To make the matter of the identification of individual structures more difficult, activities carried on in one building would sometimes be shifted to another, with a consequent change in the names of the buildings. In 1841, for instance, the Indian trading shop was in a large building to the west of the southeast stockade gate; in 1845 the shop was located to the east of the same gate. Since the exact date of the shift is not known, any reference to the Indian store between these two years leaves one in doubt as to which building is meant.

Buildings Within the Stockade, 1829-1841

The earliest known ground plan of Fort Vancouver is that drawn by Lieutenant Emmons on or about July 25, 1841. Prior to that date the evidence concerning the number and locations of the buildings at the post is unsatisfactory. By piecing together what fragments of information are available, however, a general picture of the fort proper as it existed during its first twelve years can be reconstructed.

As was the case with the old fort, construction of the new establishment proceeded at a slow pace. During 1829 all available men were occupied in the Indian trade on the lower Columbia to prevent the business falling into the hands of American traders who visited the river in two vessels. "In consequence of being so much employed with opposition we have not got on so fast with our buildings as expected," McLoughlin complained in the spring of the next year. [61]

Evidently by 1836 conditions were not much improved. It "will appear perhaps extraordinary but nevertheless a fact," the Doctor told the directors in that year, "that we have not been able to finish the house I dwell in along with the other officers of the Establishment." He further stated that it would be impossible to build a dwelling house for the post agriculturalist and his wife as directed by the Committee, without neglecting "other important Work." [62]

In spite of these difficulties, however, substantial advances were made during these early years. Perhaps some of the very first buildings were simply structures moved from the fort on the hill. These were replaced or supplemented with new buildings as rapidly as conditions permitted. In 1832 there were storehouses and dwellings for McLoughlin and the other gentlemen of his staff within the stockade, and the stone or brick powder magazine had been constructed by that date. [63]

By 1834 the descriptions of the post become more specific. When John Kirk Townsend reached Fort Vancouver in September of that year he noted that there were ten or twelve buildings—several dwellings, storehouses, workshops, and other structures— "arrayed together in quadrilateral form" within the stockade, "the house occupied by the doctor being in the middle." In front of this last mentioned "governor's mansion," four "great" cannon—two long 18's and two 9-pounders—frowned across the courtyard, which was "a large open space" enclosed "on three sides by the buildings." In the courtyard the Indians assembled to trade their furs, game, and other articles; and there also the furs from the warehouses were taken once a week and beaten to free them from dust and insects. [64]

Samuel Parker, who spent much of the winter of 1835-1836 at Fort Vancouver, has left a description of the post which adds a few details to the picture and which appears to indicate that few major changes occurred between 1834 and 1835. He found that there were eight "substantial" buildings within the enclosure. Among these larger buildings were four storehouses—one for the Indian trade, in which the furs were kept; one for provisions; one for goods opened for the current year's business; and one for the year-in-advance supply of goods. He also noted that the fort contained a bakery and shops for blacksmiths, joiners, carpenters, and a tinner. He mentioned a "well-regulated medical department" and a hospital, but failed to make clear whether or not the latter was located within the walls. He was given rooms in a new and well-furnished house which was probably, but not certainly, inside the stockade. [65]

During 1836 there was a veritable swarm of new arrivals and visitors at the depot, but apparently none of them left a detailed account of the buildings at the post. The Reverend Mr. Herbert Beaver, the Company's chaplain who arrived during the year, complained much about the house in which he and his wife were lodged, but his known writings do not throw much light upon its location.

Perhaps the most valuable contribution to a present-day understanding of the fort as it existed in 1836 was made by W. H. Gray, who reached Vancouver with the Whitman party of missionaries in the fall of that year. In front of the "big square hewed-timber house" of Dr. McLoughlin, he recorded, was a "half semicircle double stairway, leading to the main hall up a flight of some ten steps," and in the center of the semicircle was "one large 24-pound cannon, mounted on a ship's carriage, and on either side was a small cannon, or mortar gun, with balls piled in order about them, all pointing to the main gate entrance." After entering the fort, said Gray, the Whitman party was led up these stairs and into the Doctor's house. [66]

This information is of considerable importance, since it appears to establish the fact that the chief factor's house stood, in September, 1836, in about the same relative position to the main gate as, according to Emmons' ground plan, it did in 1841. If it can be shown that McLoughlin's house of 1841 was actually the same structure as his residence in 1836, then information as to the location of the main gate is pushed back an additional five years, from 1841 to 1836. And, as shall be seen, if the location of the Doctor's home and the main gate in 1836 can be fixed, then some additional light can be thrown upon the problem of the size of the stockade and the arrangement of the buildings at that date.

The description given by Gray of McLoughlin's dwelling, with its semicircular front stair, corresponds exactly with the appearance of the post manager's house as revealed by the photograph of 1860 (see plate XXII). The series of ground plans of Fort Vancouver from 1841 to 1860 clearly shows that the "mansion house" did not change in location or, apparently, in size during those years. Therefore, it is practically certain that the house of 1841 was that of 1860; and since the house of 1836 appears by description to also have been that of 1860, then the house of 1836 was identical with and stood in the same location as the house of 1841.

Furthermore, this conclusion is reinforced by other evidence and has additional implications. Since McLoughlin wrote in November, 1836, that it was "extraordinary but nevertheless a fact" that his residence was not yet completed, it is evident that this structure had been in the process of construction for a considerable period of time, probably since 1829; and, being still unfinished, it probably was not in a decayed condition and thus was not torn down and replaced by a new dwelling between 1836 and 1841. It seems very likely, therefore, that the manager's house was built about 1829 and remained standing until at least June, 1860, and this in spite of two definite statements to the contrary. [67]

William A. Slacum, a purser in the United States Navy, visited Fort Vancouver in 1837 and counted thirty-four buildings "of all descriptions" within the stockade. Since he evidently included out-houses and other minor structures, his figures do not necessarily mean that the number of buildings had tripled since Townsend had noted his ten or twelve in 1834. Slacum listed the ordinarily mentioned dwellings for officers and the workshops for carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, coopers, and tinners; and he also noted the brick powder magazine. But on the whole, his writings contribute little to our knowledge of the buildings in the fort proper. [68]

Fortunately, information concerning the improvements made during the next two years is more abundant. On October 18, 1833, Chief Trader James Douglas, in charge of Fort Vancouver during McLoughlin's absence in Europe, informed the Governor and Committee that "besides the ordinary labours of the place, already enumerated, a large building of 153 x 33 feet, intended for a dwelling House, will be completed in the course of 6 weeks." [69] This building was undoubtedly that designated as number 9 on the Emmons ground plan of 1841 (see plate II) and generally known as the "bachelors' quarters." It continued to stand until at least 1860.

During the late summer and fall of 1839 a new granary, capable of holding about 18,000 bushels of grain, was completed. [70] This structure is number 19 on the Emmons plan, and apparently it also survived until about 1860. "Other improvements are becoming daily more necessary," Douglas told the directors on October 14, 1839, "in consequence of the age and decaying state of the buildings, to which we will give attentions as means permit." [71]

This construction carried out under the orders of James Douglas in 1838 and 1839 marked the beginning of an extensive building program under which most of the structures within the stockade were completely rebuilt between 1838 and 1846. In addition, several entirely new buildings were added during the same period. [72]

By the fall of 1839 the interior of the stockade had begun to assume the appearance it presented during the period of its highest development, between about 1844 and 1846. Thomas Jefferson Farnham, an American traveler who reached Fort Vancouver in October, 1839, counted thirty-five wooden buildings within the walls in addition to the brick powder magazine. He noted that these structures were grouped to form two courts, in the fashion shown in the Emmons diagram of 1841. Farnham's naming of certain individual structures adds nothing not already known from earlier descriptions, except that he mentioned that one building near the rear gate was occupied as a schoolhouse. This structure was almost certainly that designated as number 4 on the Emmons map, and Farnham's words thus push definite knowledge of this building back to 1839. [73]

It will be seen that Fort Vancouver in 1839, with its thirty-five buildings arranged in two courts, had progressed considerably since 1834, when Townsend had counted ten or twelve major structures lining three sides of a single quadrangle. This very obvious growth again brings up the question of exactly when the stockade area was doubled in size and which section of the enlarged enclosure, the eastern or the western, was the original fort. In the opinion of the present writer, both of these problems are incapable of conclusive solution on the basis of the evidence at hand.

The most positive evidence available concerning these two questions is provided by the testimony of W. H. Gray. "Was not the fort and much of the stockade rebuilt, and the stockade doubled in extent, between 1836 and 1846?" Gray was asked in 1866 by a lawyer representing the Hudson's Bay Company.

"I think the fort was increased to double its original size about the year 1836; that the new quarters for the clerks, blacksmith shop, Indian trading shop, and a large house for the residence of Dr. McLoughlin, parsonage for Rev. Mr. Beaver, and some other small buildings, were in the new part of the fort," replied Gray. [74]

Which section of the fort Gray considered to be the "new part" is clearly shown by the following diagram, based upon Vavasour's ground plan of 1845; the buildings named by Gray are shaded:

fort diagram
Figure 2.

Certainly there is corroborating evidence that the western half of the stockaded area was old, possibly dating back to 1829. As has been seen, a stone or brick powder magazine existed as early as 1832, and in all probability it continued to stand in its original position throughout the existence of the fort. This location ("A" in the above diagram) was near the southwest corner. Also, in 1841 the range of buildings ("B" and "C" in the above diagram plus a carpenter shop marked "12" on the Emmons map) which divided the enclosure into two courts was described as being composed of "old" structures. [75] Thus it is possible that the single quadrangle described by Townsend was made up of the buildings forming the west court in the above diagram. But in order for McLoughlin's house to have been "in the middle" of this quadrangle, it must have stood about in the position marked "D" in the above ground plan. Assuming that the main gate was then at "F," such a position would have accorded very well with the location as given by Gray in 1836, who said that the guns in front of McLoughlin's door pointed to the main gate entrance. After the enlargement of the stockade in or about 1836, another "mansion" could have been built, as stated by Gray. This new manager's house would have been at the location marked "E," where the Doctor's residence stood in 1841. This latter location, it will be noted, was nearly opposite what Gray would have termed the "new" main gate ("G" in the diagram). Thus it too, if built in the "new" part of the stockade before Gray's arrival, would have been located opposite the main gate as described by him.

But although the western half of the enclosure was incontrovertibly old, there are some facts which make it difficult to accept Gray's testimony that it was older than the eastern half. In the first place, it has already been seen that McLoughlin's house as described by Gray in 1836 was probably the same as that shown at position "E" on the maps of 1841 and 1845. And it has also been shown that this house of 1836 had, in all probability, been commenced in 1829. Therefore, there is the possibility that the supposedly new half of the stockaded area contained the manager's residence as early as 1829. In the second place, there is the archeological evidence which appears to indicate that the stockade remains surrounding the eastern square are older than those surrounding the western half of the "doubled-in-size" fort.

It has been seen that according to Parker's estimate, the stockade probably measured 638 by 318 feet in 1835, about a year before the supposed enlargement to that size as mentioned by Gray; and if Townsend meant to give his estimate in yards instead of feet, the larger size for the enclosure can be traced back to at least 1834. There is the possibility, then, that the buildings forming Townsend's quadrangle of 1834 were ranged around the larger courtyard which would be formed if buildings "B" and "C" in the above diagram were not present. Although described as "old" in 1841, so rapid was the process of decay at Vancouver that they could have been constructed after 1834 and still appeared ancient in 1841. Of course the location marked "E" was scarcely "in the middle" of the quadrangle as described by Townsend, but from its dominant position nearly opposite the main gate it may have appeared to the casual observer to have been in the center of the fort.

