July 8, 2013 by Jen Cudmore
Although I learned the local history in grade school, when I started writing the Lawmen of Clayton County stories, I had to refresh my memory. The most distinguished entity in the history of the Pacific Northwest is Fort Vancouver.
The Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Vancouver in 1825. Only four years earlier, the company had merged with a competitor, furthering the British reach across America. Seeking to establish a new headquarters along the Columbia River, they decided on a plot of land only 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Dr. John McLoughlin partnered with George Simpson, the governor of the company’s Northern Department, to build the fort, which became operational in early March. Dr. McLoughlin, later dubbed the “Father of Oregon”, oversaw the workings of the fort for 20 years.
Although originally opened for the purpose of the company’s fur trade enterprise, the fort soon became a hub for international travelers as well as a haven for many pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail. Over the years they grew crops and orchards, raised livestock, and traded with the Chinook Indians. They established sawmills, flour mills, and dairies.
Currently Fort Vancouver is a historical site. According to the City of Vancouver’s website, the fort also boasts the “oldest living apple tree in Pacific Northwest” which was planted in 1826!
While I didn’t write any scenes in Fort Vancouver, I do reference it a few times in my writing. As the biggest, most influential establishment in the area, I knew some of my characters needed to have firsthand dealings there. You’ll have to read the stories to find out more!