Thomas Lowe, 1845

Early 1900's sailing ship in a bottle

A Sailing ship in a bottle, from early 1900’s

For Thomas Lowe, it is 1845 — and of course it is time for me to write a Thomas Lowe post. Yet, I discover that most of the information I have in my timeline for 1845 is from Thomas Lowe’s journal. It seems odd that so little is happening at the place at this time, that Lowe is the only source of information for me. But maybe this is the way it is, and I have to adjust my expectations — either that, or I am a little behind on my research. And that is highly likely, of course.

So let us begin with Thomas Lowe’s 1845 journal, and we will discover what else there is to be said. Of course, a great deal of the problem is that I was doing research on the HBC Brigades of the time, and all that information begins in 1846, when Anderson did his first exploration through what is now British Columbia. As a year, 1845 was a non-issue for me.

So, for Thomas Lowe and his experiences at Fort Vancouver in early 1845: On January 1 it was “Raining in the forenoon. After dinner took a ride to the Lower Plain. We had a ball in the evening upstairs, which was kept up til 2 o’clock next morning. Men comparatively quiet,” according to Lowe. The next day was beautiful, and all the gentlemen at Fort Vancouver “rode up to the sawmill, accompanied by Mrs. [George Barber] Roberts [Martha Crabbe] and Mrs. [Forbes] Barclay [Marie Pambrun]. [George Robert’s second wife would be Rose Birnie, sister of James Birnie, who came out in the Norman Morison]. “Lunched with Mr. [Daniel] Harvey there, and returned to the Fort in the evening. Had a card party in Dr. [John] McLoughlin’s room after supper. This was another Holyday.”

The holidays continued at least another day, but the weather was not good and Thomas Lowe said it was “Raining the whole day without intermission” on the 4th of the month. On the 6th, “Mr. Heath arrived in the afternoon from the Barque Cowelitz, which is not to come further up the river, but to send her Furs up by the Barge and proceed as soon as possible on her voyage to Calefornia, and from thence to the Islands. There are three New Zealanders and two whites on board who deserted from a whaler on the Coast, and joined the Cowelitz at Ft. Simpson. Mr. [William] Heath is to remain in command of her, with Mr. Sangster as 2nd Officer.” Heath was now the Master of the London Ship, Cowlitz, but he argued with both Charles Humphries, ex-captain of the Columbia, and William Brotchie, current captain of the Vancouver, and was soon returned to England and dismissed for intoxication.

On January 28, 1845, Thomas Lowe wrote this: “Beautiful day. Frost in the morning. Men employed putting up new pickets on the north side of the Fort. Mr. Roberts began to put up the Nez Perces Outfit.” It snowed on the following evening, and Thursday was a “raw chilly day. As part of the pickets were down at the back of the Fort, where a new stockade is erecting, Mr. [James Allen] Grahame and I were ordered to take up our quarters for the night in the Sale Shop, in case any robbery might be attempted, but all was quiet.” On Friday, February 7th the men had “finished erecting the new Pickets on the west side and part of the North side of the Fort, at which the men have been employed for some time past. A Bastion is to be built in the N.W. Corner of the Fort, in order to be able to salute vessels, as well as to protect the fort in case of attack.”

On February 17th, “Three men arrived from Nisqually bringing the Accounts of Fort Langley, Victoria, and Nisqually. Several more of the retiring servants from these places are on their way here.” They are, of course, all planning to leave the territory in the outgoing York Factory Express, which will depart Fort Vancouver on March 20. “Mr. [Richard] Grant arrived from the Snake Country, and bringing a report of a quarrel having taken place between the Americans at Capt. Sutter’s Establishment in California, with the Walla Walla Indians, who are forming a war party against them.” Now, this is interesting, but it is still a couple of years before the measles infestation that came north with the Walla Walla Indians in 1847, which ended with the attack and massacre at the Methodist Mission at Waiilatpu. 

So, Thomas Lowe’s 1845 continues: On February 27th, “the men are busily employed in sinking the old well near the granary and in digging another one in the opposite end of the Fort, near the new Bake house. A Carpenter and several men are also employed erecting the octagonal Bastion in the N.W. corner of the Fort.” So, there is lots of construction going on at this time, and as it is 1845, it is possible that the men are also enlarging the fort. I know that when Alexander Caulfield Anderson first saw Fort Vancouver in 1832, it was probably only 318 feet square. By 1836 it was 318 feet x 636 feet, and additions during the early 1840s extended its stockaded length to 733 feet. 

Now this is interesting to all of us: 1845 is the first year that the London Ship sailed out to Fort Victoria and not to Fort Vancouver. “In the forenoon” of Saturday March 8th, “Mr. [John] Lambert arrived from Nisqually with the packet from England brought out by the Barque Vancouver, Captain [Andrew Cook] Mott. She sailed from Gravesend on the 8th, September 1844, and arrived at Fort Victoria after a passage of 5 months and 10 days, where she now is disembarking the Outfits for the N.W Coast, which were put up under a separate mark in London, and are to remain in Depot there.” I suspect that Fort Victoria is also undergoing some heavy construction, as the men build new storehouses to hold all the goods that were now being transported to the place by the London Ship. “As it would take about 3 weeks to unload the Cargo for the Coast, Mr. Lambert was sent from Victoria in a canoe with the papers, and from Nisqually overland to this place. Mr. Lambert is to come out as Engineer to succeed Mr. [Joseph] Carless, who intends to return home.”

