Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Fort Okanagan"

As I told you last week, I discovered a number of photographs in the British Columbia archives, mislabelled "Fort Okanagan."
I thought that I might have found Eric Sismey's lost photographs, but I have not.
The image listed under G-05822 is the negative for photo listed under A-013033 (you can view the second photo online, by the way).
The other two are more interesting, especially to American historians.

The first, I-83628, is a "group photo with the image of a flag on the site of the original Fort Okanagan" -- note Canadian spelling.
On the front of the cardboard that surrounds the photo is written: "Return this photo to T.C. Elliott, Walla Walla, WA."
On the reverse it says: "Photo at the gathering on the site of old Fort Okanagan in 1911 to commemorate the establishment of the post called Fort Okanagan established by the Astor Co. in 1811. This photo is taken of the exercises held on the site of the later Fort Okanagan, the post built by the N.W. Co. and afterward maintained till 1860 by the H.B.Co."
On bottom are notes which indicate that this photo was published in some magazine article (I assume) many years ago:
"Get flags in -- 3858 -- 3 col. -- strike pause -- Sunday-Bell."
If you want to get a copy of this photo, contact BC Archives and quote both the call number, I-83628, and catalogue number HP040762.

The second photo bears call number I-83627, Catalogue number HP040761.
This is a photo of a group of men clustered around a tall flagpole bearing a U.S. Flag.
The note reads: "Set in type, Fort Okanogan Picture No. 2.
"On the site of the old Astor post established by the Pacific Fur Co. in September 1811. The old fort called Fort Okanagan existed on this site for about 5 years and was then re-built about a mile away. This photograph represents the centennial celebration held there in 1911."
In brackets at the bottom: "Return to T.C. Elliott, Walla Walla, WA."

(If anyone who reads this happens to know when and where these photographs were published, can you please put a comment on the blog that tells other researchers where to look. Thank you.)

I know who T.C. Elliott is, but apparently the B.C. Archives does not.
T.C. Elliott is the first historian who identified which man might have been the anonymous "Beaulieu" who was Charlot Birnie's father, and Betsy Birnie's grandfather.
When I get to Fort Colvile and Spokane House area (only a few miles away) I will tell you the story of this most interesting man.
But I have to say, while we are confident we have identified who he is, there is plenty that we do not know, and we will be asking for your help in continuing this search.
We have a number of secondary sources that identify this man, but would a historian actually agree with our conclusions?
I think he would argue that we have not proven he is our ancestor.
But I think we are right in our conclusions, even if we cannot prove it.
If you are a fur trade historian with information that would help us, I would like to hear from you.
But wait for the story.....


  1. The histories associated with these old forts are very interesting. It is ealy to get lost in them :-)
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. Most of it isn't written down. My great grandmother was born at Spokane House in 1822, and though her father James Birnie kept the Spokane House journals at that time, there is no mention of her birth. The women, especially, are invisible. Thanks for commenting -- Nancy