Buildings Within the Stockade, 1841

Accompanying the Emmons ground plan of 1841 (see plate II) is the first available list of the buildings within the Fort Vancouver palisade. These structures are as follows (the numbers are as given on the Emmons diagram, but the descriptions and names have been somewhat revised in the light of the information given by other visitors of 1841):

1. Residence of the post manager: occupied by Dr. McLoughlin and Chief Factor James Douglas.

2. Kitchen and servants' quarters for the manager's residence.

3. Chaplain's residence, also "Governor's temporary residence."

4. Kitchen for chaplain's residence, also used as a school room.

5. Clerks' office.

6. Catholic chapel: apparently also employed occasionally for Protestant Episcopal services.

7. Bakery.

8. Wash house.

9. Quarters for subordinate officers and their families.

10. Blacksmith shop.

11. Storehouse, called the "Missionary Store" because it had "been used by the American missionaries to store their property."

12. Carpenter shop.

13. Indian trade store, also contained the hospital and dispensary.

14. Storehouse for furs.

15. Powder magazine: the only brick building.

16. 17, 18. General storehouses, for provisions, drygoods, hardware, and other goods.

19. Granary.

In addition to the buildings listed above, Emmons plotted four smaller structures, evidently out-houses, in the rear of the subordinate officers' quarters. His ground plan also shows the locations of two large field pieces in front of McLoughlin's residence (No. 20), the bell stand or belfry (No. 21), "a deep well in which the water rises & falls with the tide" (No. 22), and the stockade entrances, "through folding gates" (No. 23). [76]

Additional Buildings, 1841-1845

The fours years following 1841 saw some extensive changes within the Fort Vancouver stockade. According to the testimony of one old Company employee, the principal storehouses were replaced by better-built structures in 1843 and 1844, although another witness placed the construction of at least two of the new storehouses at a somewhat later date, about 1845 to 1846. [77] Another witness, however, denied that there was any extensive rebuilding during 1845 and 1846. [78]

The extent of the alterations made between 1841 and 1845 is revealed by comparing the Emmons ground plan of the former year with that made by Vavasour in 1845. The following conclusions, drawn from such a comparison, are largely substantiated by the testimony of Dugald Mactavish, a clerk and chief trader at Fort Vancouver at intervals during the 1840's, given before the British and American Joint Commission in 1867. [79]

By the time Vavasour drew his ground plan, several buildings shown on the Emmons map of 1841 had disappeared entirely. These included the carpenter shop (No. 12 on the Emmons map), a storehouse (No. 17), and possibly another large storehouse (No. 18). In addition, the bakery (No. 7) may have been torn down and replaced by a harness shop built on its site, or it may simply have been transformed into the harness shop. The blacksmith shop of 1845 may have been the same structure shown on the Emmons map (No. 10), or it may have been another built on approximately the same site. The former chaplain's kitchen and school house (No. 4) had been transformed into a church for the Company's Hawaiian employees; and the "Missionary Store" (No. 11) or a new building on its site, was used as the Indian trade shop.

An interesting problem is presented by the wash house (No. 8 on the Emmons map). This structure was still standing when the Line of Fire map was drawn in 1844, but it is not shown on the Vavasour map of 1845 (see plate V). However, one version of the Vavasour map (plate IV) shows a building, identified as a "warehouse," in the same location as Emmons's wash house. If, as seems possible, the designation "warehouse" is a copyist's error for "wash house," then the history of the wash house perhaps can be extended to at least late 1845. The wash house does not appear on the Covington map of 1846 nor is it mentioned in the inventory of 1846-1847. As shall be seen, during the 1850's a "washing house" reappears among the lists of structures within the stockade, although the location of this later wash house has not yet been determined.

The structures built between 1841 and 1845 included a new bakery, a storehouse for iron, a new carpenter shop (or perhaps the old one moved to a new location), a well house, a new office, and a jail. An additional store house for meat, labeled the "beefstore" on the Vavasour map, seems to have been built to replace the general warehouse (No. 18) which stood on about the same general site, but possibly a bit to the north. Also, an additional well was dug near the northeast corner of the stockade. The rebuilding of the main warehouses has already been noted. During the reconstruction the long storehouse marked "16" on the Emmons map appears to have been replaced by two buildings, labeled by Vavasour "store" and "shop & store," respectively. Emmons's warehouse "16," however, may have been two buildings joined by a roof, as was the case with the two structures which appear to have replaced it.

The problem of determining what changes occurred within the stockade between 1841 and 1845 is complicated by the fact that the proportions, and possibly the locations, of some of the buildings seem to be inaccurate on the Emmons map, particularly in the area of the northwest corner of the stockade. It will be noted that Emmons showed the well (No. 22) to be south of a large storehouse (No. 18), about opposite the granary (No. 19), and a considerable distance from the north stockade wall. The Vavasour map shows the well to have been much closer to the north wall in 1845, and to the north of the "beefstore." Excavations in 1952 confirmed the Vavasour location. If the 1841 map is accurate, the well must have been shifted thirty or forty feet to the northward between 1841 and 1845. Further archeological excavations should help to settle this question.

A comparison of the two maps will also show that Emmons appears to have allowed too little space for a proper representation of the central portion of the enclosure. In particular, the distance between the chaplain's residence (No. 3) and the clerks' office (No. 5) seems much too short. It is more reasonable to assume that Emmons was in error than that there was a wholesale moving of the buildings between 1841 and 1845. But until the question of the accuracy of the Emmons map can be definitely settled, there must remain some doubt as to whether or not certain buildings which appear to have been the same structures on both plans but which are shown in slightly different locations, were actually the same.

Fort Vancouver, 1845

At the time of Vavasour's visit, during the winter of 1845-1846, Vancouver was at the height of its development. As shown by Vavasour's map, the stockade enclosure contained twenty-three named structures, more than at any other period in the history of the post. These buildings, as named by Vavasour, were the bakehouse, the iron store, the blacksmith shop, the Indian shop, the dwelling house for subordinate officers, the harness shop, the manager's residence, the kitchen for the manager's residence, the "Owyhee Church," the "Priests" house," the jail, the new office, the old office, the "old" Roman Catholic church, the carpenter shop, the granary, the well house, the "beef store," one "shop and store," three large store houses, and the powder magazine. In addition, there were a number of out-houses and lesser structures.

Buildings Within the Stockade, 1846-1847

After 1845 the number of buildings within the Fort Vancouver palisade began to decline. This process had already begun in 1846-1847, when the next detailed account of the fort's structures was made.

Upon hearing of the probable terms of the Oregon Boundary Treaty in the summer of 1846, Sir George Simpson instructed the officers in charge of the Columbia Department to make an inventory of all of the Company's property south of the forty-ninth parallel. The inventory at Fort Vancouver was made during the winter of 1846-1847 under the supervision of Thomas Lowe, accountant at the post, and was forwarded, with those taken at the other establishments, to Norway House in the spring of 1847. [80] Although this inventory does not clearly separate the buildings within the stockade from those without, the testimony of two Company employees before the British and American Joint Commission helps to make evident the locations of most of the structures. [81]

Further light upon the buildings within the stockade is given by a map drawn by R. Covington in 1846 and printed in the third volume of McLoughlin's Fort Vancouver Letters (see plate X). Although this chart shows the fort proper upon a very small scale, it does reveal the general arrangement of the individual structures. Its particular value, however, comes from the fact that on it Covington named many of the buildings outside the stockade. Through the use of these names, many of the buildings listed in the 1846-1847 inventory can be definitely identified as not having been within the palisade.

As revealed by an analysis of the above-mentioned sources, the following structures were enclosed by the stockade at about the end of 1846:

1. One bakehouse, 40 X 20 or 25 feet.

2. One iron store, 40 X 30 feet.

3. One blacksmith shop, 45 X 30 feet.

4. One Indian trade shop, 80 x 30 feet.

5. One dwelling house for subordinate officers, 170 X 30 feet.

6. One harness or saddler's shop, 40 X 25 feet.

7. One residence for the post manager or principal officer, 70 x 40 feet.

8. One kitchen for manager's residence, 60 x 24 feet.

9. One dwelling, used as a school house, evidently the former "Owyhee Church," 50 x 25 feet.

10. One dwelling house, evidently the former "Priests" house," 50 x 30 feet.

11. One jail or prison, 21 x 21 feet.

12. One new office, 36 x 30 feet.

13. One old office, 30 x 30 feet.

14. One carpenter shop, 40 X 20 feet.

15. One granary, 50 X 40 feet.

16. One well house, 24 x 18 feet.

17. One beef store, 75 x 30 feet.

18. One storehouse no. 1, 86 x 40 feet.

19. One storehouse no. 2, 90 x 40 feet.

20, 21. Two storehouses, nos. 3 & 4, 100 x 40 feet.

22. One powder magazine, 18 x 18 feet.

The inventory lists in addition one "Receiving store." The location of this building is not known. It was probably outside the stockade.

It will be seen from the above list that all of the buildings shown on the Vavasour map of 1845 were still standing one year later except for the "old" Roman Catholic church, which had been demolished. Although listed in the inventory, the beef store and the old office do not seem to appear on the Covington map. It is possible, therefore, that these buildings were also pulled down about the end of 1846. The Covington map also shows six small structures, evidently out-houses, immediately to the rear and east of the subordinate officers' quarters and an unidentified small structure in the southwest corner near the powder magazine. A small building near the bastion in the northwest corner also cannot be identified with certainty.

Buildings Within the Stockade, 1847-1860

The history of the buildings at Fort Vancouver after 1847 was largely a continuation of the old struggle against decay, with the forces of Nature gradually getting the upper hand as the Company's business fell off through the years and as the staff was, in consequence, progressively decreased in strength. New construction largely ceased after 1846. About the end of the year 1853, Isaac N. Ebey made an official inspection of Fort Vancouver at the request of Governor Stevens of Washington Territory. He reported that only two of the "houses" within the stockade had been erected since 1846. [82] Brevet Major General Rufus Ingalls, who had served as a quartermaster at Vancouver Barracks at intervals between 1849 and 1860, later testified that all of the buildings within the stockade in 1860 had been standing at the time of his first arrival in 1849, and he further stated that no "material additions" had been made since 1846. [83] A Company employee who was in charge of construction work at Vancouver recalled, on the other hand, that "as near as I can remember" two buildings—a store and a dwelling—were erected after November, 1849. [84] As shall be seen, maps and inventories made between 1847 and 1860 indicate that several new buildings were built over the years in question, but they were small and did not equal in numbers those which disappeared.

According to William Frederick Crate, who was in charge of the repair work at Fort Vancouver between 1849 and 1860, a "gang" of about five men was kept constantly employed in the upkeep of the buildings, fences, and other improvements at the post. [85] It would appear, however, that the crew was not kept occupied as constantly as Crate remembered or else was grossly inadequate for the task at hand, because accounts given by visitors indicate that the old cycles of extensive decay and large-scale repair followed each other with some regularity during the years after 1846.

