Fort Victoria (British Columbia)

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Coordinates: 48°25′33″N 123°22′07″W / 48.42579°N 123.36851°W / 48.42579; -123.36851

Fort Victoria
in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Inside Fort Victoria, looking out the East Gate
Type fur trading post
Site information
Controlled by Hudson’s Bay Company,
Site history
Built 1843
In use 1843–1864
Battles/wars
Official name: Fort Victoria National Historic Site of Canada
Designated: 1924
Inside Fort Victoria, looking out the East Gate

Fort Victoria was a fur trading post of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the headquarters of HBC operations in British Columbia. The fort was the beginnings of a settlement that eventually grew into the modern Victoria, British Columbia, the capital city of British Columbia.

The headquarters of HBC operations on the Pacific Coast of North America at the time of Victoria's founding was Fort Vancouver, on the lower Columbia River, but it had struggled for years to turn a profit; its location was difficult to defend, inaccessible to ships and too far from the lucrative furs in New Caledonia. With American settlers pouring into the region, in 1843, the company sent James Douglas to build a fort some distance north on Vancouver Island and made him its Chief Factor. The signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846, settled the matter of Fort Vancouver’s further suitability.

Erected in 1843 on a site originally called Camosun (a variant of the Lekwungen word "Camossung", the name of a girl turned into stone by the spiritual being Hayls, the Transformer to watch over the resources in what is now known as the Gorge Waterway.[1]) The fort was known briefly as "Fort Albert", though the name Fort Camosun continued in use until 1846, when it was renamed in honour of the Queen.[2][3] The Fort was built using labour from local first nations people, who were paid one Hudson’s Bay blanket for every 40 pickets they cut.[4] The Songhees people soon established a village across the harbour from the fort. The Songhees' village was later moved to the north shore of Esquimalt Harbour. In 1844, a dispute led to a gathering of warriors led by Tzouhalem, a Quamichan chief, who peppered the fort with threats and musket balls for two days until the fort's Chief Factor Roderick Finlayson demonstrated the power of the fort's nine-pounder cannon.[5]

Fort Victoria was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924.[6]

Crown Colony[edit]

The flag of the Hudson’s Bay Company

In 1849, the crown Colony of Vancouver Island was established and the HBC was granted exclusive proprietary rights over Vancouver Island. The condition imposed by the Colonial Office was that the company would establish a settlement within five years or see their grant revoked. It was also to spend ninety percent of what it made on land sales on infrastructure such as roads and schools. A town was laid out on the site and made the capital of the colony. London sent Richard Blanshard to be its governor.

Even as the settlement began to grow, the nature of the company’s business was changing. Animal populations were beginning to dwindle from overtrapping, slowing the fur trade, but the California gold rush created a huge demand for resources with few places to buy them on the unsettled west coast. By 1850 there were several sawmills operating at Victoria to feed the hungry California market. The company was soon trading salted salmon with Hawaii and outfitting Royal Navy ships with supplies for the Crimean war.

The Colony prospered and grew with the gold rush and by 1860, a small legislature was formed. However, Governor James Douglas turned down any suggestion of a responsible government.

James Douglas, who remained Chief Factor of the fort, was made the second governor of the Vancouver Island colony in 1851, and would be the leading figure in the early development of the city until his retirement in 1864, and of the Mainland Colony from 1858-1862 when he was replaced as governor of that colony by Frederick Seymour.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991)
  • Margaret Conrad and Alvin Finkle, History of the Canadian Peoples: Vol. I—Beginnings to 1867, 4th ed. (Toronto: Person Longman, 2006) and was founded in 1893.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Songhees First Nations. "Songhees Legacy". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  2. ^ City of Victoria - History
  3. ^ A Review of the Alaska boundary question", p.11, Alexander Begg, publ. unknown, Victoria 1900]
  4. ^ Barman, 43
  5. ^ "Author Profile: Roderick Finlayson". ABC Bookworld. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Fort Victoria. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 20 January 2012.

External links[edit]