Fort Vancouver, End of the Oregon Trail
In all of the Pacific Northwest, I can not think of a single site that has a more distinguished and important role in history then Fort Vancouver, located in what is now Vancouver, Washington. It can be argued that without Fort Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest likely would not be what it is today.
The original fort was built in the winter of 1824-25. Dr. John McLoughlin was the Fort’s Chief Factor. The Fort traded goods to the Native Americans for furs. It also employed a rather extensive army of trappers and traders who fanned out across the entire Pacific Northwest. When the first wagon trains came across the Oregon Trail, Dr. McLoughlin often provided the starving emigrants food and the basics to get a homestead started. Of course this was against his superior’s wishes.
The Fort was eventually taken over completely by the US Army when Oregon became an United States Territory. The original one was inexplicably burned down, along with all the fields and orchards that surrounded it. But the US Army did build two more parts of the fort, historic Officer’s Row, a collection of historic vintage houses, and the Barracks buildings, some of which are reported to be haunted.
The park still includes this original resident of Fort Vancouver, the oldest Apple Tree in the territory. It was planted somewhere between 1826 and 1830, with 1826 being the more likely date. This tree is considered to be the ancestor of Washington’s well known apple industry.
In this picture you can see the rebuilt Fort along with Pearson Airfield on the right. The airfield was first used in 1905 as part of a stunt during the Lewis and Clark Exposition, that set a record for endurance, and was also the first airborne mail delivery. The runways are still public, but the Pearson Air Museum occupies the historic hangers.
These buildings are an example of the types of houses that the “workers” village contained. In a rather odd arrangement for the time, the common workers were not allowed to live within Fort Vancouver’s barricades. Instead they were exiled to the west plain where each family had a small house and a small plot of land for gardening or raising animals.