Monday, March 25, 2013

Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Fort Nisqually

I was invited down to Anderson Island, the bottom island in Puget Sound, to give a talk in front of the Anderson Island Historical Society.
As you may or may not know, this island sits west of Fort Nisqually, and was named for Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
Of course I combined the trip with a side-trip to the reconstructed Fort Nisqually: my first visit there and hopefully, not my last.
The reconstructed fort sits far north of its old location opposite Anderson Island, and is now located in Point Defiance Park, Tacoma.

Nor will it be my last visit to Anderson Island; we were treated very well there (which I will say in the next paragraph when I tell you what I said there).
But I will have to tell you now what I meant by "the parking spot of shame."

We followed the instructions given us and drove straight through Steilacoom on a road that led us straight to Union Avenue and the Anderson Island ferry dock.
We had our tickets, so when we saw the ferry line ups up the hill from where we were, we took a quick U-turn and headed up the hill.
My sister was driving. She dodged into the end of the first line of stopped cars.
This was a mistake!
The line started off almost immediately, and we passed cars that were sitting in a second line and realized that we had, inadvertently, "jumped" the line.
The ferry staff knew it too, and they pulled us over and made us wait next to the dock, while everyone loaded onto the ferry.
We were the last car allowed on the ferry, and as we drove on, the car deck employees were having some trouble holding their laughter.
We were the last off the ferry, too.

On Saturday, the Anderson Island resident invited us to a lunch at the Chicken Coop, where I had three reserved spots at three different tables.
I ate my lunch at one table, and then was moved to another where I talked to a batch of Anderson Island Historical Society members and executives.
At the third table I talked to writers and more executives -- it was a great way to talk to everyone and to meet everyone and to ask a lot of questions and get a few questions answered.
Of course this is when I heard the many stories of line-jumping on the ferry dock -- we were certainly not the only persons who accidentally (or intentionally) jumped the line!

Anyway, my talk now follows.
It was written to be 3/4 long, and to do this I had to leave many stories out.
Those stories will appear in the next post, in a week or so.


I began with -- Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight.
We (my sister and I) have been treated very well here -- for the most part.
We did, inadvertently, jump the ferry line on our way onto the island, and spent a little time in the "parking spot of shame." [everyone laughed, even if they hadn't heard the story].

I am now going to tell you about my great grandfather, Alexander Caulfield Anderson.
He was a Hudson's Bay Company fur trader and explorer. Today, in British Columbia at least, he is mostly remembered for the four explorations he made across the mountains that separated the fort at Kamloops, from Fort Langley on the lower Fraser River.

However, those explorations took place in 1846 and 1847 -- five years or more after he left the area around Anderson Island.
And while that is British Columbia's history, what happened the year following those explorations is your American history. It is all connected with what happened at Fort Nisqually, when A. C. Anderson was here in 1840 and 1841.

So let me tell you Anderson's story.
I will tell you first a little about his childhood in India and London, and how he came to join the fur trade in 1831.
I'll talk about what happened whilst he was in charge of Fort Nisqually ten years later, and how this island got to be named for him.

Alexander Anderson was born in India, on March 10, 1814. His father, Robert Anderson, had made a mess of his military career in Australia and Tasmania, and rebuilt his life in British India as an indigo planter. By 1810 he was part owner of an indigo plantation near Ruttanpur, north of Calcutta -- the plantation was named Kishinaghaur.
Robert's partner's name was Alexander Gordon Caulfield -- and that is how Robert's third son came to be named Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

Robert [Alexander's father] was the seventh child of a commoner, a tenant-farmer named James Anderson, and his noble wife, Margaret Seton of Mounie Castle, Aberdeenshire.
How James managed to entice this foolish woman, who came from a wealthy family, to marry him I do not know. But after their marriage, James selfishly forced Margaret to abandon her inheritance and home, and to bring up his children in brutal poverty near Edinburgh.
Margaret Anderson died after giving birth to numerous children, all of whom then grew up in the indifferent care of their father, James.

Like father, like son, and Robert [A.C. Anderson's father] was also a man who was difficult to get along with. After making a small fortune in the indigo business at Kishinaghaur, Robert argued with his partner and returned to England with his wife and three sons -- a fairly wealthy man.