An old employee at Fort Vancouver testified that the buildings were in very sound condition in 1846, having been lately rebuilt. [86] But so rapid were the ravages of the elements that by the end of 1847 the post impressed one visitor as being "a dilapidated, dirty place." [87] A year or two later conditions were so bad that some of the buildings had to be propped up to keep them from collapsing. Even the manager's residence was "rather shaky." [88]

About 1849 one of the periodic reconstruction projects took place, and by November of that year all the buildings were said to have been in "first rate repair." [89] A visitor of late 1853, on the other hand, found the structures within the palisade so old and so decayed as to be "almost wholly valueless." [90] A board of United States Army officers who examined the establishment during January of the next year fully concurred in this conclusion. [91] Yet, in November, 1854, the Portland Weekly Oregonian reported that the fort was "in good repair." [92]

But after 1854, decay appears to have gotten the upper hand, with the Company doing only such work as was essential to keep the structures habitable. In 1855 and 1856, Philip H. Sheridan, later the famous Union cavalry leader, found Fort Vancouver to be composed of six or seven "very large, gloomy-looking" structures, and his unromantic impression was that it "would be a good thing if they would burn down." [93] A civilian visitor of 1855-1856 found the fort to be tenable but "gone much to ruin." Many of the blocks supporting the sills had rotted, and some of the buildings had sagged and were out of shape. [94] By 1860 props were again being used to keep several of the structures in an upright position. [95]

The dates at which new buildings were erected and old ones torn down can only be approximated from the evidence at hand. A visitor of 1848 noted in his diary that the enclosure contained a "meat shop." Perhaps this was the old beef store or some other old building to which the functions of the beef store had been transferred; or perhaps it was a new structure. The traveler did not say. [96]

If the memory of Lloyd Brooke, United States Army quartermaster's clerk and agent, was accurate in 1866, there was a "little hut" near the main gate in 1849. [97] This appears to be the first mention of the watchman's house or porter's lodge which is shown on the ground plans of the fort between 1854 and 1860. But since no maps which represent the fort buildings accurately are available for the period 1847 to 1853, it is impossible to check the correctness of Brooke's statement.

In 1849, Major D. H. Vinton, United States Army quartermaster, made a survey of the Hudson's Bay Company's buildings at Fort Vancouver. His inventory is rather unsatisfactory, since he named only the more conspicuous buildings and dismissed the minor ones by lumping them all together as unspecified "smaller appendages." He did not mention the beef store or the old office, which almost certainly had disappeared about 1847, but neither did he mention the Indian trade shop or two or three other structures which surely continued to stand in 1849. All the buildings named by him are known from other sources to have been standing until at least 1860. Therefore, Vinton's inventory contributes nothing to a knowledge of which structures were built and which disappeared during the period 1847 to 1849. [98]

In 1865, Dr. H. A. Tuzo described the buildings at Fort Vancouver as they stood at the time of his arrival there in 1853 to take up his duties as medical officer. While his list is not entirely complete, his omission of the beef store and the old office supports the view that those structures had disappeared by that date. Besides the structures already known to have existed since at least 1846, he mentioned an "excellent root house," a "press house," and a "watchman's house." The first two of these structures appear to have been new; they were located, according to Tuzo, on the north side of the enclosure. Significantly, however, they apparently do not appear on any later ground plan of the post (see plates XXI and XXIV). The watchman's house appears to have been that mentioned by Brooke as existing in 1849. [99]

One year later, in 1854, Lieutenant Colonel Bonneville, commanding Vancouver Barracks, drew a map on which the buildings of the Hudson's Bay post were carefully drawn (see plate XV). And during the same year a board of Army officers examined the improvements on the military reservation and made a fairly complete list of the Company's buildings. [100] From these two sources, a quite satisfactory picture of the fort as it then stood can be pieced together.

The Bonneville map shows that all the buildings listed in the inventory of 1846-1847 were still standing in 1854 except the kitchen for the managers residence, the old office, the beef store, the well house, and the magazine. Of these, the well house was probably, and the magazine was certainly, still in existence, but they were undoubtedly considered too insignificant to place on the chart. Besides the buildings listed in the 1846-1847 inventory, several new ones were shown. These were: a new kitchen behind the manager's house, an unidentified building near the harness shop and bakery in the northeast corner of the stockade, and the watchman's house.

In general, the inventory of 1854 confirms the picture shown by the map. It was too incomplete to be used as evidence as to which buildings had disappeared since 1846-1847, but it listed two structures which did not appear on the earlier inventory. These were a "washing house" and a butcher shop. Three wells were also mentioned in the inventory of 1854, while earlier accounts give only two.

From later evidence (see plate XXIV), it is known that a butcher shop stood in the northeast corner in 1860; thus the butcher shop of 1854 was probably the unidentified building shown in that location on the Bonneville map. The location of the "washing house" is not known, but it was probably in the same general area. There is no proof that the third well mentioned in the 1854 inventory was within the palisade, but it probably was the one which appears to be shown on the photographs of 1860 as being in the courtyard near the bell tower (see plates XXII and XXIII).

The old kitchen back of the post manager's residence either burned or was pulled down about 1852 or 1853. Bonneville's map proves that by 1854 it had been replaced by a much smaller structure which touched, or nearly touched, the northeast corner of the manager's house. [101]

In 1866, Dugald Mactavish, who had served the Company for many years at Fort Vancouver as a clerk and commissioned officer, listed the buildings which he remembered to have been standing within the stockade in 1858. In making his list he very obviously referred to the inventory of 1846-1847 and merely checked off such structures as he believed were still in existence some nine years later. Unfortunately, his memory appears to have been faulty. For instance, he maintained that the seventy-five by thirty-foot beef store was one of the survivors, whereas, as has been seen, this building certainly had disappeared by 1854 and probably had been torn down about 1847. He also listed the salt store as being within the stockade. In 1846, as shown by the Covington map, the salt store was near the river bank, and it probably never was within the pickets. It does not appear on any other inventory or plan of the fort proper.

But the Mactavish list is interesting in at least three respects. First, it mentions a "Large Root House" as being within the palisade. While the root houses of 1846 were almost certainly outside the stockade, the fact that Dr. Tuzo listed a root house as being in the enclosure in 1853 tends to substantiate Mactavish's contention that one of these buildings existed within the pickets during the 1850's. Second, Mactavish did not list the well house as standing in 1858, indicating that this structure may have disappeared by that date. Third, he definitely stated that the dwelling house measuring 50 x 25 feet—the former "Owyhee Church"—was pulled down before 1858. Since this old building appears on the Bonneville map of 1854, and since it seems to be shown on an unsigned map of 1855 (see plate XX), the date of its destruction may be set as between 1855 and 1858. [102]

Another representation of the area within the stockade is given upon a map of the Vancouver Military Reservation prepared at the order of Brigadier General W. S. Harney in 1859 (see plate XXI). This ground plan does not show the powder magazine, which certainly was standing at that time, but in other respects it appears to have been executed with care. The most interesting feature of this chart is the representation of the area near the northwest corner of the stockade, where two small and unidentified structures are shown. One of these may have been the root house mentioned by Tuzo and Mactavish, and the other may have been the well house. In the northeast corner, the unidentified structure shown on the Bonneville map is represented as having been still standing in 1859.

As has been seen, the Hudson's Bay Company abandoned Fort Vancouver on June 14, 1860. The next day General Harney ordered a board of Army officers to examine the buildings vacated by the Company with a view to determining their value and to see if any of them could be used in the public service. The board made the required inspection on that same day, and in the report of its proceedings included a list of the chief buildings within the stockade and a ground plan of the fort proper. These two items, supplemented by two photographs of the interior of the stockade taken in the spring of 1860 (see plates XXII and XXIII), provide a very satisfactory picture of the Fort Vancouver buildings as they existed at the end of the establishment's existence as a trading post.

The nineteen structures listed by the board of officers, numbered as they appear on the accompanying ground plan (see plate XXIV), are as follows:

No. 3. "Principal dwelling house inside of pickets, known as Governor's house—sills, flooring & wood work generally, so much decayed as to be uninhabitable & entirely useless for any military purpose." This structure was the manager's residence of the earlier inventories.

No. 4. "Kitchen (Governor's house), entirely out of repair."

No. 5. "Butcher shop &c, in a ruinous condition."

No. 6. "Bakehouse, in a ruinous condition."

No. 7. "Log building, used as quarters for employees, so much out of repair as to be uninhabitable."

No. 8. "Small storehouse, long since abandoned by the Company—in a ruinous condition."

No. 9. "Blacksmith shop, long since abandoned by the Company—in a ruinous condition."

No. 10. "Fur house, long since abandoned by the Company—in a ruinous condition."

No. 11. "Porter's lodge, useless for any military purpose.

Nos. 12, 13, 14. "Three large storehouses, useless for any purpose connected with the public service."

No. 15. "H. B. Company's store, entirely unsuitable for any military purpose.

No. 17. "Granary, entirely unsuited to any purpose of the public service."

No. 18. "Carpenter & wheelwright shop, long since abandoned by the Company—in a ruinous condition."

No. 19. "Company's office, in tolerable repair, might be made use of temporarily."

No. 20. "Guard house, long since abandoned by the Company—in a ruinous condition."

No. 21. "Dwelling house, formerly occupied by Mr. Grahame—in a ruinous condition."

No. 22. "Small magazine, useless to the public service." [103]

The two minor structures shown on the 1859 map to have been in the northwest corner of the stockade do not appear on the 1860 ground plan, but they may have been considered too insignificant to merit attention. The 1860 photograph of that section of the enclosure reveals that a small, open shed, with a hip roof—probably one of the structures on the 1859 map—was still standing in May, 1860. Behind the shed and closer to the bastion the photograph shows what appears to be a low structure whose gable roof rose from the ground level. This building was the root house. A comparison of the 1859 and 1860 maps shows, further, that one of the structures in the northeast corner of the enclosure probably disappeared during the year.

An examination of the above-indicated evidence will reveal that between 1846-1847 and 1860, the number of major buildings within the palisade was reduced from twenty-two to nineteen or twenty. The structures which disappeared were as follows:

1. The beef store, perhaps pulled down as early as 1847, certainly had disappeared by 1854.

2. The old office, probably pulled down about 1847.

3. The dwelling used as a school house and the "Owyhee Church," pulled down between 1855 and 1858.

4. The kitchen to the manager's residence, burned or pulled down about 1852 or 1853, replaced by a smaller building.

5. The well house; this building does not appear on any list of the fort structures after 1847, but perhaps it continued to stand and was not mentioned in the inventories because of its small size.

A saddler's shop is mentioned as existing in 1858, but whether or not it was housed in the same building in that year as it had been in 1846 is not known. From the maps, it would appear that the old saddler's shop of 1845 may have been replaced by two smaller structures before 1854, one of which may have continued to serve as a saddler's shop and the other of which be came the butcher shop. Or, only one additional building may have been erected in the northeast corner, in which case either it or the old saddler's shop became the butcher shop.

The new buildings erected between 1846-1847 and 1860 were as follows:

1. The watchman's house, near the main gate; certainly built by 1854 and probably by 1849.

2. A new kitchen for the manager's residence to replace the one destroyed about 1852 or 1853.

3. Either one or two buildings were erected in the northeast corner of the stockade, between the kitchen and the bakery, prior to 1854, as indicated in the paragraph immediately above. If two were erected, one of them replaced the old saddler's shop. One of the two buildings between the kitchen and the bakery disappeared between 1859 and 1860. Therefore, the number of buildings in the northeast corner remained the same in 1860 as it had been in 1846-1847.

In addition, several structures such as the root house, the "press house," and the "washing house" are mentioned over the years. Whether they were new buildings, or older structures renamed, or whether they had been in existence under their proper names before 1847 but had not been mentioned in the maps and inventories, is not known.

