Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fort Nisqually: many tiny stories from multiple resources

I am amazed at how many stories I have about Fort Nisqually, even though Anderson was only there for one year and a half!
Mind you, much of this information comes from my research for the next book -- William Fraser Tolmie and Fort Nisqually will play an important part in that story!
The information also comes from my being a member of the very active Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees page on Facebook, where we share a ton of information!

First, I have to tell that people on above Facebook page have informed me that the Fisgard Island [now Anderson Island]  map credited to U.S. surveyor James Tilton was not drawn by Tilton -- but by a fellow named Chapman.
Nor was the map published in 1855, which is the date it carries: it was published a few years earlier than that date.
So I am now digging through the Fort Nisqually journals and other papers that I have downloaded, to see if I can figure out and confirm that story!
And sure enough! On Monday, the 19th of April 1852, the journals record that: "J[ohn] Chapman of Steilacoom City having been engaged to survey the lands claimed by the Puget's Sound Co[mpany], he started to commence operations, accompanied by Mr. [Edward] Huggins and also Barnes, G. Dean and 6 Indians."
Saturday 24th April: "A visit from Mr. Huggins, reports about 30 miles of survey finished. Work arduous & fatiguing."
On Saturday May 1st, 1852: "The surveying party came home, their operations having been stopped today by part of the squatters settled on the lands claimed by the P.S. Co., who would not allow them to proceed any farther. The surveying would have been finished in three or four days more if not stopped, more than three parts done."
Monday 3rd: "Mr. Chapman arrived. Commenced making a plan of the portion of the Company's lands he has lately surveyed."
Wednesday 19th: "Both myself, Barnes & Fiander have been since Monday at surveying part of the Comp[an]y's claim, commenced at the corn 1 miles below Steilacoom & finishing at the point where Mr. Chapman was interrupted on Saturday, 1st May."
So Chapman did the survey of the Fort Nisqually lands in 1852.
In April 1853, a note in the Fort Nisqually journals says this: "The extent of land claimed by the Company according to the survey of Mr. Chapman is 15 miles square."
It covers most of Tacoma, in fact, though it does not include the present site of the replica Fort Nisqually in Point Defiance Park, it does extend up to the park and down to include Dupont and the old location of the first fort, directly opposite Anderson Island.
Clearly it was a big piece of farmland that all the American squatters wanted to get a piece of -- which is why the HBC men had such trouble in fighting off the squatters at Fort Nisqually.
But that is a story for the future; I am working on it now.
If you want more information on the Chapman map, read "Deconstructing Chapman," by Steve A. Anderson, Columbia Magazine, Winter 2011-12, Vol. 25, No. 4. You can't view it online unfortunately, you have to go to your library or order a copy of the magazine.

So who was James Tilton?
And why was James Tilton's name so immediately familiar to me, when I saw the map at Fort Nisqually?
James Tilton was the first Surveyor General of the new Washington Territory, from August 1, 1854 to July 17, 1861: I must have run into him in my Fort Vancouver research.
He arrived in Washington Territory, at Olympia probably, in the spring of 1853, with his wife, children and other family members -- and a young mulatto slave boy named Charles Mitchell, supposedly a gift.
Now, here's where James Tilton's story gets really interesting!
On September 24, 1860, the young slave, Charles Mitchell, was smuggled aboard the steamship apparently by the ship's cook, James Allen, and stowed away.
His hiding place was discovered by the ship's captain, who intended to return him to his Washington State master: he locked the boy in his cabin before sailing into Victoria's harbour on the 25th of the month.
Apparently the blacks who lived in Victoria got wind of Charles Mitchell's imprisonment on the steamship, and through legal means got a writ of habeas corpus that forced the captain to release the boy into British custody.
The captain objected for a minute or two, but allowed the boy to be removed. The next day, Chief Justice Cameron ruled that because Charles Mitchell had stepped onto British soil, he was free.

You've probably heard this story: it just hit the newspapers here in Victoria and in Seattle area.
You can see how recently this story broke by googling, "Charles Mitchell, slave."