I then showed a picture of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's mother (which I don't have permission to post here), and said: Her maiden name was Eliza Charlotte Simpson, and she was the daughter of a high ranking East India Company official. Her father managed the Salsette Mint, near Bombay, and probably minted the gold coin that the East India Company used in India.

Robert and Eliza Anderson came to England from India with their three sons in 1817, and set up their family home in West Ham, an area in East London then inhabited by the gentry. It was still quite a rural community at that time.
Alexander was only three years old when he arrived in London, and so he grew up in West Ham, and attended services at the West Ham Church. Some of his brothers and sisters, who did not survive their childhood, are buried there.

Just north of West Ham, on Broadway, stood Rokeby House College, where Alexander and his two older brothers, Henry, and James, were sent to be schooled.
The boys received what they then called "a liberal education" -- an education that meant they studied culture and read books written by intellectuals, old and new.
Their father's receipt for the last year of the children's schooling, which is in the British Columbia archives, shows that the three boys also took elocution and dancing lessons. They were being trained to be gentlemen, not fur traders.

But wealth that is easily earned is often easily lost, and in London Robert Anderson continued to pursue business interests of his own. He invested much of his fortune in a rope manufacturing company owned, apparently, by his brother, and proceeded to lose his money.
About 1821 -- only 4 years after he had returned to England -- a retired Army officer who had known him in Australia met Robert on the London streets, and wrote of their meeting to a common friend:
"I conclude you have not forgotten Robert Anderson that was at Norfolk Island and went from thence to India.... He made a handsome fortune, say a capital to produce six or seven hundred a year from trading in Indigo. With this property he returned to England & not being satisfied he entered partnerships with a ropemaker who soon failed, whereby he lost pretty much [all his fortune] and he is now drudging along in that line with scarcely business enough to keep his wife & family, consisting of five or six children. I see him frequently & he inquires after you."

So, as a direct result of his father's gradual (or sudden) impoverishment, young Alexander was forced to abandon his schooling and take a job. This did not happen immediately, but he must have been only thirteen or fourteen years old when he began to clerk at the Leadenhall Street offices of Redman & Co., who, I believe, traded English goods in China, for Oriental teas and silks.
Alexander clerked there for some two and a half years, by which time he was old enough to make a decision on his future.
Harry, the eldest boy, entered the maritime section of the East India Company and worked on one of their ships, the Eden. Eventually he would captain his own vessel.
Several of Alexander's cousins chose careers in the British Army or the Army of the Honorable East India Company. One became famous. A second was assassinated in India and the third drowned off South Africa.
Alexander and his older brother, James, chose the fur trade -- a fairly unusual choice for gentlemen like them, but a choice made because their uncle, Alexander Seton, was heavily involved in business with a prominent member of the Board of Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Alexander himself noted that he was drawn to the fur trade because of the rousing stories of American writer James Fennimore Cooper -- who wrote, among other books, The Last of the Mohicans.

So in 1831, Alexander came west for adventure. He was sixteen or seventeen years old when he set out on his life's journey, travelling by ship to Montreal.
He spent a long and boring eight months at Lachine, nine miles west of the city, where he apprenticed under the auspices of the elderly fur trader, James Keith -- a humourless man who an earlier apprentice had described as resembling a "dried spider."

In spring of 1832, Alexander boarded the brigade boats in Lachine and began his six-months long journey across the continent to Fort Vancouver [Vancouver, WA], via York Factory on Hudson Bay.
He arrived at Fort Vancouver in November 1831. In a letter to his uncle, he described his journey west, and the fort itself:
"I arrived here on the 4th November, after a voyage from York Factory of 3 1/2 months -- partly on horseback -- in boats & in canoe...
"This fort is finely situated on the Columbia River, and the soil is very fertile... The River is huge & navigable for 100 miles from its mouth. Salmon are in immense quantity as well as the moose. I have killed only one Buffalo & one deer since I have been in this country and a great many ducks, geese, partridges, etc."

