Fur Trading Posts in the Okanagan and Similkameen


In 1846, the Oregon Treaty declared the 49th parallel to be the boundary between British and American continental territory west of the Rocky Mountains. The Hudson's Bay Company had hoped that the Columbia River might mark that boundary, everything south of the river going to the United States of America and everything north of the river remaining British. The term "Columbia" had been used by the fur traders to designate all the territory drained by the great river and its tributaries as well as the Shuswap watershed, as distinct from the northern interior known as New Caledonia. Once the Oregon Treaty was accepted, only territory north of the 49th parallel remained "British" Columbia.

Nowhere has the boundary settlement influenced local history more than in the Okanagan and Similkameen. Although it was more than a decade before engineers of a British and American Joint Boundary Commission marked the exact location of the 49th parallel in our area, the Hudson's Bay Company, foreseeing the difficulties of carrying on their affairs in foreign territory -- paying duty on furs passing down the Columbia to be shipped to markets in London or in other parts of the world, then paying duty on trade supplies imported -- decided to relocate its posts on British soil.

Already, in 1843, Dr. John McLoughlin, feeling the pressure of settlers moving into the Oregon Territory, had sent James Douglas to establish Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island. The fort was to become the Pacific headquarters of the company, replacing Fort Vancouver, which was situated on the north bank of the Columbia River and which, in 1825, had replaced Fort George (Astoria) at the mouth of the Columbia as head of operations.

When the Oregon Treaty was accepted, the Hudson's Bay Company claimed indemnity from the Government of the United States for the loss of the following forts: Vancouver, Champaeg, Cowlitz at river mouth, George (Astoria), Cape Disappointment, Chinook or Pillar Rock, Umpqua, Nez Perces (Walla Walla), Hall, Boise, Okanagan, Colville [sic], Kootenais, and Flatheads. No indemnity was claimed for Carkooman (Caweeman), Nisqually, Bellingham, Simcoe, Saloush, or Spokane. (Ernest Voorhis, Historic Forts and Trading Posts of the French Regime and of the English Fur Trading Companies, #407) After years of legal wrangling, the United States Government agreed to pay the Company $650,000 in gold bullion, the sum to include $200,000 for the Company's agricultural lands on Puget Sound. (Peter C. Newman, Caesars of the Wilderness, Penguin, p. 393) Gradually, the company moved its activities into British territory.

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Fort Okanagan

Fort Okanagan, a post established in 1811 by David Stuart and Alexander Ross of the New York-based Pacific Fur Company, was situated on the Okanagan River one half mile upstream from the river's confluence with the Columbia. (In the Annual Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, No. 3, page 28 - hereafter referred to as O.H.S. Report - we learn that there are over 30 variants in the spelling of "Okanagan." I shall use the modern Canadian spelling "Okanagan" throughout but note that south of the border the word is spelled "Okanogan.") From the new post, Stuart pressed up the Okanagan and finally through to Kamloops, thus discovering the route which was to be used by fur brigades for the next thirty-five years.

When the War of 1812 broke out, the North West Company took advantage of the situation to persuade the American Pacific Fur Company to sell out its interests in the Columbia region. F.M. Buckland tells us that Duncan MacDougall, the Factor in charge, agreed to the price of $80,500. (O.H.S. Report No. 17, page 74) Both Fort Astoria, renamed Fort George, and Fort Okanagan became North West posts until 1821 when they became Hudson's Bay Company posts upon the amalgamation of the two great fur trading companies.

In 1816, while Fort Okanagan was the property of the North West Company, the original buildings were replaced by a stockaded group of well-constructed buildings. The construction of the new fort was supervised by Ross Cox, the colourful Irishman then in charge of the post. In his book, Adventures on the Columbia (quoted in Judge Wm. Compton Brown, The Pilgrimage to Old Fort Okanogan, 1951), Cox records this description of the fort:

By the month of September, we had erected a new dwelling house for the person in charge, containing four excellent rooms and a large dining hall, two good houses for the men and a spacious store for the furs and merchandise, to which was attached a shop for trading with the natives. The whole was surrounded by strong palisades fifteen feet high and flanked by two bastions. Each bastion had in its lower story a light brass four-pounder, and in the upper story loop-holes were left for the use of musketry.

From 1812 onward, the winter's catch of furs was collected at Kamloops, or Thompson's River as it was often called, baled, loaded on pack animals and driven south through the Okanagan Valley to Fort Okanagan where the cargo was transferred to bateaux for the trip down the Columbia River to Fort George and, after 1825, to Fort Vancouver. Then in late summer the brigade would retrace the route with trade goods and supplies for the inland posts. Thus began the great brigades that have left their mark on the Okanagan landscape to this day. (See the two booklets: R. Hot, A. Jahnke, P. Tassie, The Okanagan Brigade Trail, Central and North Okanagan, 1986 and B. Harris, H.Hatfield, P. Tassie, The Okanagan Brigade Trail in the South Okanagan 1811 to 1849, 1989.)

It did not take the Nor'Westers long to see the advantage of shipping out their New Caledonia furs through this southern and Pacific route instead of taking them through difficult mountain passes and across the continent to Montreal. On May 13, 1813, John Stuart left Fort St. James by canoe in search of a route to Fort Okanagan and hence down the Columbia to the Pacific. In October 1814, Chief Trader D.W. Harmon recorded the arrival at Fort St. James of J. LaRoque with two canoes laden with trade goods brought up from Fort George. (E.P. Creech, "Brigade Trails of B.C." The Beaver, March 1953, p. 11) However, it was not until 1826 that the route through the Okanagan was used regularly. In the minutes of the Council for Northern Department of Rupert's Land, held at York Factory in July 1825, we find the following: "That William Connolly be directed to take out the New Caledonia Returns to Fort Vancouver (Columbia River) next Spring, from whence he is to receive the ensuing Outfit for 1826." (Minutes of the Council of the Northern Department, 1821-31, Hudson's Bay Record Society, p. 106)

Although the 1821 amalgamation had opened York Factory (on Hudson's Bay) to New Caledonia commerce, the southern and Pacific route still afforded savings of time and wages. Each spring, from 1826 on, Fort St. James furs gathered during the winter were baled and loaded into canoes for their journey down the Stuart, Nechako, and Fraser Rivers to Fort Alexandria. There, because the river below was unnavigable, two 84-pound bales, or "pieces" as they were called, were transferred to each pack horse for the journey through Kamloops and thus to Fort Okanagan.

Floor plan of the 1816 reconstruction of Fort Okanagan based on information gained from archaeological digs. Diagram courtesy of the Okanogan County Museum.

