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Lewis and Clark


President Thomas Jefferson
President Thomas Jefferson

Encouraged by Lewis and Clark’s reports on the Pacific Northwest, fur traders began to take interest in the region. John Jacob Astor, founder of the Pacific Fur Company, was the first American to establish a settlement in the area. His men built a trading post, Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811. In 1812 the Pacific Fur Company established forts in Okanogan and in Spokane. The Pacific Fur Company quickly became a strong competitor of the British North West Company, which had established a fort in British Columbia in 1807. Fur traders discovered that the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest were more self-reliant than those living on the East Coast. This independence placed the Native Americans in a better strategic position to resist the demands of European traders.

At the outbreak of the War of 1812 (1812-1815), between the British and the Americans, traders of the Pacific Fur Company felt threatened by their British counterparts. Rather than attempt to save their forts, Astor’s traders decided to leave the posts and sold their assets to the British North West Company in 1813. The North West Company competed against the Hudson’s Bay Company, another British trading company. In 1821 under the orders of the British government, the two companies merged under the Hudson’s Bay Company. In Washington, the Hudson’s Bay Company initially concentrated on the fur trade, but later exported salmon and timber. The company’s agent, John McLoughlin, a physician, arrived on the banks of the Columbia in 1824 and continued to be the chief factor of the Columbia district for the Hudson’s Bay Company for the next two decades.

In 1825 McLoughlin moved his headquarters from Astoria, which the British then called Fort George, to Fort Vancouver, on the north bank of the Columbia River in present-day Washington. Because the majority of Britain’s exploration had taken place to the north of the Columbia, McLoughlin believed that Britain’s claim to the area south of the Columbia River was weak, and he wanted the move to reinforce British control of the land north of the river. "Washington" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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