From Fort Vancouver, Anderson was sent north to Fort McLoughlin, on the northwest coast of today's British Columbia [Bella Bella, BC]. He went on to Stikine River, in Alaska, and Fort Simpson, just south of the Alaska Panhandle. In 1835 he ended up with Chief Factor Peter Skene Ogden, at Fort St. James and Fraser's Lake, in New Caledonia.

Peter Skene Ogden was a very easy man to work for; tolerant, joking, friendly, trusting, and a very good fur trader. It was a perfect relationship, because Ogden both mentored his clerk, Anderson, and allowed him his freedom -- but in doing so, he set him up for Anderson's future failure at Fort Nisqually.
I don't have a lot of information about Anderson's five years at Fraser's Lake, but he had his share of adventures there. In 1837 he married, and his wife was Betsy Birnie, daughter of the fur trader James Birnie, founder-to-be of the Washington state town of Cathlamet, on the Columbia River west of Fort Vancouver.

Anderson wrote: "In the spring of 1840... I accompanied the outgoing brigade commanded by Mr. [Peter Skene] Ogden to Fort Vancouver, and in the autumn of that year was appointed to the charge of Fort Nisqually, on Puget Sound."

I then showed a picture of Chief Factor John McLoughlin, the man in charge of the entire Columbia district, and Alexander Anderson's superior at the Cowlitz Farm (where he spent a few months) and at Fort Nisqually.
Unlike Peter Skene Ogden, who micromanaged nothing, McLoughlin controlled all aspects of his fur trade. In later years, Anderson politely described McLoughlin as a "man of great force of character, somewhat domineering and of strong opinions."
McLoughlin's letters of instruction were numerous and always terse. For example, this is one note he wrote to Anderson at Fort Nisqually:
"Your ewes you will not allow any of the rams at your place get at them. Please send me an account of the number of sheep at Nisqually and if it does not cause too much delay as diligence ought to be used to send Mr. Arthur across I wish you would count the cattle and send the number at least you can send the number in the books, and let me know if the quantity of what [is] in the ground and how many ploughs you have fit for use."
Whatever McLoughlin ordered done was done, without question, and no deviation from his instructions was allowed, unless there was a very good reason for it.
Of course, Anderson, who had matured in the relaxed and tolerant atmosphere of the New Caledonia fur trade under Peter Skene Ogden, ran into trouble with Chief Factor McLoughlin.
He received one or two dozen of McLoughlin's letters before he snapped, and wrote an angry response.

The letter Anderson wrote no longer exists!
But Chief Trader James Douglas read it, and rebuked Anderson for his hot-tempered response.
Douglas wrote: "I have read your letter to Dr. McLoughlin and do not approve of the warm expostulatory style, which I regret is neither proper nor respectful.
"It was never, my dear Sir, Dr. McLoughlin's intention to question the propriety of your general conduct -- he merely inquired as a matter of justice equally to himself and to you, why certain specific orders had not been followed to the letter, and I certainly think you would have acted a much wiser part, had your reply to a requisition so simple, been given in a more courteous way...
"We hear of trifling deviations from orders, now there can be no such things as a trifling deviation, for whether in trivialities or in grave matters, the principle in question is, in both bases, equally endangered and equally outraged...."

And so Anderson learned, the hard way, to obey all orders given to him, and think his time at Fort Nisqually was a difficult time for him.
I believe that when young Anderson arrived in the Columbia district he was pretty cocky; a confident young man with a very high opinion of himself.
He was about twenty seven years old -- in the youthful prime of his life and still young enough to imagine he would accomplish great things.
But life in the fur trade under Chief Factor John McLoughlin knocked that cockiness out of him, and he was a different man in later years.

So Anderson remained, unhappily, in charge of Fort Nisqually for the winter, and in the early spring, James Douglas addressed a second letter of advice, or of complaint, to him.
Douglas said: "I am informed that it has been said within the circle of Batchelor's Hall that you are unpopular with the Indians of Nisqually. Without reference to the truth of this rumour I wish to caution you against the exercise of any considerable severity towards the Natives.
"In assuming a new charge it has always been my study to act with the utmost circumspection, until I became fairly established in the opinion of the Indians.
"Then but never sooner, I would begin to lecture and reform abuses, having recourse, if necessary to the infliction of moderate punishment, but I always did so with apparent reluctance....."