Disappearance of the Fort, 1860-1866

When Chief Trader James A. Grahame abandoned Fort Vancouver on June 14, 1860, he left the keys to the Company's buildings in the hands of Captain Rufus Ingalls, assistant quartermaster at the military post. Ingalls at once took measures to protect the property which was thus placed in his custody. "Persons no doubt are now trespassing on the premises," he reported on that same day to the headquarters of the Army's Department of Oregon. He suggested that a guard be placed "around or in the old Fort" to prevent vandalism until Brigadier General William S. Harney, the departmental commander, could determine what disposition was to be made of the deserted structures. [104]

Evidently the advice of Ingalls was followed. Sentinels seem to have been placed at the stockade, but how long they remained is not known. Certainly they were not very effective in preventing neighboring settlers from appropriating such building materials as struck their fancies. [105]

General Harney was not dilatory in making a decision regarding the abandoned buildings. On the morning of the next day, June 15, he appointed a board of four officers to examine and appraise all the structures vacated by the Company on the military reservation. That same afternoon, after a brief three-hour survey, the board reported that in its opinion, "none of the buildings within the pickets, are worth repairing for any military purpose, and that in consequence of the age, decayed condition and crowded position of the buildings, the sanitary police of the place demands, that they be destroyed by fire, after removing such of the material, as may be found to be of sufficient value." [106]

Three days later General Harney approved the findings of the board. He directed Captain Ingalls to "take charge of the buildings in question" and to "dispose of them agreeably to the recommendation of the Board." [107]

Captain Ingalls had long felt that the improvements of the Hudson's Bay Company were nuisances which interfered with the full and proper development of the military reservation. He lost no time in taking advantage of the opportunity to "clear the grounds." Soldiers were set to work pulling down several buildings whose materials could be employed in needed construction about the military post. For a few short weeks the work of destruction proceeded merrily. Then it came to a sudden halt.

As has been seen, the Hudson's Bay Company had protested to the British Government during the spring of 1860 that its rights under the Treaty of 1846 were being violated by the military authorities at Fort Vancouver. So vigorously was the matter presented in Washington by Lord Lyons, the British minister, that the United States Secretary of State was forced to express regret for the actions of the Army commander in Oregon, and he offered "cheerfully" to make reasonable compensation to the Company for any losses it might have suffered as a consequence.

Another result of Lyons' protest was an order from the Secretary of War to the commanding officer of the Department of Oregon directing that all actions aimed at terminating the occupation by the Hudson's Bay Company of land and improvements on the Fort Vancouver Military Reservation be suspended until further orders. Dated June 7, 1860, this order was sent by telegraph to St. Joseph, from there by Pony Express to California, and from thence to Fort Vancouver, where it seems to have arrived about the end of the month. [108] Immediately upon its receipt, Colonel George Wright, who had succeeded General Harney as commander of the Department of Oregon, put a halt to the destruction of the Hudson's Bay buildings. [109]

By the time Colonel Wright issued his order, however, the area within the stockade presented a decidedly altered appearance from what it had been on June 14. The manager's residence and the quarters for the subordinate officers remained untouched as apparently did two of the warehouses, the office, the Indian store, and the blacksmith shop; but many of the other structures were in various states of demolition. The Company store was partly torn down, while one of the large warehouses along the south palisade wall and several other buildings had disappeared entirely. [110]

Since nothing further could be done in the way of clearing the ground until additional instructions were received from the War Department, the military authorities at Fort Vancouver appear to have decided to make the best of the situation. In July, 1860, rooms in certain unspecified Hudson's Bay Company buildings were fitted up as quarters for the non-commissioned staff, the band, and the laundresses of the Ninth Infantry. [111]

But by September, the authorities had again become restive. "The buildings lately vacated by the Hudson Bay Company still encumber the Reserve at this place," Colonel Wright reminded the Adjutant General. Since it was hoped to build a new departmental headquarters upon the site occupied by these old structures, the Colonel continued, he "earnestly recommended" that the rights of the Company be adjusted without delay and "the encumbrances in question removed." [112]

Year after year passed, however, without any instructions on the subject being issued from Washington. [113] Meanwhile, the ravages of time, aided by the plunderings of settlers in search of building materials and of soldiers looking for accessible firewood, gradually reduced the old fort to a tumbled ruin. In 1863 a part of the stockade and some of the buildings remained standing "in the semi-demolished condition in which they were left by General Harney." [114] But two years later a witness reported that the palisade and the structures within it "had nearly all rotted away and fallen down." [115]

Evidence uncovered at the time of the excavations in 1947 shows unmistakably that the decayed ruins were finally swept away by fire. In fact there was still alive in 1947 at least one person who claimed to remember having seen the conflagration which put an end to the physical remains of Fort Vancouver. [116] But whether the structures were fired by order of the military authorities, by accident, or by deliberate incendiarism is not known.

The fire evidently occurred in 1865 or 1866, for by summer of the latter year practically all evidence of the fort had disappeared. A "Board of Experts," appointed to inspect the posts and former posts of the Hudson's Bay Company south of the forty-ninth parallel in connection with the settlement of the firm's claims against the United States, found "only a few ruins of no appreciable value" at Fort Vancouver. [117] Another visitor of 1866 found even less. The fort, he later testified, "had disappeared almost altogether; no houses or sheds remained." Only one "little rick of rotten hay and straw, partially covered by a portion of a fallen roof," marked the site. [118]

Construction of Buildings Within the Stockade


For the most part the buildings inside the Fort Vancouver palisade were constructed in the same "Canadian" style employed in erecting the bastion. The sills had no permanent underpinning but rested on wooden blocks. In some cases, the sills were placed very close to the ground, a circumstance which made the proper repair of the structures very difficult. The supporting blocks under the outer sills could be replaced as they rotted, but those holding up the inner joists were difficult of access and could be reached only through much effort. [119]


The grooved uprights standing on the sills were placed from six to ten feet apart. The horizontal timbers which fitted into the grooves and which formed the walls are generally described as having been about six inches thick. Testimony is about equally divided as to whether they were sawed or hewn. [120] Other witnesses, however, have stated that the walls were constructed of sawed planks, two or three inches thick. [121] The weight of evidence appears to favor those who reported the use of six-inch sawed timbers. Down to at least 1841, no iron or nails were employed to join the timbers. [122]


Plates were placed upon the tops of the uprights and upon them rafters were raised "in the usual way." [123] Down to about the early 1840's, all the roofs at Fort Vancouver were covered with sawed boards, one foot wide and one inch thick. These boards were grooved on the edges and were placed "up and down" to shed water. Since the planks frequently contained knot holes and cracks, this system of roofing proved "a leaky concern." [124] During the 1840's these boards were generally replaced by shingles. One frequent visitor to Fort Vancouver later testified that he believed that by 1846 all the buildings within the stockade possessed shingled roofs. [125] Prior to this change, all the roofs appear to have been simple gables, but afterwards the principal buildings had hip roofs.


For the most part, the structures at Vancouver had no exterior finish except the bare uprights and timbers of which they were constructed. But some of the more important buildings, such as the manager's residence, the office, the Company store, and the granary were covered with weatherboards on the outside.

At least the front wall of the manager's dwelling was kept painted white, and the other walls seem to have been painted at less frequent intervals. The office and granary seem also to have been given an occasional coat of paint. But with these three exceptions, the buildings were left unpainted. [126]


The interiors of the buildings at Fort Vancouver were described by one visitor as "unpretending." [127] This description was particularly apt during the early years of the fort's existence. Dr. William Fraser Tolmie arrived at Fort Vancouver in May, 1833. In his journal he described the interior of the "Apothecary's Hall" as follows:

Our apartment is 13 paces long by 7 broad and extends in E. and W. direction, the roof about 20 feet from floor supported by two rafters and 2 transverse beams. In front is the door and a pretty large window—posteriorly—a window and back door one on each side and in the middle a large fire place, without any grate, built of stone and lime. The walls are formed of rough, strong horizontal [deals?] attached at their extremities to perpendicular ones. Against the northern wall are placed our bed steads, between them a large chest and in front a small medicine shelf. Strong shelves of unplaned deal occupy two posterior thirds of South wall and contain the greater part of medicines. Anteriorly there is a small heater and a painted shelf. . . The deals composing floor are in some places two and three inches distant from each other, thus leaving wide apertures. This is also true of the deals in the walls and the chinks are numerous; by those to N. can look into school room. . . Shall close all apertures with brown paper pasted, or leather. [128]

A visitor of 1836 reported that the interior partitions in the buildings were "upright boards planed, and the cracks battened." [129] Five years later, Lieutenant Wilkes found the interiors "simply finished with pine board panels, without any paint." [130]

Apparently the manager's residence was the only building in which any elegance was attempted. Between 1849 and 1860, and probably for a good many years before that period, the interior of the "mansion" was papered and painted. [131]

Most of the dwellings and some of the most important of the other buildings were ceiled with "tongued and grooved dressed boards." [132] Floors were generally made of rough boards, but those in the office and the manager's residence were planed. The floors in the storehouses seemingly were formed of three-inch planks. [133]


The windows were small-paned. The frames were made at Vancouver and were used not only locally but were shipped to other Company posts as well. [134] The doors were hung with metal hinges. [135]

The chimneys at Fort Vancouver were chiefly of brick (see plate XXII), but stone appears to have been used also, particularly during the early years of the fort's existence. [136] The lime employed in making the mortar for the chimneys was made from coral brought from the Hawaiian Islands. [137]


There were several minor buildings within the stockade which were not built in the usual Canadian style. These smaller structures are generally described as having been of frame construction, but one observer of 1841 said they were built of puncheons (split logs or heavy slabs) set in a frame. [138] The kitchen was among the buildings which were not made in the prevailing post-in-the-sill fashion. [139]


All of the area within the stockade not actually covered with buildings was sodded. [140]

Descriptions of Individual Buildings

Some additional details, not mentioned in the general accounts of the fort buildings given above, are available concerning certain of the individual structures within the stockade. These buildings are described in the following paragraphs.

The Bachelors" Quarters

As has been seen, this building was erected in the fall of 1838. It was variously known as "the subordinate officers' residence," "the clerks' quarters," "the Bachelors' Range," etc. It is known to have been standing in the fall of 1860, and it probably remained in existence until the conflagration which finally destroyed the fort in about 1865 or 1866. [141]

At the time this structure was built, James Douglas gave its dimensions as 153 x 33 feet. [142] In the 1846-1847 inventory it was listed as being 170 x 30 feet, and 1849, Major D. H. Vinton judged it to be 150 x 30 feet. [143] Douglas's figures were proved accurate by footings uncovered during 1950.

In reality, the bachelors' residence was a range of small, one-story cottages joined under a single roof. In fact, the term "houses" was often used to describe it. [144] The front entrances faced the west and opened onto the central courtyard. As shown by the Emmons ground plan, there were four of these main doors in 1841 (see plate II); in 1860 there were five (see plate XXII). Each of the doors evidently opened into a separate dwelling unit in the range. Apparently there was a rear door in each unit, and these doors gave access to a corresponding number of out-houses placed along the east palisade wall.

In 1849 the "Bachelors' Range" contained seventeen rooms. [145] The structure was lined and ceiled on the inside. [146] The exterior was not weatherboarded; and the building was unpainted inside and out, except for the exterior door and window trim. The roof appears to have been a plain gable in 1845, but in 1860 it was hipped, with four brick chimneys breaking the ridge line (see plates VI and XXII). The windows were described by a visitor of 1841 as "French" in style, but in 1860 they seem to have been double hung. [147] The floors were simply rough boards. [148]

The furniture in the clerk's quarters was of the crudest type. Each of the sleeping rooms generally contained a small table of "coarse pine," a few stools, benches, or wooden-bottomed chairs, and one or more bunks built of boards. The beds were described by one visitor as "infested with insects" and covered with two woolen blankets. [149] In spite of the plainness of the furnishings, another visitor of 1841 found the quarters to be "exceedingly comfortable." [150]

The building was intended to house the subordinate officers of the post and their families. Since some of the younger clerks were unmarried, the structure was most generally known as the "bachelors' quarters." Much to the disgust of the clerks, however, prominent visitors, and sometimes even emigrants and missionaries, were frequently lodged in the building during their stays at Fort Vancouver. On such occasions some of the clerks were turned out of their quarters and forced to "double up" with their fellows, a practice which gave rise to a good deal of grumbling. [151]

Evidently Lieutenant Charles Wilkes and other officers of the United States Exploring Expedition were housed in this building during their sojourn at the fort in 1841. [152] The Rev. George H. Atkinson and his wife, missionaries sent to Oregon by the American Home Missionary Society, were given rooms in the "Bachelor's Range" during a brief visit in June, 1848. [153] Evidence as to the exact lodging places of the bulk of the other visitors is not so clear, but undoubtedly most of them were assigned to the same quarters.