But the Charles Mitchell story happened in 1860: Now we are going back in time -- to sometime before 1821!

Who was the first fur trader who ventured through the area where Fort Nisqually later stood?
It is generally stated that John Work and Archibald McDonald were the persons who founded Fort Nisqually.
But who was the first fur trader to visit the site of future Fort Nisqually?
If you have no answer to that question, than you might be interested in this statement, written by Peter Skene Ogden to Governor Simpson in 1847:
"As I now entertain some serious thought of retiring from the fur trade .... I know it will appear egotistical of me to call your attention to my long and arduous service on the West side of the Mountains.
"....Prior to the junction of the two Companys [NWCo. & HBCo in 1821] I also explored the whole of Puget's Sound and was the first who opened the communication by the Cowlitz River to the former place & in that direction extended my travels to within hail of Fraser River (Point Roberts) but unfortunately the credit... was given to another."
Now, isn't that interesting?
Peter Skene Ogden, the fur trader who explored most of what is now the western United States, also once explored north and west from Fort Vancouver as far as the mouth of the Fraser River.
So much fur trade and exploration history must be uncovered by reading letters written many years later.

The Fort Nisqually Brigade Trail: a new brigade trail to me, and I'm the expert (well, sort of):
Brigade trails is my field of interest, but I embarrassed myself by announcing to the members of the Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees that, in 1855, clerk Angus McDonald brought out the Fort Colvile and Walla Walla brigades by pack-horse, to Fort Nisqually. Did they know?
"Well," they said, "of course we know -- that's the brigade we celebrate every year [dummy!]."

In the Fort Nisqually journals, on June 3rd, 1855, I read: "It is reported that the Colvile and Walla Walla brigades are at the mountains on their way to this place."
On June 23rd, 1855, Dugald McTavish wrote from Fort Vancouver that: "The returns of Colvile & Walla Walla will this season be taken out to Nisqually with horses and it is my intention to go over there in a few days for the purpose of meeting Mr. McDonald, who I am in hopes will reach Puget's Sound with his brigade by the 1st May."
McDonald definitely did not make Nisqually on the 1st of May -- the Fort Nisqually journals indicate that on Wednesday 17th of June: "Three Canadians from the interior arrived this evening presenting two orders for flour from Mr. [Angus] McDonald, he is expected to be here five days from hence with the Colvile Brigade."
Monday, July 2nd: "Mr. A[ngus] McDonald arrived this day with the Colvile and Walla Walla Brigades consisting altogether of about 200 pack horses."
They travelled out from the Yakima River area, through the Cascade Mountains and over Naches Pass, north of Mount Rainier -- the same difficult trail that Wilkes' Americans had traversed in 1842, and that Anderson had brought his cattle drive only a few months later.
From Fort Vancouver McTavish reported, on July 31st: "that Mr. Angus McDonald arrived at Nisqually on the 2nd Inst with the interior furs (amounting to 173 packs) in order -- he found the road from the Yakima very wet & stony. Twelve horses of the Walla Walla brigade got knocked up and were left en route but they will probably be found on the return of the party."
Although no mention of the fun the brigaders had at Fort Nisqually is made in the journals, Steve Anderson, author of Angus McDonald of the Great Divide: the Uncommon Life of a Fur Trader, 1816-1889, tells us [on page 105] that "Puppet shows, athletic feats of strength, speed and skill, as well as a great deal of betting amongst the men broke up the hard work.
"Angus enthralled everyone with his stories, while late night drunks and early morning pranks were documented by Huggins in his later years."
Finally, on Wednesday 25th of July, "Mr. McDonald with the Colvile brigades started this day with 151 pieces goods."
He arrived back at Fort Colvile "with his brigade from Nisqually on the 12th August and found everything in order."
Apparently, it was hoped that the Naches Pass Road would be a future brigade trail, saving the Fort Colvile men the difficulty of bringing out their furs to Fort Langley over the Coquihalla brigade trail, or downriver to Fort Vancouver as they had done for years.
It was not to be. 1855 was the only year that the Fort Colvile fur traders brought their furs out to Fort Nisqually.
In later years, they carried the furs out through British territory, via the Similkameen Trail to Fort Langley, making plans at the same time to build new posts in British territories north of Fort Colvile.
In 1855 the fur trade of the Columbia district, and at Fort Nisqually, was changing rapidly.
It would never again be what it used to be.