James Douglas had hardly been successful in his own negotiations with the Natives while he was in New Caledonia.
In addition to this, Douglas had been situated at Fort Vancouver for many years now, and was probably unaware of what had been happening in distant New Caledonia, under Peter Skene Ogden.
Ogden, and the fur traders who worked under him, had forcibly shut down the old "debt system" which had existed in New Caledonia.
Under that system, the Natives had received guns and ammunition every fall, which they paid for in the spring when they brought in their furs.
But many Natives never brought in furs to pay down their debts, and so the fur traders forced the hunters to trade furs for guns and traps in the fall, and to make payment on their old debts every spring.

Of course, the Natives objected.
Anderson described the Dakelh at Fraser's Lake as "a peaceful race, yet ... subject to violent though transitory outbursts of passion." Probably he witnessed a few violent outbursts of anger over the four years it took to make such a major change to the fur trade.
The Dakehl hunters who traded at the Fraser's Lake post, and the T'silhquot'in that lived to the south, had earned a reputation for being difficult.
At this time, the T'silhquot'in, especially, caused so much trouble that Ogden ordered the temporary closure of the post that served them.

But that was in New Caledonia. Here in the Columbia district, and at Fort Nisqually, that debt system had never existed.
There was no need to be forceful with the Natives -- but I think that Anderson had to learn that, and it was a difficult transition for him to make.
He had arrived at Fort Nisqually when the man in charge [William Kittson] was too sick to train him.
He was an absolute stranger in this part of the world, and to these Natives, who were quite different from those in the north.
Yes, he made some errors. Many errors, in fact.

But Anderson was stuck at the first of the two Fort Nisquallys -- a place that has been described by people who knew its history well, as the "armpit" of the fur trade. No fur trader yet had advanced his career at this post.
Anderson must have considered the possibility that his fur trade career would take the same downhill tracks as others' had done, at this miserable and rotting fort.
But he continued his work at Nisqually.
And because he stayed at old Fort Nisqually, he became a part of a very important piece of history.

On May 11th, 1841, Alexander Anderson reported to the governor of the Company that "Nisqually Bay was enlivened by the arrival of the Vincennes and Porpoise, two of the vessels attached to the United States Exploring Expedition, under Lieutenant Charles Wilkes.
Their story is told in the book, Sea of Glory, by Nathaniel Philbrick [NY: Viking, 2003], and the red-coat that Wilkes describes is Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

In another book, titled Puget's Sound, author Murray Morgan describes the first meeting of Lieutenant Wilkes, leader of the expedition, and Alexander Anderson -- as you know, at this time Oregon Territory was jointly occupied by the British fur traders and the Americans, though there were few Americans here yet.

Morgan wrote: "For the first time, British and American officials faced each other on the water their countries coveted. Alexander Canfield Anderson, the slight, thoughtful chief trader at Nisqually, and Henry McNeill, the burly, short-tempered captain of the Beaver, introduced themselves to Wilkes. They promised the Americans "all the assistance in their power" or, Wilkes added skeptically in his journal, "at least that was their offer. A few days will show the extent of it."

You will notice that the above author incorrectly listed Anderson's name. Still, Morgan's research was good -- on his Donation Land Claim papers, taken out in the early 1850's, Anderson was listed as "Alexander Canfield Anderson."

According to one of Wilkes' expeditioners, the Fort Nisqually stockade was oblong-shaped 200 x 250 feet, of "upright posts eight to ten feet high, at each corner a Sentry Box or house large enough to hold fifteen or twenty persons, perforated with holes of sufficient size to admit the muzzle of a musket."
A second crewmember reported that: "the site was never chosen by an Engineer or wasn't calculated to stand a siege, as its inmates are compelled to go nearly a mile to get their water..." He noted, too, that the Stockade "was falling to decay and they are about to build another in a better site," further north and closer to the farm and dairy.
One of Wilkes' men also described Anderson at work, trading for furs:
"I found Mr. Anderson busily employed in trading for a few skins just brought in by the natives; though the value of the whole could have been only 10 or 15 dollars, much time was occupied and many pipes smoked before the bargain was concluded. I was informed that furs of all kinds were every year becoming more scarce and that the prices were also slightly increasing."