During the 1840's, at least, a room at or near the north end of the bachelors' quarters was known as the "strangers' room." It was here, evidently, that such visitors as were not invited to the manager's table were served their meals. [154] This room was seemingly maintained for the general convenience and accommodation of passing travelers. In 1844, for instance, some young American emigrants were offered an opportunity to send letters home by the Company's annual supply ship. Dr. McLoughlin furnished them with paper and pens and sent them to the "strangers' room" to do their writing. [155]

One of the most difficult problems in connection with the history of the Fort Vancouver buildings concerns the location of the sitting room known as the "Bachelors' Hall." Referring to conditions as they were in 1836, William H. Gray later stated quite definitely that this social hall was "a room in the clerk's quarters." [156] Of course in 1836 the building under discussion in the present paragraphs had not yet been constructed, and whether or not provision was made for the "Bachelors' Hall" in the structure erected in 1838 is not definitely stated.

When visitors after 1838 referred to the sitting room they generally did so in the same breath with the manager's residence and the dining hall, not making clear the location of each. Some of the accounts seem to imply that the "Bachelors' Hall" was located in the manager's dwelling itself. [157]

However, in 1866 the famous old pioneer Joseph L. Meek described the buildings within the stockade as they were between 1840 and 1846. Listing them roughly in clockwise fashion, he named the manager's residence; "then bachelors' hall, and a row of buildings, with six or seven doors, separate tenements, under one roof; then the Indian store," and so forth. If the punctuation of the stenographic record truly indicates the sense of Meek's words, then the bachelors' hall was clearly in a separate building from the manager's dwelling. The row of buildings under one roof described by Meek was certainly the clerks' quarters. It is a bit more difficult to determine whether Meek meant to state that the bachelors' hall was a separate building standing by itself or whether he intended to say that it was attached to the row of "tenements," but seemingly he meant the latter. [158] No separate building labeled "Bachelors" Hall" appears on any of the known ground plans of the fort.

Although, with the meager information at hand, it would be rash to state definitely that the "Bachelors" Hall" was not in the manager's house, the weight of evidence appears to favor the view that this public sitting room was a separate section of the clerks' quarters and was located at or near the north end of that structure. [159]

This social hall played an important role in the life of the inhabitants of Fort Vancouver. Here, after the heavy mid-day meal—always referred to as "dinner"—the gentlemen officers and clerks would gather for a "stiff pipe of tobacco" and a bit of conversation until the one o'clock bell called them back to their business tasks. And again in the evenings, after the rather frugal "tea" and after the nine o'clock bell ended the day's work, the "smoking room" was again filled with the "gentlemen" and their guests for a session of story-telling, smoking, and reading. At times, when the annual brigades from the interior had arrived, when the supply ships were in port, or when the fall migration of settlers and missionaries descended on the post, there was much company at the chief factor's table, and there were "gala times" in the bachelors' hall. Joking, singing, and story-telling sometimes lasted far into the night, but always, we are assured, "under the strictest discipline, and regulated by the strictest propriety." [160]

The bachelors' hall impressed visitors as being a cross between an armory and a museum. On display were "all sorts of weapons, and dresses, and curiosities of civilised and savage life, and of the various implements for the prosecution of the trade." [161]

Manager's Residence

The history of this structure has already been discussed. Probably started about 1829, it was not completed until after 1836. Like the bachelors' quarters, it seemingly remained standing until the fire which finally obliterated the fort buildings.

Although the chief factor or other officer in charge of Fort Vancouver was never properly authorized to employ the title of "governor," he was frequently referred to by that title as a matter of custom and courtesy. Thus his residence was usually called the "governor's house" or "governor's mansion," even as late as 1860. [162] The "common hall," the "big house," and "Ty-ee house" (after an Indian word for "chief") were other names applied to the structure. [163] Sometimes the residence was referred to by the name of the man who lived in it, as "McLoughlin's house," the "Doctor's house," "Mr. Ogden's residence," and so forth.

For its time and place the governor's house was quite an imposing structure. Anna Maria Pittman, who first saw it in May, 1837, described it as "very handsome." [164] In 1853, Dr. H. A. Tuzo found it to be "commodious and elegant." [165]

According to the inventory of 1846-1847, the mansion measured 70 x 40 feet. In 1849, Major D. H. Vinton listed it as a "very comfortable dwelling-house," 80 x 40 feet, and containing ten rooms. [166]

Travelers often described the manager's residence as a two-story building. [167] Actually it was only one story in height, but the floor was elevated four or five feet above the ground. The space under the floor was utilized as a basement or cellar for the storage of wines and spirits. [168] To what degree this "extensive" cellar was excavated is not known.

The "mansion" was built in the usual Canadian style, and probably its heavy timbers were left exposed as late as 1836. [169] By 1841, however, the exterior was covered with horizontal weatherboards. Lieutenant Wilkes, who saw the building during that year, reported that it was painted white. [170] It is known that after 1849 only the front of the governor's house was painted, but whether or not this economy was in vogue as early as 1841 is a matter of conjecture. [171] During its later years, at least, the structure boasted a shingled hip roof. Evidently there was but a single brick chimney.

The most impressive feature of the exterior was the "piazza" or "portico" which extended across the entire front, or south, face of the residence. From the center of this long covered porch a double, curved stairway led down some ten steps to the ground. [172]

In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie and several men from England reached Vancouver at three o'clock on the morning of May 4. In his diary Tolmie recorded that Dr. McLoughlin appeared "in shirt and trousers on the staircase of the common hall and welcomed us with a cordial shake of the hand." [173] The newcomers evidently went into the building and entered the dining hall for refreshments. It is practically certain from the circumstances that Tolmie's "common hall" was McLoughlin's own residence, and the journal entry therefore indicates that the curved stairway probably existed as early as 1833. But Gray, in 1836, was the first definitely to describe the "half semicircle double." [174]

By at least 1841 there were flower beds in front of the "mansion," and grape and other vines were growing up the pillars of the porch. [175] The flower beds evidently were maintained until 1860, for the photograph taken in that year shows a low white fence surrounding a small yard on each side of the stairway (see plate XXII). The grapevines likewise had a long life; they probably continued to flourish as long as the building endured. They caught the eyes of visitors to the fort and were among the best-known features of the establishment. In 1851, for instance, a newly arrived emigrant noticed the "fine grape vines loaded with fruit" which screened the porch and evidently audibly admired them, for the "pussy old Eng. aristocrat," Chief Factor Ogden, promised to send him some cuttings when the season for pruning arrived. [176] Probably cuttings from the same vines found their way to many new farms in the Oregon country.

In the courtyard immediately in front of the governor's house, and between the two arms of the stairway, were some cannon which pointed southward toward the river. In 1834 John Kirk Townsend reported that there were four of these guns, two "long 18's" and two nine-pounders, all of them unfit for service. [177] Wyeth, in 1832, had written that the fort contained 24-pound guns, but most later visitors agree that the heavy guns were 18-pounders. [178] A traveler of 1837 found the four cannon still mounted before McLoughlin's door. [179] By 1841, however, there appear to have been only the two 18-pounders, with a few piled shot, at the bottom of the stairs. The guns were mounted on sea carriages, but they had been spiked and were quite useless. [180] The two "long 18's" continued to be noted by travelers through the 1840's and were still in place as late as May, 1860. [181] A visitor of 1845 recorded that two "swivels" were also in front of the governor's house at the time of his arrival, but no evidence of these smaller guns appears in the 1860 photograph. [182]

Very little is known about the interior of the manager's residence. It was lined and ceiled, had floors of planed boards, and between at least 1849 and 1860 was painted and papered.

Beyond the fact that there were ten rooms, no information is available concerning the interior arrangements. Evidently the front door gave entry to a central hall. Off of this hall, to the right, was a room used by Dr. McLoughlin as his private office and sitting room. [183] This chamber was comfortably, even elegantly, furnished, at least during the period of McLoughlin's chief factorship. As early as 1836 it contained that greatest of frontier rarities, a sofa. [184] A secretary which probably graced this office may be seen today in the McLoughlin House in Oregon City. [185] There were also pictures on the walls. In 1841 these included a representation of a tree, upon which Protestants were depicted as the withered ends of the several branches of the Roman Catholic Church and as "falling off down into infernal society and flames." [186]

Another room mentioned by many visitors to Fort Vancouver was the dining hall, where the "gentlemen" employees and their guests gathered three times a day for meals. As is the case with the bachelors' hall, it is difficult to locate the dining room with any exactness from the accounts left by travelers. But Thomas Jefferson Farnham, who enjoyed McLoughlin's hospitality in 1839, gave a clue in the narrative of his travels which appears to indicate that the dining room definitely was in the manager's residence. The dining hall, he said, was "a spacious room on the second floor." Barring the storehouses, bastion, granary, and the kitchen, any one of which would scarcely have contained the dining hall, the only building to which the term "second floor" would have been applicable was the chief factor's house. As has been seen, the latter structure was generally described as having two stories because its one floor was high off the ground. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that the common dining hall was located in the governor's mansion. Sir Edward Belcher, who visited the fort in 1839, states definitely that the manager's residence contained "the sala or messroom." [187]

Farnham stated that the dining room was "ceiled with pine above and at the sides" and that it contained a "large close stove" in its southwest corner. [188] Beyond these meager details, nothing is known concerning the appearance of the hall.

The magnificent set of table and chairs which, according to reliable tradition, was used in the Fort Vancouver dining room may be seen today in the McLoughlin House, in Oregon City. [189] A visitor of 1839 found the table set with "elegant queen's ware, burnished with glittering glasses and decanters of various-colored Italian wines." [190]

All of the Fort Vancouver managers, with their families, appear to have lived in the governor's house except, perhaps, Chief Trader James Allan Grahame, who was in charge of the post from about June, 1858, until the Company left in 1860. Grahame, who had served as a clerk at the fort for many years, was living in the old "priests' house" in January, 1854, and he probably continued to occupy that structure even after he succeeded to the manager's position. [191] Perhaps by 1858 the "big house" was already showing signs of the decay which by 1860 made it uninhabitable. As early as 1849 the portico was in need of repair, and the foundations had sagged sufficiently to create openings in the outer walls and to cause the doors and windows to drag. [192] By the time the Company left, the building was so dilapidated that the ground could be seen through a "large decayed spot in the floor." [193]

In addition to the post manager, some of the other chief officers and their families also resided in the "mansion." Prominent guests who could not be accommodated in the bachelors' quarters or in the "priests' house" were likewise housed in the manager's residence. The scientists Thomas Nuttall and John Kirk Townsend, and the missionary Samuel Parker were among those who found shelter within the hospitable walls of the "Ty-ee House." [194]

Kitchen to Manager's Residence

According to the inventory of 1846-1847, the kitchen located directly north of the governor's house measured 60 x 24 feet. It was generally described as a frame building. [195] A person who arrived at Fort Vancouver in 1853 later remembered the kitchen as having then been a two-story structure. [196] Probably this was the same building as that described in the inventory of 1846-1847. As has been seen, this kitchen burned or was pulled down about 1852 or 1853 and was replaced by a much smaller structure. From the Emmons ground plan of 1841, it would appear that the kitchen was joined to the governor's house by a passageway or, possibly, a bridge (see plate II). Archeological excavation revealed that both kitchens had plaster floors which rested directly on the ground.

