Pugets Sound Agricultural Company
The Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC), commonly referred to with variations of the name using Puget Sound or Puget's Sound, was a joint stock company formed around 1840 as a subsidiary of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) to operate in the Columbia Department. The purpose of the company was ostensibly to promote settlement by British subjects in the Oregon Country. The primary company operations were centered at Fort Nisqually and Fort Cowlitz in modern Washington state. At Fort Nisqually (near present-day Olympia, Washington) due to poor soil, the station focused on pastoral operations, including flocks of sheep for wool, cattle herds for beef and cheese manufacturing. Fort Cowlitz was the company's primary center of agricultural production. The company also operated many large farms in the area of Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island.
In 1838, George Simpson of the HBC requested from Parliament in London additional powers to raise food for sale to visiting ships, notably to provide a supply contract with the Russian-American Company (RAC), and to promote the settlement of the Oregon Country. With the negotiation of the RAC-HBC Agreement in 1839, the Hudson's Bay Company was given the contract Simpson had hoped for, namely to supply the trading stations of Russian America. However, the terms of the HBC's license only allowed for trade with native peoples, and did not include the right to engage in commercial farming. To bypass this apparent issue, the HBC created a subsidiary company to be kept at arms length to meet the agreement and support British colonization in the Pacific Northwest. In this way, the PSAC would protect HBC board members and shareholders from accusations and suits resulting from violations of the HBC charter.
During its initial years the company had occasionally had to purchase wheat from other sources to meet the RAC demands. In 1840 John McLoughlin had to purchase 4,000 bushels of wheat from Alta California to supplement produce made by the PSAC. During the 1840s pastoral and agricultural produce shipped to New Archangel annually consistently was 30,000 lbs of beef and from 40,000 to 80,000 lbs of wheat. Governor Arvid Etholén praised wheat produced by the PSAC as "incomparably cheaper" than produced bought from American merchants and being of "the best quality."
The Oregon Treaty
The Oregon Treaty that was negotiated in between Great Britain and the United States and went into effect in July 1846 upon the exchange of ratifications settled the Oregon question. This treaty had specific provisions regarding the Puget Sound Agricultural Company in Article IV, namely that the United States would respect PSAC property but had the right to purchase any of the properties.
In 1863, Great Britain and the United States agreed to arbitrate the disposition of the PSAC properties in US territory. The PSAC was awarded $200,000 in compensation in 1869 for all of its properties south of the Canadian-US border as spelled out in the Oregon Treaty. Meanwhile, the company’s operations had shifted north, including agricultural ventures on Vancouver Island. In 1934 the company ceased to be listed on the stock exchange.
- "The Puget Sound Agricultural Company". Hbc Heritage. Hudson’s Bay Company. Retrieved 2007-01-17.
- Gibson, James R. Farming the Frontier, the Agricultural Opening of the Oregon Country 1786-1846. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press. 1985, p. 94.
- Gibson (1985), p. 95.
- Gibson (1985), p. 107.
- LexUM (1999). "Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the Settlement of the Oregon Boundary". Canado-American Treaties. University of Montreal. Retrieved 2007-01-12.
- "IV. Fort Vancouver: Vancouver Barracks, 1861-1918". Fort Vancouver. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-01-17.