So, the hundreds of members of the United States Exploring Expedition arrived at run-down Fort Nisqually in May, 1841. They built a log house they called the "observatory" on a hill near the fort, and stored their instruments there.
In short order Lieutenant Wilkes organized surveying parties. The ships' boats set off to explore and survey the coastline, and in their coastal charting they named many of these islands and straits for the American sailors and scientists on the expedition.
Others they named for the fur traders at Fort Nisqually. McNeil Island was named for William Henry McNeill, Captain of the Beaver, while Anderson Island was named for Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

Did Anderson have any idea the island was named for him? I don't think he did.
I am not even aware that Anderson set foot on Anderson Island.
He never wrote about it and never included on any of his maps -- not even the 1858 Guide to the Goldfields.
I'm not sure the other fur traders ventured over to Anderson Island either; but I do know that when the fort was being constructed in the early 1830's, that they built their chimneys from clay that was obtained from the island.

Anyway, in May 1841, the first group of Americans had taken off in  their boats to chart the islands.
Two other groups would borrow horses from the Natives and explore the interior of the then Oregon Territory.
Wilkes himself took the easier of two explorations; he headed south to Fort Vancouver, where he met Chief Factor McLoughlin, and the governor of the Company who had just arrived there.
He also visited the Willamette Valley, where the few Americans who had already come west to Oregon had settled. The valley impressed him. The Americans did not.
He travelled to the mouth of the Columbia River and saw the waves that blocked its entrance. He realized then that the United States needed to claim Puget Sound as theirs, for its excellent navigation and safe waters.

The second exploring party arranged for horses and guides so they could cross the range of mountains east of Fort Nisqually (by Natches Pass) on their way to Yakima River and Fort Colvile.
By May 18th they were finally ready to hit the road -- history says they were the first white men to go over the pass, although their French-Canadian guide had probably been there before them.
Certainly they were the first Americans to travel this dreadful route to the interior, and they had a tough time. One expeditioner noted that: "A sailor on shore, is as a Fish out of Water."

While the Americans were away from Fort Nisqually on their various perambulations through the country, one of the American scientists on the ships described the Meteor shower that occurred above Puget Sound, on May 31st, 1841:
"At ten minutes past 8 o'clock pm, a meteor of immense magnitude and brilliancy shot across the havens in a north-west direction, illuminating the heavens to such an extent that there was a resemblance to a sheet of fire, till it nearly reached the horizon, when it exploded, sending off myriads of coruscations in every direction.
"When it first commenced its flight, it was exceedingly slow in its descent, but as it increased its distance towards the horizon, it increased its velocity considerably, until it burst. Many old seamen on board never witnessed a meteor half so large, nor one whose light remained so long visible. From the time it was first seen until it entirely disappeared, was one hour and twenty five minutes."

At the end of June, Lieutenant Wilkes and his men returned to Fort Nisqually. On July 5th, the American sailors celebrated the Fourth of July.
First they obtained an ox from Fort Nisqually, and barbecued it all night on a spit in the meadow where they planned to have their party.
Early the next morning, they fired their brass howitzers twenty six times -- one time for each state of the Union.
"The reports of the guns not only astonished the natives," one of the expeditioners remembered, "but waked up the red-coats in the fort, who came running up to the observatory with the Indians, nearly out of breath, to enquire the cause of the racket.
"We pointed to our country's flag, which was so proudly waving in the breeze over the observatory.
"They then called us a crew of crazy Americans."

At nine o'clock or so the American sailors, dressed in their whites, marched toward the old fort with fife and drum in lead, and gave the British fur traders a loud three cheers. The Brits cheered back, and the sailors were quite amused that there were only three or four men inside the fort to return their cheer.