Sometime after 1821, Fort Okanagan was relocated on the bank of the Columbia River, several miles to the south-east of the original post. Robert Stevenson of Princeton, B.C. in his "The Story of a Trip Through the Okanagan Valley in the Summer of 1869" (quoted in Judge Wm. Compton Brown, "Old Fort Okanogan and the Okanogan Trail," Oregon Historical Quarterly, March 1914, p. 22) describes the post as he found it almost forty years later:

The fort consisted of a stockade built of fir trees, 14 to 20 inches in diameter and twenty feet long, standing on end with the lower end firmly planted in the ground. Entrance to this stockade was by means of a strong gate. A space of 60 to 80 feet square was enclosed and buildings opened to the centre, and the walls of the stockade were firmly braced on the inside.

No doubt the newer location afforded a better site from which to monitor river traffic, both that travelling up and down the Columbia as well as that crossing the river, for Judge W.C. Brown tells us:

At this fort is the site of the "upper crossing" of the Columbia. That was an alternate to the "lower crossing" [a few miles down river] and was used when the nature of the property to be ferried -- the stage of the water in the river, or otherwise, made the upper crossing more desirable. It is ancient as the lower crossing, and ultimately became the crossing generally used by the wagon trains, while the lower crossing, the swimming ford, was more for the pack trains and cattle drives. (Brown, Pilgrimage)

When Fort Okanagan was first established, it was a post at which furs were purchased. However, we find John McLeod, in his report of April 23, 1823 (HBC Archives, Winnipeg. B. 208/e/1, fos. 6d-7d), stating:

On examining the Returns of Okanagan Fort, I found it to be 100 Beaver Short of that of last Year at the same Post. Mr. Pion (the Person in charge) attributes this deficiency to the backwardness of the Spring but in this I differ with him in opinion, as I am inclined to think it is owing to some of the natives appertaining to this Place having gone to Walla Walla and even to Fort George where I am informed some of them received clothing.

There was another factor which must have had a deleterious effect upon fur production in the country near Fort Okanagan. In an attempt to drive out the mountain men or free traders and thus stem the tide of American settlement, Governor George Simpson, in 1825, announced a scorched earth policy whereby Hudson's Bay hunters would trap beaver south of the Columbia to extinction. (Newman, Caesars, p. 370) That Simpson achieved the success he sought is perhaps born out in the observations of Commander Wilkes who was in charge of the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-42. Wilkes reported in June 1841:

Few skins are obtained here [Fort Okanagan], and the extreme scarcity of game and fur animals is remarkable throughout all this part of Middle Oregon. This is somewhat difficult to account for, as we are well satisfied that there is abundance of food, and that all kinds of cattle would thrive exceedingly in this section, where grass is so abundant. (C. Wilkes, Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition...1838, 1839, 1840, 1841. London, 1845)

Thus Fort Okanagan became an entrepot for the trade rather than a trading post of importance in its own right. We find, for example, C.T. Heron recording in his Fort Colvile Journal the return of two Indians June 2, 1830, from Fort Okanagan with "...1 bag of Ball, 100 flints and 15 pounds of tobacco which had been ordered from the lower fort." (C.T. Heron, Fort Colvile Journal commencing 12th April 1830, ending 13th April 1831, Hudson's Bay Archives) The principal justification for maintaining Fort Okanagan, of course, was because it was there that the change between land and water transport was made. In writing to the Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company, Governor Simpson stated:

This place [Fort Okanagan] is maintained almost entirely for the accommodation of New Caledonia and Thompson's River, being the point at which the route from those places strikes upon the main River, and where it is necessary to keep two or three men throughout the year for the purpose of Watching Boats, horses, Provisions, & etc. left here from time to time for the use of those places. The Expenses of this Post, are for the sake of regularity charged to Thompson's River. (E.E. Rich, editor, Part of a Dispatch from George Simpson Esq...1829, The Hudson's Bay Record Society, p.50)

The status of the fort is reflected in the post managers who were, for the most part, clerks, interpreters or labourers rather than officers of the company. (See Appendix I)

A human face is put upon the relationship between Forts Okanagan and Thompson's River in the reminiscences of Joseph LaFleur, son of the interpreter Joachim LaFleur and half brother to Francois Dechiquette. Joseph was born at Fort Okanagan in 1834 and baptized by Father Demers in 1838. In May 1912, the Indian Department and the Washington State Historical Society brought the elderly Joseph back to Fort Okanagan in order that he might identify features of the old fort. Among his remarks are the following:

I came down from Kamloops with a big pack train once when my father was in charge. I made several trips with pack trains between Okanagan and Kamloops. My father most always took all the family when he went to Kamloops, and sometimes we stayed at Kamloops several years at a time. Those big pack trains that carried the furs down in the summer and carried the goods up in the fall travelled about fifteen miles a day. When we left Okanagan the train usually got a late start and we did not go far the first day, probably about six or seven miles above the mouth of the river. The next night we usually got about to where Salmon Creek comes into the Okanogan...the second night after that we would get probably to Bonaparte Creek and the next night to Osoyoos Lake. (Brown, OHQ, pp. 24-5)

Fort Okanagan was more remarkable as a horse guard rather than for its field culture, a fact which is not surprising when one thinks of those great brigades of some 300 horses arriving and departing each year. Even the first fort had extensive corrals. In the proceedings Hudson's Bay Company vs United States Government referred to above, Alexander Caufield Anderson described the horse range, triangular in shape each side being 25-30 miles in length, one side extending up-river from the fort, the second along the range of hills towards the Okanagan Valley, and thence back down along the Okanagan River. (Brown, OHQ, 1914, p. 27)

Up to four acres of garden were cultivated at the post. The "...peas, cabbage and turnips..." which Emilius Simpson found at Fort Okanagan in October 1826 must have been welcome fare to the traveller from York Factory and a pleasant addition to the diet of fish, game and tea upon which company servants often depended. (Emelius Simpson R.N., Journal of a Voyage Across the Continent of North America, 1826, Hudson's Bay Archives) In 1824, Governor George Simpson thought the fort's potatoes the finest he had seen in the country. Simpson, who was very keen on fort agriculture, thought that "...grain in any quantity..."could be raised"...but cultivation to any extent has never been attempted." (HBC Arch., Research File, "Okanagan, Fort") However, Commander Wilkes in his report described the fort's location to be "...on a poor, flat, sandy neck." (Wilkes, U.S. Exped.)

