Fort Nisqually Granary
|Location||Point Defiance Park
|Area||726 square feet|
|Governing body||Metro Parks Tacoma|
|NRHP Reference #||70000647|
|Added to NRHP||April 15, 1970|
|Designated NHL||April 15, 1970|
Fort Nisqually Site
|Location||NW of Dupont off I-5|
|Nearest city||Dupont, Washington|
|Governing body||The Archaeological Conservancy and DuPont Historical Museum|
|NRHP Reference #||74001971|
|Added to NRHP||October 16, 1974|
Fort Nisqually was an important fur trading and farming post of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Puget Sound area of what is now DuPont, Washington and was part of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department. Today it is a living history museum located in Tacoma, Washington, USA, within the boundaries of Point Defiance Park. The Fort Nisqually Granary, moved along with the Factor's House from the original site of the second fort to this park, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
19th century history
The Hudson's Bay Company expanded to the west coast by forming the Columbia District to oversee its operations in what was known by American interests as the Oregon Country. Forts would be built in the District at central fur gathering locations, accessible to a large number of tribes. In 1824, Fort Vancouver was built a few miles from the Columbia River to the south and Fort Langley was built in 1827 on the Fraser River to the North. The Cowlitz Portage, an overland and shortcut route was soon created establishing a vital link between the two forts. After the attack and murder of Alexander Mackenzie and four men in his party on this route, it was determined a fort located at a half way point was needed for safety and security reasons.
The new midway location was at Nisqually, chosen for its excellent ship anchorage, its convenience for overland travel, the friendliness of local tribes and its prairies for grazing animals and growing crops. The first building was a storehouse of fifteen by twenty feet built on the beach next to the Sequalitchew Indian Village. Nisqually House as it was known was built in April 1832, and had three men with a few supplies left behind to manage it. One year later in May 1833, Chief Trader Archibald MacDonald returned with Dr. William Fraser Tolmie and seven men to begin the construction of a permanent fort.
Fort Nisqually was the first European trading post on the Puget Sound. Dr. William Fraser Tolmie spent the year there, writing about the region extensively in his journal. Fort Nisqually was originally located near the mouth of Sequalitchew Creek on the plains north of the Nisqually River Delta, in the present town of DuPont, Washington.
The original 1833 fort site soon proved to be too small for its operations, and the fort was relocated in 1843 about a mile from the original fort, closer to Edmonds Marsh and Sequalitchew Creek. This new site was chosen because it was close to a water source and timber.
Fort Nisqually was operated and served by Scottish gentlemen, Native Americans, Kanakas (Hawaiians), French-Canadians, Metis, West Indians, Englishmen and, in the last final years before the British cession of their claims to Puget Sound with the Oregon Treaty, a handful of American settlers. Fort Nisqually grew from an obscure trading post to major international trading establishment. The fort's main export was beaver pelts that could be used for making a beaver-pelt top hat. Along with the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a subsidiary of HBC, Fort Nisqually also started to export livestock and crops for local consumption and export to Russian Alaska, Hawaii, Mexican California, Europe and Asia. In 1841, a large number of the Sinclair Expedition settlers chose Fort Nisqually a their final destination.
Dr. William Fraser Tolmie was Chief Factor of Fort Nisqually as well as the manager of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company from 1843 to 1857. His tenure covered the transition from British to American control beginning in 1846 as result of the Oregon Treaty, and the Puget Sound War. He was well respected due to his experience with the region and maintained friendly relations with the British, Indian peoples and American settlers arriving to claim land under the Donation Land Claim Act.
Fort Nisqually was never a military outpost and only one small military engagement was recorded in the fort's history. Nevertheless, American and British military forces occasionally visited the fort. The 1846 treaty between the United States and Great Britain established the border between British North America and the United States at the 49th parallel which left Fort Nisqually on American soil. With the fur trade in decline and increasing harassment from American settlers, tax collectors, and revenue agents, Fort Nisqually closed in 1869 and the United States paid the HBC $460,000 for its land.
In the 1930s, Fort Nisqually was rebuilt in its current location in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington. The restoration was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program to provide jobs to the Depression stricken nation. The effort was funded and backed by the WPA and the Tacoma Businessmen's Association. Only two buildings, the granary and factor's house, were moved from their original locations, the rest having fallen into decay.
Fort Nisqually today
Today, the restored Fort Nisqually is a living history museum run by employees and volunteers. Two of the original buildings, the Factor's House, and the Granary remain. In addition, there is a trade store, working blacksmith shop, laborers dwelling house, demonstration kitchen, and kitchen garden. Fort Nisqually has seen recent changes designed to capture its original character. These changes include, most significantly, the restoration of the Factor's House, and the relocation and restoration of the two 1930s era bastions. In addition a section of the palisades wall is designed to replicate the 1847 era wall.
Archeology was conducted in 1988–89 to determine the placement, orientation and size of the northeast bastion and palisades wall. Hundreds of artifacts were discovered and catalogued and have added to the historical record. In addition, much research has been conducted using the original journals as well as hundreds of letters of Edward Huggins. Huggins was a clerk of the HBC who arrived in 1850. Huggins, originally a Londoner eventually became an American citizen and homesteaded the land and buildings after it was abandoned by the HBC. He lived on the land until 1906 when he died of colon cancer. The restored fort is managed by Metro Parks Tacoma.
The 1833 location is located on The Home Course golf course in DuPont. The 1843 location in DuPont, where the buildings now at Point Defiance were originally located, is owned by The Archaeological Conservancy, is managed by DuPont Historical Society, and is closed to the public, except when opened as part of the Fort Nisqually celebration held each year. Logs mark the location of the original walls, but there are no buildings remaining. The only visible remnants of the original fort are a line of black locust trees, planted in the 1850s. DuPont's History Museum has information on the site plans and a collection of other items from the Hudson's Bay Company.
- David Maul (September 1993). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service. (text from pages 24 to 49 included within same scanned PDF file as other documents cited, additional accompanying pages include drawings, photographs, maps)
- "Fort Nisqually Granary". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
- Charles W. Snell (February 16, 1967). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service. (includes also Fort Nisqually and Nisqually Farm, similar document by Charles W. Snell, Nisqually Farm document by Snell, and National Historic Landmark Nomination document by Maul, and other documents including maps, drawings, and photographs, 80 pages in total)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Nisqually.|
- Official site of Fort Nisqually
- Fort Nisqually Living History Museum - official site
- DuPont Museum's articles on both Fort Nisqually locations