The "Old" Roman Catholic Church

As early as 1680 the Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company did "strictly enjoyn" its officers in Rupert's Land "to have public prayers and reading of the Scriptures or other religious Books wheresoever you shall be resident, at least upon the Lord's days." The Council for the Northern Department passed a resolution in 1823 requiring that "Every Sunday when circumstances permit, divine Service be publickly read with becoming solemnity, either once or twice a day, to be regulated by the number of people and other circumstances, at which every man woman and child resident must attend, together with such of the Indians who may be at hand, as it may be found proper to admit." In 1828 this resolution was made a part of the department's Standing Rules and Regulations, the Company agreeing to furnish "appropriate Religious Books" for the services. [197]

Dr. McLoughlin faithfully followed the injunction of the Council at Fort Vancouver. On Sundays and "on other days prescribed by the Church of England" he, or some employee delegated by him, conducted religious observances. There were generally at least two services, one for the "gentlemen" and the British-born employees, who were mostly Scotch Presbyterians, and the other for the French-Canadians, who were practically all Roman Catholics. In spite of some conjectures to the contrary, the services for the English-speaking inhabitants appear to have been conducted according to the Episcopal ritual. [198] The Catholic services were read in French, and they frequently consisted of a sermon of McLoughlin's own composition or one "he had translated from some English book of homilies." Both services were ordinarily conducted in the dining hall.

In September, 1834, the Rev. Jason Lee and a small party of Methodist missionaries reached Fort Vancouver after an overland journey. Upon the invitation of McLoughlin, Lee on September 28, preached two sermons to mixed congregations consisting of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Scots, Irishmen, Americans, half-breeds, Japanese, and perhaps listeners of still other races. According to one of those present, these were "the first sermons ever preached in this region" by a regularly ordained minister of the Gospel. [199] Thereafter it became a regular practice to invite visiting missionaries to preach at Fort Vancouver. Not only did these travelers conduct services, but from time to time over the years they aided in teaching the secular and religious schools, and performed baptisms, marriages, and burials.

As early as Governor Simpson's visit to the Columbia in 1824-1825, proposals to appoint a regular chaplain to serve in the territory west of the Rockies had been considered by the Company. Simpson had admitted that a mission would be beneficial, but he feared that such a project would prove impracticable. With prophetic vision he foresaw that friction would very likely develop between the chaplain and the resident chief factor. In 1830 the Governor and Committee announced their intention to send a missionary to the Columbia Department, but the actual appointment was delayed. Perhaps it was the arrival of the first American missionaries under Lee which at last moved the Company to start looking for a chaplain.

At first the Committee experienced difficulty in finding a man who would accept the post. Two were chosen, but each declined because his wife refused to face the long ocean voyage around the Horn. But in 1835 Governor Simpson visited England, and he personally selected the Rev. Herbert Beaver, an ordained priest of the Church of England. With his wife, Jane, Beaver sailed for the Columbia in the Company's barque Nereide on February 13, 1836.

Ahead of Beaver, on the annual supply ship Columbia, which reached Fort Vancouver in May, 1836, the Governor and Committee sent out all the necessary articles for the equipping of a church. These included "a church bell, a pulpit, Bibles, prayer book, registers, a surplice, an altar cloth, and a silver communion service." The register and the handsome communion service, consisting of a flagon, two patens, and a chalice—all engraved with the coat of arms of the Hudson's Bay Company—are still to be seen in Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia. [200]

It is evident that the Governor and Committee expected that McLoughlin would erect a church building at Vancouver for the use of Beaver. But as has already been indicated, there was little labor to spare for construction purposes at Vancouver during 1836, and thus not even a start on the church had been made when the chaplain reached the post on September 6, 1836. As a consequence, Beaver was forced to continue the former practice of holding services in the dining hall.

Every Sunday morning at ten o'clock the chaplain performed a "full service," which was attended by about eighty to one hundred persons. Another service was held in the same room at three o'clock on Sunday afternoons, with about half as many people forming the congregation. Much to Beaver's annoyance, three services, separate from his own, were held each Sabbath for the Catholic residents of the post. One of these services, generally conducted by Dr. McLoughlin in French, was also held in the dining hall.

Beaver complained much about the place of worship. He found it "exceedingly inconvenient," because of interruptions arising from the occupancy of part of the same building by several families "who do not attend me." He also felt that the mess hall was an "indecent" place, in which he could not, with propriety, administer the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Neither was the room large enough to permit the attendance of all the school children. [201]

Unfortunately for Beaver's hopes of obtaining a separate church building, he and Dr. McLoughlin began to quarrel almost at once upon the chaplain's arrival at Fort Vancouver. The details of this bitter feud need not be discussed here. Suffice it to say that among the points of difference were the matters of the religious instruction to be given to the children in the post school, the separate religious services for the Catholic residents, and the "fur trade" marriages of many of the gentlemen and servants at Vancouver, including McLoughlin himself. The Chief Factor and the chaplain soon ceased to speak to each other, and McLoughlin and most of the other officers of the post stopped attending the services held by Beaver.

When the Doctor left Fort Vancouver in the spring of 1838 to begin his furlough in Europe, conditions temporarily improved for the Rev. Beaver. Under the less prejudiced rule of Chief Trader James Douglas, who was in charge at Vancouver during McLoughlin's absence, the chaplain was permitted to officiate in French every Sunday afternoon and was able to establish a Sunday school. But by the fall of 1838 the chaplain had managed to alienate the good feelings of Douglas, and relations between the two men became strained. Hearing that McLoughlin was about to return, Beaver decided to depart for England. He sailed on the Columbia in November, 1838. Needless to say, the church which the directors had expected would be constructed at Fort Vancouver was not erected during Beaver's incumbency. [202]

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church was becoming interested in the Oregon country. Most of the discharged Company servants who had settled in the Willamette Valley after about 1829, and who made up the larger part of the population of that region, were French-Canadians and Catholics. Economically, these people were almost entirely dependent upon the good will of the Hudson's Bay Company; and, in addition, John McLoughlin kept a sharp eye on their moral conduct and was greatly interested in their spiritual welfare. For years the Doctor had been conducting Catholic services at Vancouver and, perhaps for this reason or perhaps because of family influences in his youth, he was drawn toward the Catholic religion and was anxious to have priests of the Church reside on the Columbia. He took the initiative, therefore, in pointing out to the settlers on the Willamette the disadvantages under which they were living without priests to administer the sacraments of the Church to themselves and their growing families of unbaptized children. And it was almost certainly at McLoughlin's instigation that a number of "free families" in the Willamette Valley signed two petitions, dated July 3, 1834, and February 23, 1835, requesting the Bishop of Juliopolis, at Red River, to send them missionaries.

The Bishop, Joseph Provencher, was deeply touched by this appeal, but he was forced to reply that no priests were available for labors beyond the Rocky Mountains. He promised, however, to attempt to find men and also the resources with which to support them during a visit he intended to make to eastern Canada and Europe. [203]

The Bishop was as good as his word, but once he had on hand two men and had in prospect the requisite funds, he met another obstacle. The only practicable way to get the missionaries from Canada to the Willamette was in the canoes of the Hudson's Bay Company's annual express. But when the Bishop approached the Honorable Company with a request for transportation, he met a decided rebuff. The firm considered that the area south of the Columbia would eventually fall to the United States and it had no intention of strengthening settlements in that region, to say nothing of establishing priests there whose presence might attract still more of the French-Canadian servants from the north side of the river.

In the summer of 1837, however, Governor Simpson suggested to the Bishop that if a Catholic mission would be established on the Cowlitz River, where the Company was anxious to build up a strong British settlement, and if the Bishop would further "give his assurance that the missionaries would not locate themselves on the south side of the Columbia River, but would form their establishment where the Company's Representative might point out as the most eligible situation on the north side," he, in turn, would recommend to the Governor and Committee that a passage for the priests be afforded as well as "such facilities towards the successful accomplishment of the object in view as would not involve any great inconvenience or expence to the Company's service."

On October 13, 1837, Bishop Provencher agreed to these terms. Simpson received the Bishop's letter of compliance in London, and he at once laid the matter before the directors. Within a day the Governor and Committee agreed not only to furnish the passage requested but to instruct their chief factor at Fort Vancouver "to facilitate the establishing of the Mission." [204]

François Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers were the priests selected for the Oregon Mission. On April 17, 1838, their instructions were issued by the Bishop of Quebec, who had jurisdiction over the new field west of the Rocky Mountains. They were told that the "first object of their mission was "to draw from barbarity" the Indians of Oregon. Their principal residence was to be on the Cowlitz River, but they were to follow the advice of the Hudson's Bay Company's representative at Fort Vancouver in this matter and were to remain "constantly in good intelligence" with the employees of the Company. [205]

After a tedious overland journey, the two priests reached Vancouver on November 24, 1838. Made welcome by Chief Trader Douglas, they were assigned the quarters which had so recently been vacated by the Rev. Beaver. The next day they improvised an altar in the school house and conducted the first Catholic mass ever said at Fort Vancouver and in "lower Oregon." [206]

Upon their arrival at Vancouver, Fathers Demers and Blanchet commenced almost immediately their labors among the fort's Catholic employees. Preaching, religious instruction, and the performance of baptisms, burials, and marriages went ahead diligently. Missionary work was also done among the Indians near the post.

During the following winter and spring, the priests left Vancouver to establish missions in the Willamette Valley, on the Cowlitz, and at Nisqually. In this manner was commenced a pattern of operations which was followed for a number of years. The priests considered Vancouver their headquarters and chief place of residence, but they lived there for only a few weeks or months in any one year. The balance of the time they spent ministering at their missions and at the Company posts scattered over much of the vast Columbia Department. During the periodic absences of the missionaries, Catholic services continued to be conducted by Dr. McLoughlin. After the arrival of two additional priests in the fall of 1842, however, there was generally a missionary in more or less constant residence at Vancouver. On November 9, 1842, Father Blanchet opened a separate register for the "Mission of the Holy Name of Marie" at the fort. [207]

Although the Catholic priests were given a church and a residence within the pickets at Fort Vancouver, although they ministered to the Catholic servants of the Company, and although they were sometimes referred to as "chaplains," they were not employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. They were not regularly appointed chaplains in the sense that the Rev. Beaver had been. They were fed and housed by the Company while at the firm's posts, but their chief financial support came from the Association for the Propagation of the Faith in Canada and in Europe and from contributions from abroad and from the settlers of Oregon. At the recommendation of Governor Simpson, the Council for the Northern Department in 1842 voted that an allowance of £100 be made to the "Catholic Mission" on the Columbia, and this appropriation was made annually for a number of years there after. [208] But the priests were not required to render any specific service in return, and they were free to preach to the Indians or to the Company's servants as they saw fit. [209]

The schoolhouse at Fort Vancouver, in which the first Catholic Mass was said, proved to be too small to accommodate all who wished to attend the services, and perhaps the priests had much the same aversion to holding their worship in the mess hall as had been expressed by Beaver. At any rate, they soon obtained what the Anglican minister had been unable to procure, a separate chapel.

