Kids of Fort Vancouver: Thomas Como & Alexander Lattie

A boy wearing a straw hat.

NPS Photo / Troy Wayrynen

Thomas Como

Thomas Como was born at Fort Langley in 1835. Fort Langley was a Hudson's Bay Company fort in British Columbia, Canada. His father was named Como, and had come to the Pacific Northwest from Hawai'i. Many Hawaiian Islanders joined the fur trade and came to work at forts in the Northwest, like Thomas' dad, who worked as a middleman. A middleman paddled canoes and worked as a laborer, doing many different kinds of jobs. Thomas' mother was Nancy, a Native American woman. He had two older sisters: Marguerite and Marie.

When Thomas was four years old, his family moved to Fort Vancouver. They did not live inside the fort, but instead lived in the fort's employee Village. There, they had a small, one- or two-room cabin. While Thomas' father worked at the fort or traveled with fur brigades, Thomas, his mother, and sisters were responsible for caring for their home, and possibly taking on other jobs, like helping prepare furs in the Fur Store, or helping in the fort's fields, gardens, and orchards. They may also have traveled with Thomas' father when he joined the fur brigades. Then, they would travel out into the forests of the Northwest with a large group of fur trappers in search of beaver and other furry animals.

Thomas and his sisters may also have attended the fort's school, where they would have learned reading, math, and about the Bible.

When he was 14 years old, Thomas became an apprentice cooper at Fort Vancouver. Coopers were responsible for building wooden barrels, which could be used to store all kinds of things. The fort especially needed barrels to store salted salmon, made in the Salmon Store at the fort, which was packed in barrels and sent by ship to other forts in the Northwest. As an apprentice, Thomas learned how to be a cooper, and how to make barrels.

Just as Thomas was starting his apprenticeship, gold was discovered in California. Thomas, still just 14 years old, traveled to California, hoping to strike it rich! However, he was unsuccessful, and returned to Fort Vancouver to continue his training to become a cooper.

Artist's rendering of the Fort Vancouver Village.
Thomas Como and Alexander Lattie lived in the Fort Vancouver Village, to the west of Fort Vancouver.

NPS Photo

A boy stands between the buildings at Fort Vancouver.

NPS Photo / Junelle Lawry

Alexander Lattie

Alexander Lattie, Jr., was born in 1832 at the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Simpson in British Columbia, Canada. His father was also named Alexander; he was from Scotland and worked aboard Hudson's Bay Company ships that sailed between the Northwest forts. Alexander's mother was Marie Catherine Sikas, a Native American woman from the Tillamook tribe. Alexander was the oldest child in his family - he had six younger brothers and sisters!

When Alexander was 13 years old, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company like his father. Instead of working on ships, Alexander became an apprentice carpenter at Fort Vancouver. At Fort Vancouver, carpenters were very important! They could build and repair buildings, roofs, and furniture. They worked in the fort's Carpenter Shop. As an apprentice, Alexander learned how to become a carpenter.

As an apprentice, Alexander had to sign a contract saying that he would work at the fort for three years. When his three years were done, 16-year-old Alexander left Fort Vancouver and moved to Fort George, near Astoria, Oregon, to be with his family.

Part of a series of articles titled Kids at Fort Vancouver.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Last updated: August 14, 2020