Today is B.C. Day and our province celebrates its 150th birthday. One of the best places to celebrate is Fort Langley, where it all began.
The Fort was busy on Saturday when we visited. The grounds were full of people dressed in costume, going about their pioneer business. We took the self-guided tour and learned a lot about B.C.'s history.
Fort Langley was founded in 1827 by the Hudson Bay Company. It was first a little further west on the Fraser River from its present site and moved to where it sits now in 1839. It was in a good location, in the middle of a large Aboriginal population and prospered first as fur a trading post.
The HBC encouraged its employees to intermarry with Aboriginal women. This helped them break into the Aboriginal trading networks and soon the HBC in Fort Langley was also trading farm products and salt fish (mostly salmon).
After the U.S. border was fixed at the 49th parallel in 1846, Fort Langley became the depot for the summer "fur brigades" which carried fur from the interior posts through the mountains to Fort Langley. They returned with winter supplies.
In 1858 gold was discovered on the Fraser River. That changed everything. Fort Langley became the starting point for the hordes of gold seekers, most from the United States. The British feared an American takeover. Thus in late 1858 (November 19th) James Douglas, a Hudson's Bay Company manager and Governor of Vancouver Island, read a proclamation of the British government.
It declared the territory a British colony. The proclamation named the new territory British Columbia and installed Douglas as the first governor on the condition he sever his fur trade connections.
Douglas recommended Fort Langley be the capital city of the territory. But the British Royal Engineers overruled him in favor of New Westminster which they thought easier to defend. Later, when Vancouver Island joined the province, Victoria became the capital.
More reading for B.C. Day - Articles about the contribution and faith of some of B.C.s fathers - by Rev. Ed. Hird (excerpted from Battle for the Soul of Canada):
- Governor James Douglas was strengthened by Scripture.
- Mapmaker David Thompson: a godly figure
- Frederick Seymour: the forgotten governor of B.C.
- B.C.'s first war and its Common Prayer warrior