Nature Notes

Vol. XII March, 1934 No. 3

Historical Highlights of Mount Rainier National Park

Part IV

It was 59 years after Captain George Vancouver's epic journey into Puget Sound before the white man succeeded in establishing a permanent settlement upon the shores of this inland sea. Capt. Gray, of Boston, had discovered the Columbia River and Gray's Harbor in 1788; and Lewis and Clark had reached the Pacific via the overland route in 1805. These two journeys of exploration preceded the first American settlement in the Northwest by the Astor Company on the present site of Astoria, Ore. in 1811. Astoria, however, was abandoned to the British in 1812 during the war between England and America, and although the treaty between these nations at the end of hostilities provided that all land taken by force by either nation be turned back to the country originally holding it, the fur trade at this point continued to be carried on by the Northwest Company, an English concern; and Astoria was re—christened Fort George. Technically, this was American soil, but American enterprise never pressed the point at that time.

Fort Vancouver was established by the Hudson's Bay Company at the site of the present city of Vancouver, Washington, in 1825. Some time after Fort Vancouver had been established, a second trading post was established on the Fraser River; but after one of Dr. McLaughlin's men—-McLaughlin being the factor at Fort Vancouver-—was murdered by the Indians in making the journey between these posts it was decided to establish another post somewhere between the Columbia and the Fraser rivers. Accordingly, in 1832 a site on Puget Sound was tenatively located and the following year, on May 30, 1833, the first permanent settlement on Puget Sound was established, later to be moved inland about a mile (1844). This was called, Fort Nisqually. One of the original buildings of this re—located site of Ft. Nisqually is still in existence; being one of the oldest buildings in the state of Washington.

Fort Nisqually
Fort Nisqually - Hudson's Bay Trading Post.

Thirteen men made up the party which located this first settlement on these shores. Among them was a young man, Dr. Wm. Fraser Tolmie who had just come from England and who was to have a profound influence upon the development of the Puget Bound country and upon the history of Mt. Rainier. Dr. Tolmie was trained in the medical profession, and was employed by the Hudson's Bay Co. as a physician and surgeon. In those days medicinal plants played an important part in medicine and so Dr. Tolmie was considerable of a botanist as well. Although he had no official connection with the Nisqually party, as he was then on his way to one of the posts to the north, he was forced to remain at Ft. Nisqually due to an accident to one of the men. It was during his sojourn here that he made his "botanizing expedition", as he termed it, to the region now included in Mount Rainier National Park. Dr. Tolmie was the first white man to enter the region—climbing to "a snowy peak immediately under Rainier" which we know today as Tolmie Peak. It lies in the northwest corner of the park just above Eunice Lake and the date of Dr. Tolmie's visit to this point was Sept. 2, 1833. Tolmie Creek and a very beautiful alpine plant—-Tolmie's Saxifrage—-are also named for this man. After several years experience at other Hudson's Bay posts Dr. Tolmie returned to Ft. Nisqually as its factor and during his residence there was respected by all who knew him.

sailing ship

During the early days in this region, both England and America claimed soverignity over this section of the Pacific Northwest. A treaty of joint occupation was entered into and this matter was not definitely settled until 1846, when the present boundary was established.

The opening of Puget Sound to maritime commerce brought an epoch of sail to these waters. Vessels came to trade with the Indians, carry furs to the China trade, or load with spars and later lumber for distant markets. Meager in its beginning, it presaged the days of intense activity under sail along these shores that brought into being many of the towns and cities of today. (C.F.B.)

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