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Oregon in the early 19th century


Hudson’s Bay Company
Hudson’s Bay Company

The terms of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, required that each signatory power restore all places taken during the hostilities to their former owners. The United States held that Astoria was such a place and, furthermore, that it had claims to the Oregon country because Robert Gray had discovered its principal river, Lewis and Clark had explored it, and Astor had settled it. The British returned Astoria to American possession. In 1818 both nations signed a treaty of joint occupation, agreeing that for a period of ten years, their subjects and citizens could freely occupy the territory for purposes of trade. This joint occupation agreement was renewed in 1827 for an indefinite length of time and remained in effect until 1846. At that time the term “Oregon country” referred to a vast area extending from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean and from the present border between California and Oregon to Russian Alaska.

In spite of its restoration to the United States, Astoria, renamed Fort George, remained in the hands of the North West Company. In 1821 this company was consolidated with its rival, the Hudson’s Bay Company. Three years later, John McLoughlin, the company’s chief factor, or chief regional administrator, took charge of the Oregon country and governed the company’s Columbia District. Because the British assumed that the Americans had a stronger claim for the lands south of the Columbia River, Fort George was abandoned and a new depot, Fort Vancouver, was built on the northern bank of the river about 160 km (100 mi) inland. This depot served as an administrative capital for a tremendous trapping and trading enterprise. Hudson’s Bay trappers explored southern Oregon as well as northern California, Nevada, and Utah in search of furs.

Each summer they returned to the fort, where the pelts were packed for shipment to Britain on the annual supply ship. The fort was the central European trading post in the great wilderness. Fort Vancouver also supported a substantial agricultural business, sending food staples to Russians in Alaska. Herds of cattle and sheep grazed in neighboring meadows, and vegetables, wheat, and fruits were grown in its gardens and orchards. McLoughlin ruled over Fort Vancouver and the region. The Hudson’s Bay Company policies actively deterred competitors from establishing themselves in the region and did not encourage American settlement. Nonetheless, settlers and traders alike stopped at the fort to buy provisions and to seek advice. McLoughlin maintained civil relations with Native Americans in the area, and his fort provided evidence of the agricultural opportunities in the region. These issues actually aided settlement, despite the company’s policies. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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