They marched to the picnic ground [American Plains] near the missionary station, where everything was ready for their celebration.
The sailors raced across the prairie on horses borrowed from the Indians; others played football or cornerball and some danced on a door to the music of the fiddle. The Nisqually Natives, apparently confounded by the music that came from this tiny box with strings, examined the instrument carefully to figure out how it could make such a racket.
Speechmaking began in the early afternoon, when the sergeant of marines read the Declaration of Independence out loud.
Dinner was finally piped in at four, and Wilkes said: "All the officers present dined with me -- Mr. Anderson, Capt. McNeill & Dr. Richmond, Missionary. All seemed to enjoy themselves and I gave them as good chow as the Oregon Territory afforded."

Less than a week after that feast, Alexander Anderson accompanied Wilkes on a visit to the Shutes River, intending, Wilkes said, "to visit the Bute Prairies, for the purpose of examining them."
The Bute Prairies is now the Mounds Prairie -- or Mima Mounds, near Olympia.
They sent horses ahead to meet them at the bottom of the Sound, and took to the boats to row to the mouth of Deschutes Creek, at the bottom of West Bay.
"An early start on the 10th of June brought us to the falls by 11 o'clock," Wilkes reported. "The weather had become disagreeable with rain showers... This Arm is about 9 miles deep and the Shutes River falls with its head down a fall of some 65 feet in height. It is here about 10 feet wide and 2 feet deep, it forms a basin of 50 feet diameter at its foot from which the land rises and makes a cool pleasant retreat in summer."

Anderson and Wilkes continued on to the prairie with two men with shovels and pickaxes.
 "The path is an Indian trail & everywhere overgrown with alders &c from 12 to 15 feet high. Pitched our tents & made fires & then chose the Butes which we desired to open, 3 of which were dug into..."
Both Anderson and Wilkes were curious about these mounds, and tried to determine whether or not they were burial sites. As we know now, they are not [although no one really seems to know how these seven-foot tall mounds occurred].
"No kinds of articles, bones, or anything was found in them," Wilkes reported.
"The Indians have no tradition respecting them whatever..... Having finished our examination, I determined to return to my part at the falls, and accordingly parted with my friend, Mr. A., who intended to return to Fort Nisqually," with his employees.

But back at Fort Nisqually, trouble was brewing for Anderson.
At this time, Fort Nisqually was very cramped, with many farm and fur trade buildings crowded inside the palisades of the fort.
Both Anderson and Captain William Henry McNeill, and their families, lived in the same house -- at least when McNeill was on shore from his ship, the Beaver.
It can't have been pleasant, especially when it appears that the two men did not get along well.
The Captain was a burly man with a fierce temper -- a carrier of grudges, who reported on Anderson behind his back to Chief Factor John McLoughlin.

On June 5th, 1841, McNeill wrote that: "Very little fur makes its appearance at this place however I have seen some Beaver brought here and taken away again."
On August 4th, he reported: "On the 2nd ulto Mr. Anderson and Andrew [sic] St. Martin had a quarrel together. I did not ascertain at the time the real cause of the dispute but have since learned that it was about some order that st. Martin did not execute cheerfully or with dispatch. St. Martin came to me today and said he would not remain at the place....."

In early September, when the HBC governor, George Simpson, arrived at the fort on his whirlwind tour around the world, Captain McNeill complained directly to him.
As a result, Simpson wrote a note to McLoughlin, stating: "I learn from Captain McNeill that the Indians usually frequenting this place are in a very disaffected state, arising from Mr. Anderson's want of popularity, & as his recent conduct in reference to St. Martin has been exceedingly unpopular, both Mr. Douglas and myself, likewise Captain McNeill consider it advisable that a change of management should immediately take place."

Anderson was not at the fort at the time, and he would not return home for another month. He had gone across the Natches Pass to collect a herd of cattle that were being sent from Forts Nez Perces and Colvile, to Fort Nisqually.
I "crossed the Canada Range over the North West shoulder of Mt. Rainier by the Sanahamish (now known, I think, as the Natchess Pass)," he wrote.
I "followed an Indian trail, expending a good deal of labour in parts to render it passable for our return. Met the parties conducting the cattle low down on the Yakima River (on the Swanapum branch)."
I "left the great portion of the party to herd the cattle near the verge of the mountains so as to recruit [others to help]. Returned to Nisqually with one man to procure provisions and further assistance."
We "met the party, and returned with them bringing the cattle through to the Nisqually Plains with some loss by strays on the way, some of which, if not most of them, probably afterwards reached the same locality, following on the trail of the herd."