The last brigade to bring its furs through Fort Okanagan arrived in 1847. After that, the combination of customs difficulties and the hostilities between whites and Indians in the Oregon Territory following the Walla Walla Council (May 1855) made an all-British route most desirable. However, the fort continued to exist until 1860 when Francois Dechiquette, the last manager, was instructed to move to Similkameen and establish there a horse farm. Yet, the company did not wish to surrender its interest in the site for, on August 7, 1860, we find Chief Factor D. Mactavish writing to Angus McDonald at Fort Colvile:

We note the removal of Francois Dechiquette to the Shimilkameen [sic], which is approved of, but according to the understanding you had with Mr. Dallas, you must endeavour, in the most economical manner possible to retain our hold at Okanagan - as we do not wish to give up our claim to the Establishment - and further in establishing ourselves at the Shimilkameen, we must only look upon it as a temporary arrangement - where no large outlay in the way of building or improving is to be incurred either for trading or farming purposes. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/18, f. 92-93)

Gradually, the buildings of the old fort fell into disrepair. Placer miners cannibalized the buildings for the cut timbers which they used in their operations. Finally, the severe flood of 1894 almost obliterated the site of the second fort. The original site, being in quieter waters, better survived the inundation. Chimneys and cellars remained distinguishable there. In 1968, a final and permanent inundation covered both sites when the waters of the Columbia rose behind the Wells Dam. Fortunately, before this flooding took place, archaeological digs were initiated in 1952, 1957 and 1963 with the cooperation of the National Park Service. Artifacts discovered during these operations are now on display at the Fort Okanogan Interpretive Centre just to the east of the flat in the valley bottom. Before the flooding, the remains of those buried near Fort Okanogan were removed and re-interred in the Fort Okanogan Memorial Cemetery a few miles north of the Interpretive Centre and just west of Highway 97. (O.H.S. Report No. 34, page 173)

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Fort Colvile

Fort Colvile, situated on the southeast side of the Columbia River just upstream from Kettle Falls, was cited by Voorhis as ranking, in the Oregon Territory, next in importance to Fort Vancouver. Fort Colvile had been established in 1825 by the Hudson's Bay Company to replace the old North West post of Spokane House which, from 1810, had been the principal distribution centre for the Upper Columbia, Kootenay and Flathead country. On April 7, 1826, the latter post was closed and employees and stores moved to the new site, which had been named in honour of Andrew Colvile, a member of the governing Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company.

The new location proved to be a very satisfactory choice, the Kettle River and the Columbia system offering convenient access to a vast hinterland. Being on the Columbia, the post was on the main route between Fort Vancouver and Boat Encampment from which place brigades set out through mountain passes to the prairie and on to Hudson's Bay or eastern Canada. Moreover, Kettle Falls was the scene each year of one of the major fisheries of the Interior Salish. Beginning in June, natives from a great area gathered there to fish, visit, compete in games, and trade.

An important feature of the location was the great flat of rich fertile loam that surrounded the fort. Even in 1826, Emilius Simpson noted the successful gardens. Fort Colvile was soon supplying the needs of posts throughout the interior as Governor George Simpson had predicted. By 1834, Simpson was able to report to the Governor and Committee of the Company: "Fort Colvile, besides being the most valuable inland establishment in point of trade, is of great importance to the other posts, being the granary or provision Depot of the interior, as it possesses the advantages of soil and climate highly favorable to cultivation." (James R. Gibson, Farming the Frontier: The Agricultural opening of the Oregon Country 1786-1846, Vancouver, 1985, p. 47) James R. Gibson continues:

In the late 1830s, Fort Colvile supplied Fort Nez Perces with one hundred hundred-pound sacks of flour annually. "New Caledonia also depends on this place for her flour, pork, corn and meal etc. etc.," noted a member of the United States Exploring Expedition in 1841. In that year from eighty to ninety sacks of grain were packhorsed from Fort Colvile to Thompson's River for New Caledonia...[In 1842] Chief Factor Archibald McDonald reported to Fort Vancouver that "grain is called for I might say from every point of the compass..." He estimated in 1841 that Fort Colvile needed two thousand bushels of wheat alone to meet its obligations. (pp. 47-48)

It should be noted that early settlers in Osoyoos were among Fort Colvile's flour customers before Barrington Price established his grist mill at Keremeos.

In the Hudson's Bay Archives, there is a fascinating document, Fort Colvile Journal (commencing 12th April 1830, ending 13th April 1831). The Journal, copied in the hand-writing of Wm. Kittson, is Chief Trader C.T. Heron's record of the year during which buildings in the post were being improved and extended. Each day records the tasks to be performed and the number of men assigned to each. Here is a sample of some of the entries:

April 18

Accounts closed, everything ready for proceeding to York Factory.

April 19

8 men out for fence poles

6 employed at bastions

5 farming

1 carting

4 at boat house

1 making small building

2 attending on Gentlemen's Mess

April 20

Express boat to York House, Boat manned by 8 men-two passengers.

Turnip (Swedish), cabbage, cress, mustard and carrots planted in garden by old Philip

May 4

Women of establishment cutting seed potatoes

May 11

4 men brought down raft of spared wood for the saw

May 17

river rising fast

May 19

61 packs [of furs] pressed. 3 more men added to mill wright's party for purpose of making a canal

May 21

Planted by now - 23 kegs of wheat, 7 kegs barley, 31/2 kegs corn, 9 kegs pease, 240 (?) kegs potatoes, 2000 pumpkin seed.

May 24

Kittson sent off in my place with our returns in 5 boats manned by 18 men and 2 Indians (4 of boats built here)

June 4

Indians beginning to gather at falls for fishing

June 8

Indians want C.T. Heron to pray for them [re fishery - He did]

There were no free-loaders at a Hudson's Bay post. Everyone was employed including the women, most of whom were "country wives." Good service brought some security. For example, men who had "...married after the fashion of the country..." Indian or half-cast wives were obliged to leave one tenth of their pay with the Company against the day when they might leave the country without taking their wives and children with them. Sylvia Van Kirk has made an interesting study of this matter in her book Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870 (Winnipeg, 1980).

Although, in 1856, Fort Shepherd was built north of the 49th parallel with the intention that it would replace Fort Colvile, we find Fort Colvile continuing to operate into the late sixties. However, by then the fort was no longer the profitable post that it had been. On May 24, 1867, Chief Factor W.F. Tolmie, looking towards the final withdrawal from Colvile, wrote from Victoria to post master Angus MacDonald at Colvile counselling him: "Take notes from debtors or any goods convertible into cash." The fort was finally closed in the spring of 1871.

While Fort Colvile existed, an even after its demise, Colvile remained a strong presence in the minds of those living in the South Okanagan. Actually the association between the Indians living in the vicinity of the fort and Indians living at Osoyoos Lake was an old one. Mourning Dove, an Indian woman born at Colvile about 1886, tells us in her autobiography that her parents seldom failed to travel from their winter quarters at Kettle Falls to "S'ooyoos" Lake each year to visit relatives and to participate in the dog salmon fishery at the narrows in the month of September. (Mourning Dove, A Salishan Autobiography, Lincoln, 1990, p. 20) One is tempted to see this as an ancient pattern of migration. The late D.P. Fraser of Osoyoos remembered this fish run when his family moved to Osoyoos in 1917. (Mss Osoyoos 1917-27 by D.P. Fraser, p. 74) Mount Baldy (Pak-kum-kin or White Top) was a place where Mourning Dove's people might go to acquire spiritual insights or power. (Mourning Dove, p. 82)

When Father Pandosy was obliged to leave his mission work in the Oregon Territory in 1859, he first went to Colvile in search of provisions. When he left Colvile, he was accompanied by Cyprian Laurence and his wife Teresa, his brother Theodore, a Flathead Indian and his wife, and Wm. Pion. The Laurence brothers and Pion became pioneer pre-emptors at Okanagan Mission. Teresa, whose home had been Colvile and who was a great-aunt of Marie Houghton Brent, played an important role in negotiating with the Okanagans the right of the missionaries to settle at L'Anse au Sable. Thus we see the influence of Colvile extending to Central and North Okanagan.

