Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada

History

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The Hudson's Bay Company established the original Fort Langley in 1827. It served as part of a network of fur trade forts operating in the New Caledonia and Columbia Districts (now British Columbia and northern Washington). The fort maintained a good and peaceful trade in furs, salmon, and even cranberries with the local native inhabitants. Because of its strategic position on the Fraser River the post developed into a regional depot and forwarding centre. European trade goods and supplies destined for the interior were received from the arriving steamers, re-packaged and sent inland from this fort and the District's outgoing fur, fish, and cranberry exports were prepared for overseas shipment. Langley also blazed the first useable all-Canadian route from the coast to the interior and with its sister posts helped preserve British interests west of the Rockies.

Map of BC showing fur brigade trade routes
Fur brigade routes, 1848-1849
© Parks Canada
Click on the map for a larger version (larger than 450 pixels, 77kb)

British Interests on the Pacific Slope

The first British interest was sparked by the rich supply of sea otter pelts brought back by mariners working the Pacific coast about 1793 and the abundance of fur collected by the North West Company in its exploration of the inland trade of the Pacific Slope from 1811. The Coast Salish had some control over the maritime fur trade, as it was a reciprocal relationship. Both the natives and the fur traders agreed upon price and goods traded. Each group's satisfaction ensured the continuation of the trading relationship. See the BC Archives for more information on First Nations in BC and the BC Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs Historical References : a dateline for First Nations historical-political events.

After the union of the North West and Hudson's Bay companies in 1821, a Royal Licence was issued to the reconstituted Hudson's Bay Company, giving it a monopoly on trade west of the Rockies. The Hudson's Bay Company thus became Britain's custodian of the Pacific Northwest. This monopoly, however, could not exclude American competition. The Pacific region, then known as the Columbia District or the Oregon territory, had been jointly occupied by Britain and the United States since 1818, and commerce between latitudes 40' and 54'40' was open by international treaty. Although British traders dominated the interior, furs often found their way to American ships, which controlled the coast. See the Hudson's Bay Company website in "related links" section of this website for more information about the company.