In October 1841, Anderson arrived at Fort Nisqually to find the letter that Simpson had written one month earlier. It read:
"For a variety of reasons which it may not be necessary to detail at present, I think a change of management here is likely to be advantageous in several points of view."
I don't know if Anderson was relieved, or worried.
He writes that, "In October I had orders to proceed to Vancouver."
He packed up his belongings and spent the winter at Fort Vancouver under John McLoughlin's disapproving eye.
In the Spring he took the York Factory express across the continent to Hudson Bay, and back to the Columbia.
It must have been a tough journey -- after he left York Factory, the bitchy, gossiping Chief Factor's wife wrote this of him:
"The gentlemen here are too apt to thrash and indeed point their guns at their men and Mr. Anderson, who came across from Vancouver last spring was so detested that they confessed that if he had fallen into the river not one would have held out a stick to him."

We don't really know what happened at Fort Nisqually, but the voyageurs he travelled with did know, and I think they gave him a very hard time.
On his return to the west side of the mountains, Anderson left the express at Fort Colvile (near Spokane) and rode north and west to take charge of Fort Alexandria, New Caledonia.

I think he had some hard lessons to learn at Fort Nisqually, but he learned them.
In the following years Donald Manson, at Fort St. James, dealt regularly with argumentative employees who tried to abandon the fur trade -- and often managed to do so. Anderson never had much problem with his employees.
While he was in charge of Fort Colvile his employees remained until their contracts were finished, even though the California gold rush was in full swing at the time.
So Anderson learned a lot at Fort Nisqually, and I believe his time there was pivotal -- at least in his personal history.
What happened here might have disappointed him. He may have felt as if he was a failure.
But what happened here changed him, and taught him to be a better man.

He did his most important work after he left Fort Nisqually.
I have already told you that in 1847 and 1847, Anderson made four important explorations across the mountains that separated Kamloops from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.
What happened after he discovered his two possible brigade trails is important, and it is tied to the time when both Anderson and Wilkes were at Fort Nisqually.
On Lieutenant Wilkes' return to the east, he published a book called "Life in the Oregon Country before the Immigration."
This publication encouraged the Americans to come west, and they came by the thousands every year afterward.
In 1847 it appears they brought the measles with them.
The measles spread rapidly amongst the Natives on the Columbia River and killed thousands of them.
The hard-hit Cayuse tribe blamed the missionaries at the Waiilatpu Mission, near Walla Walla, for the many deaths in their villages.
They swarmed into the mission house and murdered the missionary, his wife and a dozen other Americans.
(For more on this massacre, see link at bottom of page. But read the rest first.)
The massacre set off a massive war that closed down the Columbia River to the fur traders and forced them to come out over one of Anderson's unfinished trails.
The first journey out was an unmitigated disaster -- the second year they tried the other trail Anderson had explored and the journey proved to be better.
By the third year Anderson's trail was proving its worth, by bringing the fur traders out to Fort Langley from Kamloops without many difficulties at all.

And so, you can see that Anderson was here, at Fort Nisqually, at a pivotal time in American history, when Lieutenant Charles Wilkes first saw the beautiful and sheltered waters of Puget Sound and decided to keep them in American hands.
Anderson left Fort Nisqually in time to mature enough to be the man the fur trader chose to explore for the new trails they thought they might need, when the boundary finally went through.
And in 1848, when the massacre of the Waiilatpu Missionaries and the resulting Indian wars closed down the Columbia River to the fur traders, Anderson's rough trails were already in place and available to them.
As miserable as he was at Fort Nisqually, he grew up enough to become the man the fur trade depended on.
And so, Fort Nisqually, and Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' visit, is a very important part of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's story.

For more on the Waillatpu Massacre, see THREE posts beginning with: "Waiilatpu Mission, Summer to Fall 1847 [July 8, 2012]
1st of Waiilatpu Mission posts


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