Julia, the Indian wife of John Carmichael Haynes, came from Colvile. (This information was obtained by the late D.P. Fraser from Kenneth Lindsay, a descendent of Julia and John.) Then, in 1864, when Haynes was instructed to go to Wild Horse Creek in the East Kootenay to settle unruly miners, he went first to Colvile with his assistant and their five horses to find out from old Hudson's Bay friends just how he could get to the mining camp. In 1875, when Emily Pittendrigh Haynes was about to give birth to Valentine Carmichael Haynes, the mid-wife was brought from Colvile. Mrs. K. Lacey writes:

It was necessary to bring in a mid-wife from Ft. Colvile, a good three days' ride away, the woman being Mrs. McDougall, a French halfbreed who was 75 years of age at the time. The weather turned very cold and lots of snow came before she was able to return home and she was forced to return to Ft. Colvile on snowshoes. (O.H.S. Report No. 27, page 117)

What can we see of old Fort Colvile today? Not very much. A few artifacts are displayed in the museum in Colville, Washington (note the spelling of the modern town). The old bastion burned down in the summer of 1911. Then, in 1941, the whole site disappeared as the waters of the Columbia backed up behind Grand Coulee Dam to form Lake Roosevelt. However, at St. Paul's Mission State Park one finds simple but effective information plaques indicating the location of the old fort as well as that of the Indian fishery at Kettle Falls. In the park is the cemetery in which some of the residents of the old fort were interred. Another link with this past is found some miles away. South of the customs house at Midway, just to the east of the highway in the State of Washington, is a small graveyard. Among the graves is that of the romantic figure Ronald McDonald, son of Archibald McDonald, Chief Factor at Fort Colvile 1835-1844, and Princess Raven.

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Fort Shepherd

Early in 1856, Sir George Simpson wrote to Dugald MacTavish, Chief Factor in charge of the 49th parallel, but as close to Fort Colvile as possible, the intent being that trade should be withdrawn from Fort Colvile and transferred to the new post. Although the Oregon Treaty in 1846 had settled the matter of the boundary, it was not until the late 1859s that the British and American Joint Boundary Commission began to survey and mark the 49th parallel. However, by 1856, the fur traders realized that the days of a loose and ambiguous border were coming to an end.

Tightened control of the border meant paying custom duties on all goods passing north or south. To avoid such costs, it appeared desirable to relocate the Company's posts in British territory. Yet it is interesting to note that the Company's attitude in the matter of the custom charges remained pragmatic rather than ideological, for in 1868 we find Chief Factor W.F. Tolmie instructing Joseph Hardisty to ascertain the best way of outfitting boats in the Kootenay, whether through Hope, B.C. or Portland, Oregon. (Letter 28 September 1868 from W.F. Tolmie to Joseph Hardisty, HBC Arch.)

James Sinclair, "...whose experience, judgment and business habits..." fitted him for the task, was chosen to decide upon the location of the new post. Unfortunately, Sinclair along with eighteen others was killed by a party of Indians at the Cascades of the Columbia River on March 26, 1856 whilst on his way from Fort Vancouver to the Dalles. (HBC Arch. Research File "Shepherd, Fort") No doubt this event, along with the general hostilities between Indians and whites following the all-Indian Council of Grande Ronde in 1854 and the Walla Walla Council in May 1855 (hostilities which led to Father Pandosy's moving into British territory), made the Company more determined than ever to establish an all-British route between the Kootenays and the Pacific coast.

Governor Simpson himself approved a site on the west side of the Columbia River across from the mouth of the Pend d'Oreille River and approximately thirteen miles south of the present city of Trail. Just how the location's relationship to the 49th parallel was arrived at we do not know, but there seems to have been some relief when Captain John Palliser, working out of the fort in 1859 in his explorations for what Frank Merriam believes to have been an all-Canadian railway route, determined the fort to be three quarters of a mile north of the 49th parallel. (Chief Trader James A. Grahame to Thos. Fraser, Secretary, HBC, London, 3 October 1859. HBC Arch. A. 11/71 and Frank Merriam, "The Dewdney Trail Through the Kootenays," B.C. Historical News, vol. 22, no. 1, p.9)

When Palliser explored up the Pend d'Oreille Valley searching for a route through the Selkirks, he was accompanied by Joseph McKay of Fort Shepherd and that route was used by the Hudson's Bay Company from then on. This may have been the route followed by Haynes in 1864. In 1865, Edgar Dewdney, when extending his trail from Rock Creek to Wild Horse Canyon, decided that his best way east of Fort Shepherd was up the Pend d'Oreille, Little Salmon River and Summit Creek. (Merriam, "The Dewdney Trail..." p. 9)

James Douglas, Chief Factor at Victoria was a staunch advocate of the all-British route and urged that at least one or two of the all-British route and urged that at least one or two of the buildings be ready to receive goods on the return brigade from Fort Langley in the fall of 1856. Work began in June 1856, and August 1857, the new buildings were nearly completed, put up in a "...substantial workmanlike manner." Buildings were made of hewn squared logs and stood in an open square, men's residences and storehouses on the sides and the officers' residence at the end. (Elsie Turnbull, "Fort Shepherd," The Beaver. Autumn 1959, pp. 42-47)

Fort Shepherd, named first Fort Pend d'Oreille but renamed after a governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, proved to be no second Colvile. For one thing, the plentiful bench land which Simpson thought suitable for agriculture was infertile compared with the great area lying about the older fort. Although the company no doubt thought that they were moving into Lakes Indian territory which had been a principal source of Colvile furs, the new location did not have the attraction of the old, which was adjacent to the traditional fishing grounds of Kettle Falls. So disappointing was the intake of furs that the post was closed temporarily in 1860. However, when Chief Factor Roderick Finlayson visited the site in 1862 and learned that a "free trader" across the river had bought 500 marten skins from the Indians, he urged that the post be re-opened. Furthermore the mining of placer gold promised a retail market for the Company store. (HBC Arch. a.11/79)

The ups and downs of Fort Shepherd are reflected in its changing status. From 1856 to 1860 and from 1862 to 1866, the fort was in the Colvile District. Then, from 1866 to 1869, it was head of its own district, which included Similkameen. From 1869 to 1870, it was back in the Colvile District. Perhaps the new fort suffered from the intention of the Company to keep Fort Colvile viable in support of the Company's claim for indemnity from the Government of the United States, an indemnity which was eventually paid.