If we continue Thomas Lowe’s 1845, we find there is another little problem that was happening at Fort Vancouver at this time, and this problem was not going to go away! Some of the Americans who now surrounded the fort considered the HBC lands as theirs, and it seemed that they thought they could just take the Company’s land for themselves. On March 11th, the HBC men discovered that “Henry Williamson, who has taken a claim within a short distance of the Fort, was found with a Surveyor and three other Americans this forenoon, in the woods making a survey of the place. Upon being asked by Mr. [Adolphus Lee] Lewis [Lewes] what they were doing there, they replied that they were making a survey of Mr. Williamson’s claim. Upon this Mr. Lewis returned to the Fort to give information concerning them, and was followed in a short time afterwards by the whole five. They had a long dispute with Dr. [John] McLoughlin and Mr. [James] Douglas regarding it, and finished by saying that sooner than quit the place they would die for what they considered their rights and privileges. They were told that the Hudson’s Bay Company were determined to maintain their rights to the utmost of their power, and if they did not leave they must take the consequences. Dr. White, Mr. Pettygrove, and some others who were present, advised Dr. McLoughlin to write in the first place to the authorities at the Wallamette Falls, and if they would not interfere that they should then be forcibly turned off the place. This has accordingly been done, and in the meantime the fellows have gone to resume their survey. About the 15th of the last month a house was found partly built in the woods by these same men, and as soon as known, it was pulled down and burnt, and a notice they had stuck up upon an adjoined tree was destroyed.”

However, on the following day the five Americans were gone, having apparently given up their plans and gone to Chinook. “One of the men, Alderman, is very unpopular in the Wallamette, having already caused disturbances there by jumping claims, and it is supposed that their doings here will not be approved of by the rest of their countrymen.”

The troubles that had begun a few days ago continued to disturb Thomas Lowe’s 1845. On the 15th of March, there was a “serious disturbance with the Indians in the evening, which originated amongst the Indians quarrelling amongst themselves. But Dr. McLoughlin having interfered, desiring them to go further from the Fort if they wished to quarrel, one of the Indians stabbed a slave, and cleared a way for himself amongst the crowd until he was knocked down by a Kanaka [Hawaiian] and taken prisoner. One of his friends having attempted to rescue him was nearly murdered by the Canadians and Kanakas, and were then brought up to the Fort, and released after explanation was made. Both were then sent to the Hospital to have their wounds dressed.” Hmmm, maybe it is not such a boring year at Fort Vancouver after all.

On the 18th of March, Joseph Monique died. I have run across him several times in these journals, and I like the guy. I think he was an old and retired York Factory Express man, who often took out the Fall Express that brought the men home down the Columbia River from Boat Encampment. Interestingly, he died just a few days before this current Express left Fort Vancouver, which date was in the afternoon of the 20th of the month of March. Dugald Mactavish took out the Express this year, and Thomas Lowe tells us that the men left behind at Fort Vancouver soon learned that he made it safely to Walla Walla. 

On the 22nd, a Saturday, Lowe learned that the London ship, Vancouver “has arrived at Fort George, piloted by Captain [James Allan] Scarborough. Everything as usual.” So the Vancouver is coming into the river to deliver the Fort Vancouver goods, and possibly the goods for the HBC Brigades as well (Yes, its only 1845: the Brigades are not yet coming down to Fort Langley to pick up their goods there.)

On Wednesday, the Vancouver “fired a gun about 9 o’clock this evening, to let us now that she was near. She anchored for the night abreast of the lower plain.” The next day, she “anchored here today about breakfast time, while she fired a salute of 7 guns which was returned from the Fort. Captains [Andrew Cook] Mott and Scarborough were [on] shore here. The Mate sent a Note up saying that the crew had struck work and refused to moor the vessel. Dr. McLoughlin went on board, accompanied by the Captain, and when the matter came to be investigated, it appeared that they complained of the 2nd Mate, Mr. [William Alexander] Mouat, scrimping them of provisions, striking and abusing them. It seems, however, that they had but little cause to grumble, and it was settled that they would resume work on condition that either Mr. Mouat or they would be transferred to another vessel before the Vancouver left the River.”

And on the next day, “Captain Mott out the lst Officer, Mr. [Thomas] Cooper, off duty today for a quarrel they had on board ship.” My first impulse is to say “What a bunch of children!” but I used to be a sailor, and I know how cramped and uncomfortable living aboard a sailing ship can be. Naturally, everyone is sick of the experience, and they are all taking it out on everyone else! 

And there is another quarrel: On the 31st of March, the Vancouver “began to unload her cargo today. Captain Mott and Mr. Cooper have not made up their quarrel, and the latter is to bring his luggage ashore tomorrow and be dismissed the ship. Showery in the forenoon.”

I think I have had enough of this blogpost, and will finish it here. WordPress has an unfortunate habit, sometimes, of not saving a blogpost but also not telling you it is not saving the post — and it is ages before you, the author, figures out it is malfunctioning, and of course there is no way to save it and you have to close it down and begin again. WordPress does not do this often, but when it does it is extremely annoying, as you can write an entire post and not be able to save it. That is what happened yesterday, and I am still cranky and irritated!

If you want to go back to the first of Thomas Lowe’s journals written at Fort Vancouver, go here:

When the next post in this series is written, I will post it here:

Oh, and by the way, that huge and destructive forest fire that is sweeping through West Kelowna these last few days is destroying the Brigade trail just north of Summerland, where Sam and I were only a few weeks ago. It is a horror story, indeed! Let’s hope it does not go south into the woods and ridges behind the town. (I don’t think it will, but it might, I suppose, if the wind changes).  

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2023. All rights reserved.