Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hudson’s Bay Company

Hudson’s Bay Company 
Incorporated 2nd May 1670

There has always been questions whether or not the Hudson’s Bay Company had an outpost in Rosedale, or on the east shore of Henderson Bay.  Especially since Mrs. Mary Frances Keane White wrote of such an outpost in her autobiography.  

Well in 1976 Ms. Madeline Summerhays, Corresponding Secretary of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society wrote to Hudson’s Bay Company asking for documentation of the outpost.  I found Hudson’s Bay Company’s response and I am reproducing it below.

Hudson’s Bay Company 
Incorporated 2nd May 1670

March 16, 1976

Ms. Madeline Summerhays
Corresponding Secretary
The Peninsula Historical Society
P. O. Box 74-A
GIG HARBOR, Washington 98335

Dear Ms. Summerhays:

We have been unable to find any information to substantiate your understanding that the Hudson’s Bay Company operated outposts on the east shore of Henderson Bay, in the community now known as Rosedale.  The Company’s main activity in the area was farming, under the auspices of the Puget Sound Agricultural Society, and based at Fort Nisqually.  No journals from Fort Nisqually have survived in the Company’s Archives.

We would suggest that you write to or visit the Huntington Library at San Marino, California, where, in the Soliday Collection, are deposited journals, letter books and account books covering the Hudson’s Bay Company and Puget Sound Agricultural Companies various posts (including Nisqually) from 1833 to 1870.  You might also approach the Washington and Oregon Historical Societies and consult such publications as the Washington Historical Quarterly, Pacific Northwest Historical, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, and two publications of the Hudson’s Bay Company: The Beaver and the publications of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society (list enclosed).  The Beaver contains numerous articles relating to H B C activity on the west coast.  (Please consult the following issues in particular:  Sept. 1934, Sept. 1940, March 1951, Summer 1965, Spring 1963.)  These should be available to you at a University or major public library, either on microfilm or as published.  If you are unable to gain access to The Beaver we will be pleased to photocopy some articles for you.  A list of available back issues of The Beaver is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Robert V. Oleson
Public Relations Officer

I didn’t see the list that was enclosed, nor do I know whether or not any further research was conducted to find additional information.  So that is a project for the future.

However I did look up the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) thinking that perhaps it would add a better understanding of the HBC operations in our area. Wikipedia had an article, so let’s see what they have to tell us.  It starts out explaining three variations of the name:  Puget Sound Agricultural Company, Puget Sound or Puget’s Sound and that PSAC was “a subsidiary joint stock company formed in 1840 by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).  However from Mr. Oleson’s letter we know that PSAC was in fact operation from 1833.   Wikipedia continues informing us that the outposts in the Pacific Northwest were under the HBC administrative division of the Columbia Department.

The license granted to HBC by the British Government restricted their operations to the fur trade; in order to get around that restriction, HBC formed the PSAC.  They used the PSAC in their letters to England and with the British officials stationed in Canada, to promote the British position in the Oregon boundary dispute with the United States.  Remember originally Canada extended down the west coast to approximately Oregon City or the Columbia River.  President Polk wanted the border between Canada and the Pacific Northwest at the 49th parallel.  After extended negotiations, and threats of war, the two countries agreed on a final solution, and the US got Washington and Oregon.  

But let’s get back to PSAC:  their primary operations were at Fort Nisqually, founded 1833,  and Fort Cowlitz.  Fort Nisqually had very poor soil and so it was most used for sheep flocks, for wool, and cattle herds, for beef and cheese.  The grazing lands surrounding Fort Nisqually was responsible for over 5,872 sheep, 2,280 cattle and 228 horses by 1845. Dr. William Tolmie was appointed Chief Trader at Fort Nisqually and managed this location from 1843 until 1859.   Fort Cowlitz though was a different story-it was the company’s agricultural center.  Just one great big farm:  principal production was in grain, peas and potatoes.  HBC would continue to handle and concentrate on the fur trade whereas PSAC would handle all agricultural business, and their purchase of sheep, cattle and horses would be from HBC.

American settlers however interrupted their plans by moving west and settling on HBC/PSAC lands even though these lands were guaranteed under the Oregon Treaty of 1846 in both Washington and Oregon above the 49th Parallel.  This treaty gave them (HBC/PSAC) the right notify any settlers who might encroach upon their lands that they were trespassing.  British settlers were sent to the company’s land that was not used by PSAC but the British settlers were dissatisfied with the fact that PSAC received preferential treatment.  

By 1855, American settlers were involved in battle with the Native Americans sometimes called the Puget Sound War of 1855-56.  The Americans felt that Dr. William Tolmie favored the Native Americans or Indigenous people.  The US government in Washington Territory set high taxes on the PSAC lands making it difficult for HBC to  make a profit on their operations located in the territory.  HBC closed the PSAC operations at the Cowlitz Farm in 1855, and Fort Nisqually in 1869.  The United States government paid PSAC $200,000 for all PSAC properties south of the 49th parallel.

Although PSAC was not yet formed on March 19, 1825, the most prominent fort belonging to HBC was established on the north bank of the Columbia River, 99 miles upstream from the mouth of the river.  They named this fort, Fort Vancouver, and it became the headquarters for the Columbia Department.  This department consisted of 695,000 square miles and covered the area from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and from the Rockies to the Pacific. 
Hopefully this will answer everyone's question until someone else does further research and delve into the Hudson's Bay Company archives.


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