In the spring of 1870, Chief Factor Finlayson came to the conclusion that the Districts of Kootenay and Colvile were no longer profitable, the latter because, being mainly in the United States territory, its posts were subject to "...heavy duties on imports, Internal Revenue charges, and various other disadvantages of competition from the numerous traders of the Country." (HBC Arch. Research File "Shepherd, Fort", p. 4.) Fort Shepherd was to be closed "as early as the bulk of the goods there can be exchanged for Furs or Cash" and as soon as the Kootenay District goods stored there could be removed. (HBC Arch. A.11/85)

By June 30, 1870, Fort Shepherd was closed. Once the buildings were emptied, they were left in the care of the local Indian chief. At the end of 1872, a report reached the Company that the buildings had burned down. Knowing something of the habits of the country, one cannot help wondering if, before the fire, the buildings had been cannibalized and if those fine squared timbers had found their way into other Columbia country uses. Elsie Turnbull, in her very interesting article quoted above, tells us that the site, difficult to access in 1959, had been marked with a stone cairn by the Kinsmen Club of Trail.

What has Fort Shepherd had to do with the Okanagan? To understand the business of the Similkameen (Keremeos) Hudson's Bay post it is important to understand what was going on at the Columbia River post and beyond. Even after the closing of the Company depot and store, Fort Shepherd figures in Osoyoos records because there was a customs port there which took the name of the fort. Several references to the port appear in the Documents of Judge Haynes, Years 1867 to 1887 housed in the Penticton Museum.

On January 24, 1872, W.H. Lowe, in his capacity as acting Deputy Collector and Peace Officer, wrote to W. Hamley:

I have the honor of forwarding to Hope by Indian Messenger the Kootenay mail which reached here last evening from Shepherd where it I am informed unavoidably remained several days, the officer of that place not being able to get anyone to undertake the trip sooner owing to the Extreme Severity of the weather which has also been exceedingly severe in these parts since the 1st of last December. Ever since that time it has been a continuation of stormy weather accompanied with intense cold.
Parties having stock in the Country are already getting very uneasy. Several parties have already commenced feeding and I fear that if the cold continues much longer that a great many of the stock will perish. (Low to Hamley, Documents of Judge Haynes, Years 1867 to 1887. Penticton Museum)

Then on April 21 of the same year, Lowe wrote that "Mr. Moore...attending to the customs duties at Shepherd reports that Steamer 147 is already preparing to make the trip to Big Bend."

Among the same papers in the Ledger Book from Soyoos Customs House, we find the copy of a letter sent September 30, 1878 from Haynes to the Honourable Collector of Customs at Victoria. The letter reads:

I have the honor to transmit to you herewith 2 letters and amount of expenditures of a seizure of a small lot of goods at Fort Shepherd. Under all circumstances connected with the matter, the isolated position of the station being the chief, I consider Mr. Moore acted judiciously in the matter throughout, and I feel confident that you in your judgement will take a similar view of the matter. I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant.
"J.C. Haynes"

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Fort Similkameen

In The Similkameen Star of February 4, 1937, Susan B. Allison, speaking of the development of the Similkameen Valley, is quoted as saying: "The background to the entire picture is the Hudson's Bay Company. They had, to the sufficiency of their purpose, surveyed and tapped the area long before its natural development began."

Who would know better than Mrs. Allison who came as a bride to Princeton in September 1868?

Early in 1860, Francois Deschiquette (or Dechiquette) had been sent from Fort Okanagan to establish a new post near where presently stands centre of the Cawston community. The post was generally referred to as Similkameen although sometimes the local Indian name, Keremeos, was used. Deschiquette set about building a simple structure to serve as living quarters and storehouse and began to conduct the Company's business. In September, Edward Huggins arrived with a band of horses and mules which he had driven from Fort Nisqually, the Hudson's Bay Company centre for animal husbandry, and delivered them to Deschiquette. (HBC Arch. Research File, "Similkameen") Similkameen was to prove an ideal location for wintering and rearing stock.

On 20 January 1860, Chief Factor William Fraser Tolmie in Victoria had written to Angus Macdonald, Chief Trader in charge of the Fort Colvile district:

With respect to a settlement in the Shimilkameen [sic] valley, you were recommended in our last of January 6th the removing of Francois Deschiquette from Okanagan early in Spring to a choice spot in Shimilkameen for farming and trading purposes, or, if his Services cannot be relied on, the placing of some other experienced, and trustworthy man there - Our present object being chiefly to have an advantageous foothold there. The erection of a log hut, or two, and the enclosing, and cultivation of a few acres of land in potatoes, Oats, and garden vegetables is all that should now be attempted - Deschiquette with assistance from Indians might effect this, and be of more benefit to the concern than he now is at Okanagan. Please to give us your own views as to the eligibility of Shimilkameen as a trading post from whence after we leave American territory, the business of Colvile might be carried on - State also, whether there would be much demand amongst the Indians there for unbroken Mares and for half American Colts and fillies one and two years old. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/18, pp. 49-50)

The London Committee of the Company approved the plan, but advised the purchase from the British Columbia government of the land selected for the post. "Occupation might not prove enough should disputes arise." (HBC Arch. 6/35, p. 75) Deschiquette was installed with the understanding that any outlay would be of a very modest nature.

The Hudson's Bay Company's Similkameen Trading Post first location, surveyed in May 1862 by A. Turner.

Judge William C. Brown in his article "Old Fort Okanogan and Okanogan Trail" (page 22) reports that Deschiquette was reputed "...to have been a very intelligent person and a good business man, but much addicted to Hudson' s Bay rum." In the same article the Judge quotes Robert Stevenson as writing (Brown, OHQ, p. 22-23):

Franswa [sic] was a short, stout French half breed, and not any more than thirty years of age in 1860 when I first saw him at Old Fort Okanogan...Yes, he was educated some. Could read and write and was a pretty good bookkeeper.
The first building put up by Franswa is still standing [c.1910] on the old Cawston ranch two and one half miles below Keremeos and I saw it last only two years ago. I know it well for I was in the store many times in 1861 when I was Custom House Officer at Osoyoos Lake under Sir James Douglas when British Columbia was a Crown Colony, and Franswa was in charge there [Similkameen].

