Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forts and Gold

For today's entry I am showing you two buildings on Commercial Drive and referring to the book, The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver.

This is the Highland apartment building which was built in 1911 and is on the corner of East 4th Avenue and Commercial Drive.

It was on November 19, 1858 when James Douglas proclaimed in Fort Langley, the provisional capital, the mainland British Columbia was a Crown colony of Britain. Fort Langley was remote, muddy outpost that existed at the farthest fringes of the Hudson's Bay Company's continent spanning fur trade empire.

 This was a bold move by the governor of the colony of Vancouver Island. Without the permission of the government in London, Douglas had unilaterally annexed the territory that would welcome BC.

It was in a drenching, bone-chilling rain - something we Vancouverites are used to - that Douglas had gathered numerous officials: the admiral who was commanding the Royal Navy's Pacific squadron that was stationed at Esquimalt; David Cameron, the chief justice of Vancouver Island and Matthew Baillie Begbie, the new judge of BC.

On this day Douglas revoked the HBC's powers over its old fur trading territory and proclaimed the British Columbia Act dissolving New Caledonia and creating a new colony. It indemnified officers of the government from any irregularities during this procedure and proclaimed British law to be in force.

This move was not a rash move by the governor. Gold had been found up the Fraser River and the stories of possible wealth were already circulating around San Francisco. Soon the area would be flooded with prospectors trying to strike it rich.
It had only been 31 years since a party of HBC fur traders had made their way up the Fraser River. Chief Factor James McMillan chose a site that was strategically positioned to take advantage of the ancient portage between the Salmon and the Nicomekl River which provided another access route at Boundary bay.
On July 24, 1827 the party arrived in a small HBC schooner called Cadboro - a ship that was smaller than many Native canoes - and rapidly began clearing the site. Haste was needed to erect defensive palisaded because a Kwantlen chief had told them that if they tried to settle there they would be annihilated.

In 1839 the fort was relocated 5 kilometres upstream to take advantage of more suitable farmland. That site burned down a year later and it was relocated again to where it sits now.

This cute little pink building was built in 1925.

Douglas had plans drawn up in 1858 for a town named Derby which was adjacent to Fort Langley. This was to be the capital of BC but in 1959 the commander of the Royal Engineers, Richard Moody, deemed the town to be militarily indefensible. So Douglas chose New Westminster to be the capital instead.

But Fort Langley continued to play a key role as a provisioning post during the early years of the gold rush. It was increasingly overshadowed though by New Westminster and the growing city of Vancouver. The fort ceased operation in 1886 and fell into ruin. Fortunately in 1955 the fort was declared a national historic site and some of the buildings were reconstructed. Fort Langley and the surrounding village is now a tourist site with a collection of historic structures, antique shops and sidewalk cafes.
Friday I want to look at the Fraser River Gold Rush since it was fundamental in helping to form BC and Vancouver.

Until then I hope you find the beauty around you.

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