General Fort Nisqually information, in the words of Alexander Caulfield Anderson:
This is how Anderson described the workings of Fort Nisqually when he arrived there in 1840 [the following is edited for clarity]:
"Nisqually was established in 1833 by the Hudson's Bay Co. for the purposes of the fur trade. When the Puget Sound Company was organized it continued to be carried on by the Hudson's Bay post, the business of the P.S.Co. being transacted after the manner of an agency.
"At the time the chief expenses of the establishment were incurred for the P.S. Co., and corresponding charges were made against the P.S. Co by the H.B. Co..
"Large herds of cattle and extensive flocks of sheep were on the gorund when I assumed charge in October 1840, also a considerable band of horses.
"The sheep at that time were in several flocks, and the pasture pounds varied daily. The shepherds lived with their flocks in temporary huts and a moveable house on wheels. The whole were under the direction of a head shepherd -- one Mr. Lewis, an experience shepherd engaged in Scotland for the purpose.
"At certain seasons the flock of imported rams were herded at a distance with great care in order to regulate the period of breeding.the sheep on the ground at that time were, as far as I remember, all of improved breeds -- the product of ewes originally imported from California, crossed by valuable rams from England. I could not state from memory the number; there were some hundreds -- a reference to the inventory made by me in spring of 1841 and forwarded to Vancouver would enable me to do so with certainty.
"The herds of sheep were folded nightly within distinct enclosures for the purpose of manuring the ground for agricultural purposes. These pens were shifted periodically as the ground became enriched. To promote the comfort of the sheep they were washed and shorn in summer, and the wool picked and sent to Vancouver for shipment to England.

"There were at the same time large herds of cattle. I cannot speak as to the numbers save under the same conditions as before mentioned. I can state, however, that during the summer of 1841 upwards of 100 cows (I think 120) were tamed and milked for dairy purposes at the district dairy, 4 1/2 to 5 miles from the old Fort.
"Other cows were milked for home use daily at the fort. The cows at the dairy were not all milked at once, but as soon as a certain number of the young cattle had been sufficiently habituated to being handled and milked they were discharged, with their calves, and replaced by others. About 1/3 were probably at each period of the division. All the cattle, milk cows excepted, were penned at night in the same way as the sheep, partly to habituate them to being driven and herded, but chiefly to improve the light soil for agricultural purposes. Mounted herders (Indians) were employed to attend to and collect the cattle.

There were "no settlers at the time, save only the Wesleyan Mission, under Dr. Richmond, established near the present site of the Fort with the aid and concurrence of the Company."
The crops raised were "wheat, pease, oats, turnips, potatoes, colsa for sheep, in addition to the ordinary culinary vegetables -- probably some barley, but if so, not much.
There were "apple trees in growth but not yet bearing.
"The dairy was conducted by an English dairy woman, whose husband (Ancock) superintended the farming operations." It produced "butter, but not cheese, made by the Indians and other assistants."

The "Fort has been changed to its present [2nd] site, and subsequently to 1841 had been transferred to the P.S. Co." I "visited Nisqually winter 1851 [when] Dr. Tolmie was in charge. Again in January 1852, assuming charge for a few weeks during Dr. Tolmie's visit to Victoria.
"Cattle wild as compared with former years. Settlers troublesome in various ways -- squatting on lands, molesting cattle" but I "cannot speak of any particular act of aggression."
I "witnessed the altered habits of the cattle, and speak of the aggressions of squatters from what I learned generally at the time, but particulars have escaped my memory."
Anderson wrote this in 1865; here and below you can see how much the fur trade at Fort Nisqually had changed in the years after 1842, when he was stationed there.
I "paid a visit of a few days to Nisqually in the winter of 1860" when "I heard general complaints of aggressions by squatters, and formed the opinion that the P. S. Co.'s business there was in a very insecure and unprotected state. There may have been safety but there was not security."