The London Committee was well aware of the discovery of gold and the effect an influx of miners might have on company fortunes. On January 27, 1860, Chief Factor John Work had written from Victoria to Thomas Fraser, Secretary, Hudson's Bay Company, London:

Encouraging accounts from the Shimilkameen [sic] gold diggings still continuing, we have instructed Chief Trader Macdonald, now in charge of Colvile District to select, and have occupied for the Company, as early as possible, a suitable spot in the valley of that name, the best portion of which, lies north of the parallel of 49.
This step, tho' hastened by the recent gold excitement in that direction has been taken chiefly because Shimilkameen offers the most eligible point in British Columbia, from which the Fur Trade of the Colvile District could be carried on, after our withdrawal from American territory, which, it is to be hoped may occur at an early date. With regard to Fort Shepherd altho the trade of its neighborhood may defray the wages of the person left in charge it is quite unsuited as replacing Colvile from the want of arable and pasture land in the vicinity. ( HBC Arch. B. 226/b/20 pp. 112-3)

Not everyone in the Company agreed with the location of the Similkameen post nor with the appointment of Francois Deschiquette to manage the affairs of the Company in an era of change. On September 10, 1860, Alexander Grant Dallas, who was on the point of succeeding Sir George Simpson as Governor of Rupert's Land, wrote from Victoria to Angus Macdonald at Colvile. Dallas addressed not only the question of purchasing land but also the location of the Similkameen post. The letter reads in part:

Land in British Columbia is now or will be immediately sold at 4/2d (4 shillings twopence) or one dollar per acre. To pre-empt land without paying occupation is necessary. It is therefore better for us to purchase at once, and I have requested Mr. Moberly - one of the Contractors of the trail to secure for the Company 160 or 320 acres at the Forks (Princeton). I am also securing at the Land Office 160 acres where Francois now is, with the view of selling our improvements there. If your opinion coincides with mine please act on it and take the first opportunity of selling our improvements and removing Francois. It may be necessary at the New depot at the Forks to have a man more capable of dealing with the whites than Francois now that the whole valley will be more or less occupied and traversed by miners. In this case you might plant Francois at the point you would select as a substitute for Colvile when abandoned, say at the anse de sable [sic] or the grand prairie [sic] - near the line as suggested by you. As a horse guard and farming land, either would answer well, but my judgement must give way to yours, in regard to the eligibility of either, as a fur trade post. I shall be glad to have your views on the above suggestions. A light horseman can easily ride in two days from Fort Hope to the forks of the Shimilkameen [sic]. From thence the communications will be easy both North and South, and our operations much simplified. By another year a waggon road will be made into the Shimilkameen, and goods sleighed over in winter - Rock Creek and Colvile will then be supplied easier and more cheaply from Fort Hope than from the Dalles [on the lower Columbia]. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/19, pp. 161-2)

The changes suggested by Dallas were, however, not made, perhaps because he was soon to take up his new duties in eastern Canada. Deschiquette remained. Chief Factor Roderick Finlayson, when reporting to The Board of management of the Western Department September 12, 1862, tells of seeing Deschiquette on his recent visit to the interior posts. Finlayson writes:

On my arrival at the Company's Station on the Seemilkamen [sic] River I found Francois Deschiquette the man in charge there too ill to accompany me to select the land to be surveyed there for the Company or to give me any information about the business. I therefore proceeded on to Colvile intending to visit the place on my return for this purpose. - The Mining operations carried on last year on Rock Creek and Seemilkamen - which created much excitement at the time are now almost entirely suspended the Miners having gone to other localities to work and left their buildings and improvements at Rock Creek to the number of about Sixty well built houses entirely abandoned...I arrived at Colvile on the 10th August and found Mr. McDonald quite recovered from his late accident...From Colvile I proceeded by the West side of the Columbia to Ft. Shepherd...I returned to Colvile by the same way I went up, where I remained for some time...On the 17th Aug I left Colvile with an Indian guide and returned to Seemilkamen by the same road I went by. And on my arrival at the Station there found Francois Deschiquette...so ill that he was not expected to live - I therefore took an Inventory of all the property I could find at the place belonging to the Company, Copy of which I sent with a letter to Mr. McDonald requesting him to secure it, and if necessary to have it taken to Colvile by the Brigade on its return from Ft. Hope - In the meantime Mr. Cox the Magistrate who is residing near the place, kindly promised if the man did not recover, to look after the property until the brigade reached the place. At this place also I have selected One Hundred Acres of land for the Company's business in the best locality I could find taking a native of the place with me and marked the trees thus...at the angles of the section Selected and explained fully to the Indian the direction of the lines, in order that he might be able to give any information required to the Government Surveyor. As the post of Seemilkameen [sic] with a competent man in charge is capable of giving better returns, than it appears to have done of late, I would recommend that a steady man, whose honesty can be relied on, should be sent there as early as possible. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/27, pp. 25-31)

Francois Deschiquette did die before the end of September. Sam B. Manery, whose family arrived in the Similkameen in 1885, says that Deschiquette's death was the result of being shot by Frank Peto during a quarrel and that the Post Master was buried "...on the north side of Blind Creek where the old Similkameen-Fairview road winds up the hill." (O.H.S. Report No. 12, page 116)

Replacing Deschiquette was not an easy task. The dilapidated state of the buildings was given as one reason for the reluctance of a qualified man to take on the post. However, on June 20, 1863, Chief Trader Angus Macdonald informed Chief Factor Dugald Mactavish that such a man had been found, Roderick McLean, and that he was already at Similkameen. (HBC Arch. Research File, "Similkameen," p. 4) McLean's experience as an axeman with the Boundary Commission surveyors (O.H.S. Report No. 18, page 141) must have stood him in good stead when it came to rebuilding the post.

After visiting the Similkameen in 1864, Chief Factor William Fraser Tolmie reported to the Board of Management (Western Department) on October 3:

Our Post at Shimilkameen [sic] is well situated for securing the trade of the Lower Okanagan and Shimilkameen Indians. Being within about ten miles of the American Frontier, to which, in this direction, a practicable, though rough waggon-road from the Columbia River already exists, and near to one of the two most frequented trails leading from Washington Territory to Cariboo, Shimilkameen may, as population increases afford an important outlet for British goods. During last winter and spring Maclean, the man in charge erected a log store-house, and I found wood on the ground for a dwelling house, but, as the present locality is fully two miles off the trail from Hope to Colvile and Shepherd, and is besides, during the summer months, when there is most travel, so infested by mosquitoes and other troublesome insects as, then to be almost uninhabitable, I would recommend the removal during the ensuing winter of our trading establishment to a more open and elevated spot, pointed out by Maclean, about three miles distant adjoining the Hope and Shepherd trail, and where a tract of about fifty acres of the best soil in the valley, can be irrigated at very small cost. The present site, as it adjoins a copious spring, which never freezes in winter, and is moreover in the centre of the most favorable wintering ground for livestock in the neighborhood, should be retained as a stock station; and in this connexion I would recommend the placing at Shimilkameen of about forty or fifty brood mares from Thompson's River, and in addition a herd of from sixty to a hundred cows. Horses are greatly in demand amongst the Indians of Shimilkameen and its neighbourhood, and as at Kamloops a ready sale, in barter for Furs, would be found for all the yearling colts disposable. I made particular enquiries amongst the Shimilkameen Indians, as to whether they had ever experienced winters of extraordinary severity, such as occurred here [Victoria], and in a higher degree at Nisqually in 1861 & '62. The reply was, that for about six miles up, and about eight down the valley, throughout the extent averaging four miles in width, they had never had deep snows, nor serious loss of horses, but that higher on the Shimilkameen, the snows were deep and of long duration. Should it be decided to stock Shimilkameen with horned cattle, and brood mares, it would be necessary to pre-empt or purchase an extensive tract, at the stock station, and a smaller one at the trading establishment, say two or three thousand acres at the latter place. There would be no immediate need to fence much of this land. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/26)

