Nature Notes

Vol. XI May - 1933 No. 3

A Venerable Landmark of Pioneer Days

Fort Nisqually! Standing upon the site of this old Hudson's Bay post one's mind is carried back a hundred years to the days when the Puget Sound country was still an infant, albeit a lusty one, in swaddling clothes. This was the child for whom two great nations dusted off their doorstep in the hope that fate would cause the territorial youngster to be placed thereupon. Great Britain and the United States both sought its possession during the formative years which have given this region such a rich, colorful and unusually interesting past.

History in a hundred years? Perhaps you smile. "That" you say, "is but an instant in the adventures, conquests and achievements of man!" True, but here in this virile land so recently removed from the days of the ox cart and untracked forest, one may taste of the delights of modernity and at the same time breathe of the fragrance of its past. Like a flower's delicate perfume that lingers even after the plant itself has withered so the aroma of our historic past lingers on, in places, in spite of modern highways, speeding motor cars, tall buildings and the bustle of a modern world which themselves have been constructed upon the fortitude of the early figures of northwest history.

Fort Nisqually is one of these places. Here upon the relocated site of this trading post one may see the oldest building in the State of Washington. It was constructed in 1844 by the Hudson's Bay Co. when the original fort (established a little more than a mile to the westward near the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek on Puget Sound in 1833) was rebuilt at this point. About this structure trod squat, deep chested Indians of the coast and the lithe, sinewy red men from the plains country across the Cascades who gathered here to trade and barter with the white men. From the west comes the salty tang off Puget Sound; to the east the huge bulk of Mount Rainier in shining armour of snow and ice, rears its great truncated cone into the heavens above a foreground of pungent firs. A little to one side stands a homey house with a broad veranda where dwelt the last factors of this post - Dr. William Fraser Tolmie who is so closely linked with the history of "The Mountain" among them - lived. The atmosphere produced by the union of forest and mountains on the skyline, the salty aroma of the sea and these two buildings, basking in their memories of the past, are the last vestige of the early days here.

But little better than a mile away lies the Pacific Highway. Countless automobiles, huge busses, ponderous freight trucks pass to and fro like shuttles on a giant loom, still weaving the fabric of progress ever changing the design of the tapestry that portrays this lead's romantic past, its virile present and predicting its robust future. One leaves this highway at Fort Lewis. After a short drive westward through the town of DuPont he reaches the site of Ft. Nisqually and is immediately surrounded by the dim shadows of the past. Gone is the stokade, the clang of steel upon steel in the smithy, the gutteral tones of the Indians come to trade and the stoic, whiskered settlers who manned the post. All are but memories. And there, like a stage party set for a re-enaction of the drama, these two buildings drowse in the warm sunlight of a modern day, basking in the glories of the years gone by. A concrete monument topped with a bronze plaque erected by the DuPont-Nemours Company, who now own this property and the Washington Historical Society, call one's attention to the significance of this spot which is so closely linked with the history of Mt. Rainier. Reading it one finds the trappings of our day grow less distinct and again the shadowy form of old Ft. Nisqually rises up again and old familiar figures of history once more go about their daily chores - working, building, struggling toward the realization of a greater northwest.

Chief Factor's house

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