In 1838 or 1839—witnesses fail to agree—the priests were permitted to take over for use as a chapel the "old store" within the pickets. This structure was the one near the center of the fort enclosure and labeled the "chapel" by Emmons and the "old Roman Catholic Church" on Vavasour's ground plan. [210]

According to Father Blanchet, this chapel was never used for any other purpose than for Catholic religious services and missionary labors after it was assigned to the priests. [211] But according to Lieutenant Emmons, who was at the fort in 1841, the structure was used both for Catholic and "Episcopal" services. [212] This latter observation was confirmed by Governor Simpson, who in the same year noted that divine service was performed regularly every Sunday at the post, in English to the Protestants and in French to the Catholics. "The same chapel, a building by the by, unworthy of the establishment, served both purposes at the time of our arrival," he wrote, "but separate places of worship were about to be erected for the two denominations." [213]

In general, however, Protestant services continued to be held in the dining room in McLoughlin's house. By 1841 the Doctor was quite generally regarded as a "professed" Catholic, although he did not formally return to the Catholic Church until near the end of the next year. For this reason, evidently, James Douglas or one of the other officers or employees usually read the Sunday service from the English Book of Common Prayer. But McLoughlin on occasion conducted the Protestant observances, even after 1842. [214] Upon McLoughlin's retirement, early in 1846, the duties of conducting the services in English fell entirely to Chief Factors Douglas and Ogden. As late as 1849 the dining hall, then known as "Vancouver Hall," was still being used for this purpose. Sermons were frequently preached by visiting ministers and missionaries. [215]

The Catholics at Vancouver, like Governor Simpson, had soon come to the conclusion that the building assigned to them as a chapel was "unworthy of the establishment," and they began to plan the construction of a church of their own. They attempted to buy land for this purpose, but the Company refused to sell. About 1844, however, the officers at Fort Vancouver gave Father Blanchet the use of a sizable tract of land north and west of the stockade. This land began at or near the old mill (see plate X) and extended westward. Actual construction of the new church upon the tract apparently did not begin until 1845 or early 1846. The structure was dedicated on May 31, 1846. [216] Shortly thereafter the "old" Catholic church within the stockade was demolished. It had disappeared before the inventory of 1846-1847 was taken.

The Parsonage or Priests' House

Although Dr. McLoughlin had known months in advance that a chaplain was to be sent out from England to reside at Fort Vancouver, and although word of the immediate approach of the Rev. Beaver and his wife had reached the post several days before their actual arrival, no preparations appear to have been made to house the chaplain. When they landed from the Nereide on September 6, 1836, the Beavers were assigned living quarters in a dwelling part of which was already inhabited by the family of one of the employees. Only a thin partition separated the chaplain and his wife from the "noisy" occupants of the other rooms. To make matters worse, the attic of the structure was reserved for the use of the Company, and workmen frequently demanded access to it "regardless of Mrs. Beaver's convenience." The clergyman chose to interpret the coarse furniture and the lack of carpets in his apartments as a part of a deliberate campaign of "personal insult and domestic annoyance" waged against him by McLoughlin. [217]

McLoughlin, on the other hand, announced that it was his intention to make the Beavers "as comfortable as the Circumstances of the Country will Admit." He maintained that the chaplain's house "was the Best in the Fort"; and in November, 1836, he recommended that the Committee turn a deaf ear to Beaver's requests for more elaborate furnishings. "If he is Allowed carpets and imported furniture—has not every Gentleman in the place a Right to the same Indulgence," the Chief Factor asked. [218]

Evidently McLoughlin did fulfill his promise to make the Beavers more comfortable. Before many months had passed they appear to have been assigned to a house of their own. This parsonage, said W. H. Gray, was "what might be called of the balloon order." It was roofed with boards and had a large mud and stone chimney in the center. It contained but two rooms, one used as the dining room and kitchen, and the other as the bedroom and parlor. The partitions and floors were nothing but rough boards. The only carpets were the "common flag mats" of the Indians, which Mrs. Beaver considered "too filthy to step upon or be about the house." [219]

How long this small structure served as the parsonage is not known. If the Beavers continued to occupy it until their departure for England early in November, 1838, then this same building also served to house the Catholic Fathers Blanchet and Demers, who arrived at Vancouver later in that same month.

The only definite fact known about the fate of this small parsonage is that by 1841 it had been replaced by the larger structure called by Emmons the "Chaplains' or Governor's temporary residence" and by Vavasour in 1845, the "priests house." According to the inventory of 1846-1847, this later dwelling measured 50 x 30 feet and was lined and ceiled. Excavations in 1948 revealed the overall measurements from the outer edges of the footings to be 51 feet by 30 feet, 6 inches. The house had two exterior doors, one in the center of the south wall and the other in the middle of the north wall (see plate II). As shown by the photograph of 1860, it was weather-boarded and covered with a shingled, hip roof. There was a chimney, seemingly of stone, on the west wall of the structure. The windows were of the casement or "French" type.

This new priests' house continued to shelter the Catholic missionaries at Fort Vancouver for a number of years. In 1846 a small vestry was constructed near the new Catholic Church outside the pickets, but for one reason or another the priests occupied it but rarely, if at all, down to about 1851. But after this vestry was constructed, the missionaries appear to have occupied the "priests' house" within the stockade only intermittently. They sometimes lived in a small house they had purchased for missionary purposes in the nearby village, occasionally they accepted hospitality in the homes of their parishioners, or, most often, they occupied rooms in the governor's mansion. [220]

By 1849 the priests' house appears to have been used mainly as a residence for subordinate employees. [221] As has been seen, James Allan Grahame, a clerk who was appointed a chief trader in 1854, lived in the structure during the 1850's, and he may have continued to do so up to the date upon which the Company moved out of the fort.

"Owyhee Church"

In 1839, Thomas Jefferson Farnham noted that a building near the rear gate was occupied as a schoolhouse. [222] Undoubtedly this structure was the same as that shown on the Emmons ground plan of 1841 as the chaplain's kitchen, with the added information that it was also "used as a school room." [223] On the Vavasour map of 1845 this structure was designated as the "Owtyhee" or "Owyhee" Church.

Natives of the Hawaiian Islands had been employed on the Columbia by both the Astorians and the North West Company, and the practice was continued by the Hudson's Bay Company after 1821. When Governor Simpson visited the Columbia Department in 1824, he noted that there were about thirty-five Sandwich Islanders west of the Rocky Mountains. [224] On the whole, the "Owyhees," or "Kanakas," as they were termed, were docile and useful workmen, but they lacked religious instruction and needed the guiding hand of a native leader to keep them from occasional excesses, chiefly drinking sprees.

On July 1, 1844, McLoughlin wrote to the Company's agents in Honolulu, requesting them "to search out a trusty educated Hawaiian of good character to read the scriptures and assemble his people for public worship." The man was to be sent to Fort Vancouver to serve as a teacher, religious instructor, and interpreter, at a salary of ten pounds per year.

Evidently in response to this appeal, and evidently before the end of 1844, a Hawaiian named "William," or "Kanaka William," arrived at Vancouver and assumed the role of religious instructor to his fellow country-men. He was not an ordained minister, but he was a man of good reputation. Seemingly referring to William, James Douglas wrote to the Honolulu agents on January 9, 1845, that the native teacher was satisfied with his situation and, except for his ignorance of English, was well qualified and seemed to exercise a "salutary influence" on the minds of his countrymen. [225]

As shown by the name of the building on Vavasour's map, the schoolhouse had been assigned to William's use by 1845. He continued to occupy the structure as late as June, 1848, at which time between twenty and forty Hawaiians attended his sermons each Sunday. [226] Kanaka William's use of the former schoolhouse was perhaps limited to religious observances, however, since as early as 1846 he actually lived in a house in the village (see plate X). He continued to occupy this latter home until about March 20, 1860, on which date the structure was burned by order of the military authorities. [227]

According to the inventory of 1846-1847, the "Owyhee Church" or schoolhouse—for the building evidently continued to be used for purposes of instruction on week days—measured 50 x 25 feet and was lined and ceiled. Shortly after this time—certainly by 1849—the school was transferred to a structure outside the stockade. [228] About 1851 or 1852 the old "Owyhee Church" was probably vacated, being so dilapidated as to be considered unsafe. It was finally pulled down between 1855 and 1858. [229]

Powder Magazine

A powder magazine, described as being built of stone, existed at Fort Vancouver as early as 1832. During subsequent years, down to 1860, various visitors and boards of inspectors noted the presence of this structure, which was somewhat loosely pictured as being of brick, stone, or brick and stone. [230] According to archeological evidence, the observers who reported both brick and stone were correct. [231]

The stone foundation of the powder magazine, still partially intact, was uncovered during the excavations at Fort Vancouver in 1947. The foundation walls were two feet thick and formed a square, each side of which measured about 19-1/2 feet, exterior measurement, and about 15-1/4 feet, interior measurement. [232] These figures agree quite well with the measurement of 18 x 18 feet given for the structure in the inventory of 1846-1847.

Intended to be fireproof, the powder magazine had an arched roof of brick and stone. The door, located in the north wall, was of copper, or was at least copper-covered. [233]

Warehouses and Company Trading Shop

According to the inventory of 1846-1847, there were four main storehouses within the stockade: Store No. 1, measuring 86 x 40 feet; Store No. 2, measuring 90 x 40 feet; and Stores Nos. 3 and 4, each of which was 100 X 40 feet. If the buildings shown on the Vavasour map of 1845 were drawn in correct scale, as appears to have been the case, the storehouses may be identified as follows: Store No. 1 was the structure labeled "Shop & Store" on the Vavasour map and located near the center of the west palisade wall; Store No. 2 was located immediately to the south of Store No. 1; Stores Nos. 3 and 4 were the two large buildings along the south wall labeled "Stores" on the Vavasour map (see plate IV).

As has been seen, these warehouses were all erected during the period of from about 1843 to 1845 to replace earlier and cruder structures which stood on about the same sites; or at least the earlier storehouses were so largely rebuilt that they may be said to have been replaced by new buildings.

The storehouses were most generally described as having been two stories high. [234] Closer observers, however, more accurately reported that the structures had one full story and "another part story under the roof." [235] They were built of heavy timbers in the usual French-Canadian style. One frequent visitor during the 1830's and 1840's stated years later that he thought the upright posts of the warehouses were sixteen feet high. [236] The roofs of the warehouses as they stood in 1836 and 1841 were simple gables made of boards, but the newer structures by 1845 had shingled, hip roofs (see plate VI). Apparently the trading shop (Store No. 1) was the only one of the warehouses to have weatherboarding on the outside. The others impressed visitors as being of "rough" construction; and the least settling of the foundation caused openings to appear in the walls. [237] All were unpainted, except that in 1860, at least, the door and window trim of the trade shop was painted (see plate XXIII).

The interiors were equally crude. The floors were evidently made of three-inch planks, rough and loosely laid. [238] Although the windows of the trade shop were described as "very small," this building impressed visitors as being "a little more cheerful" than the other warehouses. Evidently the lower floor was ceiled. The upstairs, however, was merely an "extensive garret" used for storage. In the words of one witness, there "was no covering above the upstairs room but the roof." [239]

The more easterly of the two warehouses along the south wall was rented by the United States Army as a quartermaster and commissary store for several years during the 1850's. It is difficult to ascertain from the military records exactly which buildings were rented by the military authorities at any particular date, but if the testimony of Captain Rufus Ingalls, quartermaster at Fort Vancouver, was accurate, the storehouse was at least partially occupied by the Army as early as 1849. [240] Persons arriving at the fort in 1853 and 1857 reported that the building was still being used as a quartermaster and commissary store during those years. [241] The story of the destruction of this warehouse in late June or early July, 1860, has already been presented.