On October 14, 1864, Chief Factor W.F. Tolmie wrote from Victoria to J.W. McKay at Kamloops as follows: "...you will please proceed to Shimilikameen [sic], and take land for the Company, according to the memorandum herewith enclosed, one tract in the name of Chief Factor Tolmie, and the other in the name of chief Factor Finlayson. A copy of this memorandum is now sent to Mr. McLean in charge of Shimilkameen, who will be examining tracts desired in expectation of your coming." (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/26) According to the memorandum the first tract was to include one thousand acres "at the potato-field, upland prairie on both sides of Keremeyoos [sic] streamlet...and a good extent of frontage on the line of the present trail (from Hope)." The second tract was to be "...two to three thousand acres at the present station so as to include the whole spring, or small stream at the Company's Post."

When W.F. Tolmie and J.W. Mackay called upon A.N. Birch, the Colonial Secretary, in January 1865, regarding this matter, Birch gave them to understand that the Company would not be allowed to purchase all the land laid off by Roderick McLean. However, the Company was far from satisfied with the government survey for Tolmie wrote May 19 to the Colonial Secretary as follows:

We are informed by our agent at Shimilkameen [sic], Mr. Rod McLean, that Mr. Haynes of Soyoos [sic], Collector of Customs, who we learn has been authorized by the Government of British Columbia to lay out the lands at Shimilkameen to be purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company, as agreed upon with Governor Seymour in September 1864 has so surveyed the country there as to deprive the Company of a winter watering place, they have been settled alongside of for several years, where their buildings now stand, and which in part or whole they greatly desire, and consider themselves justly entitled to hold possession of. (HBC Arch. B.226/b/26)

What the outcome of this particular matter was is not clear from information presently available. However, in writing to McLean on October 12, 1865, Finlayson stated that the Company intended to purchase six hundred acres at the upper site and that "As soon as we get the proper title to this property we shall remove our buildings to it."

Roderick McLean, in addition to seeing to lands, fences and buildings, was the supervisor of a ranch with herds of horned cattle and horses. When a post in the southern interior required a pack train, it was his responsibility to prepare and dispatch needed animals charging expenses up to the post concerned. He was expected to get out into the surrounding country to buy furs from the Indians. He oversaw the trade with the white settlers. If Company mail arrived, he was expected immediately to find a reliable messenger to carry packages destined for places other than Similkameen in the appropriate direction.

Shrewdness in trading, energy and practical knowledge in farming and building, and the keeping of careful records were demands on the post manager. McLean did not always measure up with respect to record keeping. The Company was even more seriously concerned by the debts customers were allowed to run up. With regard to both Indian and white debtors, Finlayson wrote in March 16, 1866, "Unless these accounts are settled without delay the loss on your transactions at Keremeos will be very great." Finally, on October 2, 1867, a report to the Board of Management, included the following information:

Mr. McLean in charge of this place, having neglected to attend to the orders given him, "to give away no Goods on credit without security" had received notice to leave, as soon as an Officer could be Sent to relieve him. An Officer is therefore required to take charge of this Station and should be at Hope about the 15th Inst. to accompany the train of mules expected then to leave Hope with goods for Similkamen [sic]. (HBC Arch. B.226/b/35, f.544)

The new officer, who arrived some time between October 7 and October 19, was John Tait, clerk. Roderick McLean was retained for a short time to assist.

Similkameen was in the Fort Colvile District from 1860 to 1866 when it was transferred to the Fort Shepherd District under the supervision of Joseph Hardisty. Hence, we find the post mentioned in Tolmie's letter of 28 September to Hardisty at Fort Shepherd in which Tolmie says, "Tait will have responsibility of wintering several trains of animals at Similkameen."

In the late fall of 1868, Tait was planning a trip to take brood mares and young horses from Hope to Kamloops and down the east side of Okanagan Lake via Mission. An inventory dated December 16, 1868 for Thompson's River, gives us an idea of the value of stock: mares and folds - 35$ each; colts and fillies 1 and 2 years - $15 each; Colts 3 years - $25 each.

Business at Similkameen improved under Tait's management. However, old debts continued to be a concern. On February 11, 1867, while Similkameen was in the Fort Shepherd District, Finlayson had written to Joseph Hardisty at Fort Shepherd regarding the debts that must be collected. In correspondence out of Victoria, the name of W.H. Lowe appears most often as that of a major debtor. But it is clear that there were others since Tait received a letter dated September 16, 1869 which included the instruction: "Press Mr. Lowe and other long winded Debtors for payment of their accounts and let us have a remittance as soon as possible."

There seems to have been a reluctance to name Haynes as a major debtor, although in a letter dated May 3, 1867 to Roderick McLean, Tolmie had urged: "The Boards have not yet had time to go minutely into the accounts recently transmitted by O.F. Hardisty from Shimilkameen [sic]; but they regret to notice the large amount of credit which has been given there, and we must beg that every exertion be made to collect all outstanding debts, including those due by Messrs. Haynes and Lowe."

A letter from William Charles to Lowe at New Westminster refers to the account of Mr. Haynes being overdue by $1061.04. Lowe's own debt was in that range - a very large sum at that time.

How had Lowe and Haynes become so deeply indebted? Perhaps an answer is suggested in the question asked in a letter written April 22, 1867 to Hamilton Moffatt of Kamloops after a very severe winter. Finlayson wrote: "We very much regret your loss of horned cattle and horses - How does your percentage of loss compare with that of Haynes and others?"

At this period the Company was selling stock to new settlers. Severe winter kill would be a serious setback to a rancher. To make matters worse, local markets in the southern interior were almost non-existent after the gold rush of the early 1860s petered out and before hard rock mining began in the 1890s. Among the Documents of Judge Haynes in the Penticton Museum is a copy of a letter which Haynes sent March 30, 1876 to the Collector of Taxes in Victoria. Haynes speaks of "...the greatest depression every known in the parts in question during the last few years both north and south of the border...Cattle sometimes are not saleable at any price." Then Haynes says that prices are beginning to improve at last and he gives current prices: "...cows with calves at $10, and steers 3 yrs. & up $17."

