Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hudson's Bay Company fort on our doorstep

Photos: Left, the door in the palisade wall. The picture on the right was taken through the small hole that can be seen in the left  picture.

Each spring, I like to visit Fort Langley. It reminds me of various aspects of the nation's history.

The old town still has the historic railroad station, and of course, the fort itself, which overlooks the Fraser river.

Before the railroad, the river was the trade route. The wooden palisade surrounds what was a small village back in the day. There's a kitchen garden, a smithy, the Factor's house and simpler homes of those lesser mortals, the traders.

The old tools are still in evidence, as are the trade goods. Barrels of dried fish and cranberries, and white woolen Hudson's Bay blankets with their distinctive red, green and yellow stripes and the matching threads that indicate the weight of the wool.

The fur press is a simple device. A wooden lever turns a screw that was used to squash the beaver furs into flat bales that could be packed easily and wouldn't take too much space on the ships that carried them back to Europe, where they were made into fashionable felt hats for wealthy men.

The Bay is no longer a Canadian company, though it was once the oldest in the country, and predated the nation by a couple of hundred years. It came into existence over 300 years ago when the British government granted it a charter with fur trading rights over all the land drained by the rivers that flowed into Hudson's Bay.

After Confederation, the new nation bought a huge tract of land from the Company.

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