Early in 1846 the House of Representatives of the Provisional Government of Oregon Territory passed an act providing for the collection of revenues. Among other and more usual forms of legal tender acceptable for the payment of taxes was "good merchantable wheat." Residents of "Vancouver County" who paid their taxes in wheat were required to deliver it to the Hudson's Bay Company's warehouses at Cowlitz or Fort Vancouver. [242] Probably the building to which the wheat was to be brought at Fort Vancouver was the granary, but it could have been one of the other stores. For some time after the occupation of the country south of the forty-ninth parallel by the United States, there was no bonded warehouse for customs purposes in the territory, and the Company's stores at Vancouver for a time served as "constructive bonded warehouses." [243]


The bakehouse shown on the Line of Fire map of 1844 and the Vavasour diagram of 1845 appears to have been a new structure, quite different from the bakery shown on the Emmons ground plan of 1841 (see plates II, IV and XXV). As described by the inventory of 1846-1847 and by a witness who first saw it in 1853, the bakehouse was a two-story building, measuring between 40 and 50 feet in one direction and 20 to 30 feet in the other. [244] Since part of the bakery projected outside the east palisade, it probably was constructed at the time that wall was moved eastward about 55 feet. It stood until 1860.

The bakery contained two "superior" fire brick ovens, capable of baking for between 200 and 300 men. [245] As early as 1835, two or three men were constantly employed at the Fort Vancouver bakery, not only making bread for the daily use of the establishment, but also biscuit for the Company's shipping and for the forts in the interior and on the northwest coast. [246]

Blacksmith Shop

The age of the blacksmith shop which appears on the Vavasour ground plan is not known. As has already been discussed, it may have been the same structure as that shown on the Emmons plan of 1841, or it may have been a new one. It continued to stand until 1860.

According to the 1846-1847 inventory, the blacksmith shop measured 45 x 30 feet. It was a one-story building and contained two "ordinary" forges and two "very large" ones for ship work and similar tasks. Excavations in 1947 revealed that the floor was of hard-packed earth; and the uncovering in 1952 of the planks which served as soles for the foundations demonstrated that no other type of floor was intended. [247]

In 1841 there was another smithy at the Company sawmill, where, in addition to the work of the mill, all the axes and hatchets used by the trappers and traders were made. [248]


In the fall of 1839 a granary capable of holding 18,000 bushels of grain was completed at Fort Vancouver. [249] Evidently this was the same structure which appears within the stockade on both the Emmons and Vavasour ground plans. [250]

In 1841, Lieutenant Wilkes described the granary as a "frame building of two stories." [251] He went on to say that the granary was the only frame building in the fort, a statement difficult to reconcile with accounts of other visitors, albeit of somewhat later date, who said that the kitchen was also a frame structure. An arrival at the fort in 1853 found the granary to be "large and well fitted up" and still two stories in height. The same witness also testified that the building measured 60 or 70 feet by 30 or 40 feet. [252] The inventory of 1846-1847 was more conservative, giving the dimensions as 50 x 40 feet, while Major D. H. Vinton, in 1849, judged it to be 50 x 50 feet; the actual measurements, as revealed by footings uncovered in 1950 and 1952, were 52 feet east and west, and 40.5 feet north and south. [253]

A photograph taken in 1860 shows the granary to have been sheathed with vertically laid boards and covered with a shingled, hip roof. [254]

The "Old" Office

The building described as "clerks' office" on the Emmons map of 1841 was evidently one of the oldest structures within the stockade at that time. It is mentioned in Dr. Tolmie's journal of 1833, and in 1836, W. H. Gray found it to have planed floors. [255] During the visit of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841, meteorological observations were made at the office. [256]

The old office was still standing when the inventory of 1846-1847 was made, at which time its dimensions were given as 30 x 30 feet. Since no trace of the building is to be found on any later ground plans or in any later inventories, it probably disappeared about 1847.

The "New" Office

Since the "new" office, or the "counting room" as it was occasionally called, does not show on the Line of Fire map, it seemingly was constructed between September, 1844, and the latter part of 1845. In the inventory of 1846-1847 its dimensions are given as 36 x 30 feet. This building was weatherboarded on the outside and ceiled on the inside. [257] Apparently it was painted. [258] The footings of this building were uncovered in 1950. As measured from center to center of these footings, the dimensions were 31 by 37.5 feet. [259]

Harness Shop

As has already been discussed, it seems impossible to determine when the harness or saddler's shop was constructed or when it disappeared. According to the inventory of 1846-1847 it measured 50 x 25 feet and was lined and sided.

Beef Store

As has been seen, a large general warehouse, labeled No. 18, is shown on the Emmons map of 1841 as being situated along the north palisade near the northwest corner of the stockade. By the time the Line of Fire map was drawn in September, 1844 (see plate XXV), this structure appears to have been replaced by the building labeled "beefstore" on the Vavasour map of 1845. The new meat storehouse was in the same general location as the old warehouse, but somewhat farther south. It is the long, gable-roofed building shown to the right of the white, hipped-roofed granary in the Coe Collection painting (see Frontispiece).

As scaled on the Vavasour map, the beef store measured 85 by 32 feet; the inventory of 1846-1847 gives its dimensions as 75 by 30 feet. Presumably the structure did not rest on footings, since no traces of them were discovered during the 1952 archeological excavations. The only evidence of the building to be found was a section of wooden flooring. [260]

The fate of the beef store is not known. Although listed in the inventory of 1846-1847, it seemingly does not appear on the Covington map of 1846. Almost certainly it had been removed by 1854, since it is not mentioned in the Tuzo inventory of 1853, nor is it shown on the Bonneville map of 1854.

Indian Trade Shop

On the Emmons ground plan of 1841 a large storehouse (No. 11) is shown along the south stockade wall near the southeast corner of the enclosure. At that time it was called the "Missionary Store," since it had been used by American missionaries for storing their property. As depicted by the Eld drawing, it was a gable-roofed structure, evidently one story high. In 1841 trade with the Indians was conducted in one of the other two large storehouses along the south palisade (No. 13 on the Emmons plan).

The Line of Fire map of 1844 and the Vavasour map of 1845 show a large building occupying the general site of the "Missionary Store," but apparently differing from it somewhat in dimensions and in exact location. This structure was labeled "Indian Shop" by Vavasour, and the scale of his map shows that it measured 80 feet by 32 feet. The same building was listed in the inventory of 1846-1847 as the "Indian trade shop," 80 x 30 feet. Archeological excavations in 1952 uncovered the footings of this structure and revealed that the Vavasour measurement was exactly correct. [261]

It is difficult to tell whether the Indian shop of 1845 was the same structure as the 1841 "Missionary Store" or a replacement. From what can be determined from the available pictures, the Indian shop was a long, rather low, gable-roofed building, much the same in appearance as the "Missionary Store." It continued to stand until 1860, at which time it was described by a board of Army officers as the "fur house, long since abandoned by the Company."

Iron Store

No separate building for the storage of the iron stock required to supply the fort's blacksmith shop is mentioned in the Emmons diary of 1841, nor did the location of the blacksmith shop, hemmed in at the southeastern corner of the fort, permit the construction of one nearby. Yet there must have been an ever-increasing need for convenient storage for the large amount of iron brought by the annual supply ships. As suggested by Mr. Louis R. Caywood, it is quite likely that the necessity of providing such storage was one of the reasons for extending the fort to the eastward during the early 1840's. [262] The iron store had not been built when the Line of Fire map was drawn in September, 1844; but it appears on the Vavasour map of the next year, situated directly east of the blacksmith shop. It remained standing until 1860.

According to the inventory of 1846-1847, the iron store measured 40 feet by 30 feet. Excavations in 1952 were somewhat inconclusive as to the dimensions of the building, but Mr. Louis R. Caywood, who uncovered the hard-packed area of native soil which formed the floor, believes the measurements were approximately 40 feet by 38 feet. The most significant structural feature discovered was the sole of the south wall. It was formed of planks 9 inches wide and 2 inches thick. [263]

Root House

As has been seen, there is evidence in several descriptions of Fort Vancouver that a root house existed within the stockade during the 1850's; but beyond the fact that it was in the northern portion of the enclosure nothing definite was known concerning its location until 1952. The root house was not identified by name on any of the known maps of the fort, although it was suspected that a low structure with a gable roof descending to ground level, shown in the 1860 photograph of the northwest stockade corner, may have been it. This surmise was proved correct when the remains of what undoubtedly was a root house were excavated in this location in 1952.

The remains of sills were found 40 inches below the present ground surface. As shown by archeological evidence, the north and south length of the building was 55 feet; the width as 22 feet. [264]

The date of construction of the root house cannot be fixed precisely. The Emmons map of 1841 shows a storehouse (No. 17) in this general location, and what may have been the same building appears on the Line of Fire map of September, 1844. Evidently the site upon which the root house later stood had been cleared by late 1845, since no structure is pictured in this locality on the Vavasour plan.

Several later maps, such as the Covington map of 1846, the McConnell map of 1854, and the Harney map of 1859, show a small building in the general area where the root house stood in 1860, but it seems impossible to positively identify this structure as the root house. Therefore, although the root house may have dated back to about 1846, the first clear evidence of its existence dates from 1853, when it was seen by Dr. Tuzo.


There was only one well at Fort Vancouver in 1841. [265] According to the Emmons ground plan it was situated in the northwest section of the fort, west of the granary and south of the large storehouse (No. 18) which stood along the north wall. It was described as "deep." The soil was so porous beneath the Fort Plain that, although the post was about a quarter of a mile from the Columbia, the water in the well rose and fell with the level of the river. Lieutenant Wilkes stated that at the time of his visit in 1841 the inhabitants of Fort Vancouver used river water in preference to well water, though they did not "consider the latter as unwholesome." [266]

The well of 1841 evidently was no longer in use by 1845, since the Vavasour map shows what was apparently a new well in the northwest portion of the post. This latter well was closer to the north wall, north of the beef store. It was topped by a well house which, according to the 1846-1847 inventory, measured 24 feet by 18 feet.

This well was partially excavated by the National Park Service in 1952. Under what evidently had been the site of the well house was found a pit about 15 feet deep and roughly 15 feet square, with rounded corners. In the lower third of the pit were found many artifacts dating from the Hudson's Bay Company period. The upper portion of the pit was filled with dirt, rocks, and trash. Objects recovered here seemed to date from about 1870 to about 1900. There was no evidence of walls or other structural elements on the sides of the pit. In the bottom of the pit, however, the well shaft was uncovered. It measured slightly less than five feet square and was cribbed with 6-inch by 8-inch timbers. The shaft was opened to a depth of about eight feet but, due to the danger of cave-in, the exploration was abandoned before the bottom of the well was reached. [267]

The Vavasour map of 1845 shows another, circular, well situated in the northeast corner of the fort, a short distance west of the bakery. This well was also located and excavated by the National Park Service in 1952. About four feet below the present ground surface a circle of stones was found which marked the top of the well. There were 15 medium-sized rocks, averaging about 13 inches in thickness, in this circle. The shaft opening was 5.2 feet in diameter. The well was cleared down to water level, 25.6 feet below the collar. As far as it was excavated, the circular shaft was lined with boulders.

Mr. Louis R. Caywood, who directed the uncovering of the well, made some interesting speculations concerning the method of its original construction:

When the Hudson's Bay Company dug the well, they probably made an excavation nearly 17 feet square. This is indicated by the gravel fill area around the well. Then, from the bottom of this excavation they began to lay the stone well lining, thus building it up towards ground level. At the same time, they refilled behind the lining with clean gravel. When they were through, they had a stone-lined well shaft only 5.2 feet across and over 25 feet deep. The lining is still as sturdy today as it was then. [268]

This well has been left uncovered and now is on display at Fort Vancouver National Monument as the only visible surviving structure of the old fur trading post. The water level in this well fluctuates with that of the Columbia River exactly as it did during the Hudson's Bay Company period.

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Last Updated: 18-Feb-2008