The Company's method of extracting payment suggest that the debt was agricultural. On November 5, 1867 Tolmie wrote to Hardisty: "At your convenience during winter please communicate with Mr. Tait of Shimilkameen [sic] as to his looking through Mr. Haynes' band of horses at Soyoos for any good young Stallions for sale...Mr. Haynes had last Spring a pretty large debt in the Company's books at Karemeos [sic]."

On July 23, 1869, Chief Factor Tolmie reported to the Secretary of the Company in London that for the Outfit 1869-70 Similkameen had been made into a District with the Osoyoos post subordinate to it. Tolmie praised John Tait for the improvements under his management. However, this confidence did not stop the Chief Factor from asking for an accounting of every person fed at the post (August 2, 1870) or writing September 16, 1869: "You mention that your time has of late been taken up entirely out of doors. How in such case can you attend to the Indian Trade and general Merchandise business? Which should be your own affair and not entrusted to any stranger. Fearing that farming would too much divert your attention from more important matters, we have thought it best not to send you the seed Wheat and Timothy asked for." (HBC Arch. B.226/b/44,f.430)

In a letter June 29, 1869 from Tolmie to Tait, we learn that the salary of I.P. Kennedy, accountant at Similkameen, had been raised to $40 a month and Tait's to 150 pounds a year.

In spite of improvements made by Tait, we find the Company preparing to close Similkameen during the Outfit 1871-72. On October 4, 1871, Finlayson wrote to William Armit, Secretary, H.B.C. London:

Similkameen District. Mr. John Tait clerk in charge. The business at this place shows a slight increase over that of last year, but now that the districts of Kootenay and Colvile are closed from the transport of whose property a considerable portion of its gain was made, and being a poor place for business, it is to be closed this outfit, and all its Live Stock and other property unsold this month are to be transferred to Thompson's river. Mr. John Tait the officer in charge is to take charge of the Thompson's river district. (HBC Arch. B.226/b/43,f.99)

Then the next year on September 9, 1872, James A. Grahame, the new Chief Factor in Victoria, wrote to the Secretary in London: "Similkameen District. Apparent gain $2709.65 arising from the sale of Stock and Equipments & etc to the Canadian Pacific Railway Survey. This District has been closed during the Outfit by transferring to Thompson's River District its unsold balance of goods & etc, and outstanding debts." (HBC Arch. B.226/b/45, f.317)

The 1,140 acres of land owned by the Company was rented to W.H. Lowe. Today a Heritage Park, which contains the Grist Mill built by Barrington Price, lies just to the west of that property. The pond which contains the spring so important to the original horse guard lies just to the south of the centre of the Cawston community.

The second location Hudson's Bay Trading Post at Similkameen from the William Ralph Survey Plan in 1877.

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The Osoyoos Post of the Hudson's Bay Company had a very brief existence. Roderick McLean, while Post Master at Similkameen, proposed in 1866 the opening of a house at Osoyoos Lake. Perhaps this was because the recently-built Dewdney Trail running from Fort Hope on the Fraser River to Wild Horse Creek in the East Kootenay intersected the ancient north-south route, which the fur brigades had used, at Osoyoos. McLean's plan met with approval, and the new post was opened in March 1867 on the rise just to the west of the bridge across the narrows. Theodore Kruger, trader, was hired at $40 per month on a temporary basis to manage the post. (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/35, f.543-5)

Of the few mentions made of the Osoyoos Post in company correspondence, two concern liquor. Is this significant? Chief Factor Roderick Finlayson wrote from Victoria to Joseph Hardisty at Fort Shepherd on November 19, 1866 as follows: "We note your having approved of McLean's project of opening a House for trade at Osoogus[sic], and have directed Mr. McKay to meet any order you may send him for goods and liquors for the purpose." (HBC Arch. B.226/b/35,f.145-6)

In Finlayson's letter to Hardisty July 23, 1867, we find: "We have the liquor order for Osoyoos: but unless we have a trustworthy man there to sell it, it had better be sold here." (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/35,f.438-9)

Osoyoos House seems to have prospered for Finlayson's Report to the Board of Management (Western Department) on October 2, 1867 includes the following: "The Post at Sooyus[sic] established last March, appears to be more favorably situated for trade than Similkameen, from which it is situated about 18 Miles. It has collected for 5 months ending with August Furs to the value of 1258.75 valued at the Fur Cash prices here - and the cash sales for the same period Amounts to $1517.60 which may be considered fair as a beginning." (HBC Arch. B. 226/b/35,f.543-5)

Whether or not Osoyoos was making a profit, the little post was doomed when it was decided to close the Similkameen District in Outfit 1871-72. Osoyoos's unsold stock went to Thompson's River with that of Similkameen. On February 28, 1872, Finlayson wrote to William H. Lowe as follows:

The Hudson's Bay Co. having disposed of their Title and interest in the Post at "Osooyus"[sic] to Messrs. Bice and Wonnacott, You will please deliver to them the premises, of which, I believe, our Mr. Tait gave you charge for safe-keeping, on their applying for the same to you. (HBC Arch. Victoria Out. Letter Book (Sundries), 1871-75.f.224)

Theodore Kruger resigned from service with the Hudson's Bay Company about June 1872. In 1873, Kruger purchased the store at Osoyoos and operated it for many years. (O.H.S. Report No. 6, page 76) Chief Factor James A. Grahame wrote from Victoria to William Armit, Secretary, H.B.C. London, on September 9, 1872 that the stock and equipment of the Similkameen District had been sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway Survey and that the posts had been closed by transferring to the Thompson's River District the unsold balance of goods and the outstanding debts. (HBC Arch. B.226/b/45, f.317)

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Appendix I

















Alexander Ross

Ross Cox


James Birnie, Clerk

Francis Ermatinger, Clerk

A common labourer

An interpreter

Le Pratt

Felix, Interpreter appointed, [LaFleur in charge]

LaFleur, Interpreter

Joachim LaFleur, Interpreter

A labourer

Joachim LaFleur, Interpreter

Francois Deschiquette, Interpreter













1871 April

John Warren Dease, Chief Trader

Francis Heron, Chief Trader

Mr. Ermatinger

Francis Heron, Chief Trader

Archibald McDonald, Chief Trader

Archibald McDonald, Chief Factor

Francis Ermatinger, Chief Trader

Peter Skene Ogden, Chief Factor

Alexander Caufield Anderson, Chief Trader

A.E. Pelly, Chief Trader

Angus McDonald, Clerk

J.W. McKay, Chief Trader










Angus McDonald, Chief Trader

George Blenkinsop, Chief Trader

Herbert Margary, Clerk

James Cooke

Interpreter appointed

William Sinclair, Clerk

Joseph Hardisty, Chief Trader

J.O. Allard, App. Clerk





Francois Deschiquette, Interpreter

Roderick McLean, Post Master

John Tait, Clerk



Theodore Kruger, Post Master



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Living Landscapes