By the way, the colsa mentioned above was also known by the name of "Rapeseed."
We now know the plant as Canola; canola is colsa which has had the harmful erucic acid bred out of it.

I have a little more on the killing of Leander Wallace, too, from "History of Puget Sound and the Northwest Coast," by W.F. Tolmie [Mss. 557, Vol.1, File 11, BCA]
I have added a little punctuation so the story is easier to follow.
For further information on the killing of Wallace, go to my Sunday March 31, 2013 post, titled: "More stories about Fort Nisqually and Anderson Island."

"In May or June 1849 some thirty armed Indians chiefly Snoqualimi [sic] came to Fort Nisqually, ostensibly to see their relative. At this time a large number of other Indians engaged in washing and shearing sheep were encamped around the post. They, at the midday our seeing the armed Indians approaching, rushed tumultuously into the fort with their women and children, making a great din.

"The chief of the Snoqualimi, Pattakynum, was admitted into the Fort, the gate closed, and a whiteman with an Indian labourer placed to watch it -- this Indian foolishly fired his gun into the air. This caused the Snoqualimi to rush out of the deserted lodge of the working Indians, where they had been smoking. One of them fired between the pickets into the fort yard wounding an Indian lad in the shoulder, another mortally wounding a young American named Wallace who had arrived for the purpose of trade. He [Wallace], with a companion whose shoulder (just below the insertion of the deltoid muscle) was glanced and bruised by a ball, was standing watching the hubbub outside quite unapprehensive of danger.

"The white gatekeeper (Thibeult, a French Canadian) ran to the bastion, fired amongst the retreating Indians and killed one. Just before the firing began I, who had been out and in previously, was engaged in a daily visit to an invalid Hudson's Bay officer living at Nisqually. I rushed outside to see poor Wallace breathe his last and helped to carry his remains into the Fort.

"The hostiles, as I was afterwards informed, levelled [their guns] at me -- they were by this time under cover, but a Sinhomish amongst them protested, saying "harm enough had been done for one day."

"When some time after, the Oregon Indian superintendent, Quinn Thornton came to Nisqually, he by my counsel offered a large reward in blankets to such Indians as would bring for trial the six named men who were observed by native spectators to discharge their guns outside Fort Nisqually gate. I knew who the real culprits were, but in order that their suspicions might not be aroused, six men were named.

"In course of the summer months, in August or September, three or four companies of U.S. soldiers under Captain (now General) B. F. Hill of the Artillery, were stationed at Steilacoom some six miles north of Nisqually. Indians not friendly to the Snoqualimi managed in course of the autumn to get the six named men to come to Fort Steilacoom, where they were at once disarmed and imprisoned by the military. At a special Circuit Court held at Steilacoom somewhat later -- Cussass who had shot Wallace, and Qullawowt, who had given the Indian lad a wound from which he soon died, were condemned and hung, before the jury left Steilacoom, I think. Several of the jury who dwelt at safe distance from the seaboard were urgent for having the whole six Indians condemned and hung. Others living on the coast opposed this, fearing immediate reprisals from the Snoqualimi."

And so I have given you a few more stories of Fort Nisqually, loosely strung together and not even in chronological order.
This is what writing history is all about -- you take these bits and pieces of information and put them together,  figuring out where each piece fits; sorting out dates and possible situations; and in the end fitting all the pieces into the background of the times.
This, too, a historian must research and understand.
Writing history is not a simple thing to do; any tiny story can present a complex puzzle with many important details and lots of unanswered questions that the writer part of said researcher needs to explain, as best he can.
That is what makes history so much fun -- at least it's fun if you find a story you can eventually explain in a clear and concise manner that allows others to follow it.
It's hard work finding a good story: it's also hard work taking the work that the researcher side of you has done, and "storifying" it.
The writer-side of the researcher/writer must craft a story from many random and often conflicting details, and make the story both believable and readible.

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