Previous The History of the Dominion of Canada (1897) Next

 

142   HISTORY OF CANADA.

spirit. In his honor the post had been called Astoria. In 1803 the United States had purchased Louisiana, and, to strengthen their claim to the region beyond the mountains, Lewis and Clarke, two noted explorers, were sent in 1804 to find a passage through to the Pacific by way of the head waters of the Missouri. This they successfully accomplished in the following year, reaching the Pacific by way of the Columbia River. In 1811, as already mentioned, Astoria was founded. It had a chequered history, and in the pages of Washington Irving's " Astoria " may be read a graphic account of its doings and sufferings. In 1813 the North-West Company purchased the post, then in a greatly reduced condition. It was a time of war, and British cruisers were on the coast. The warship Racoon, indeed, sailed in to capture the place, only to find it already in the hands of a British company. There-after for many years the North-West Company alone carried on the interior fur trade, establishing many posts along the Columbia, Fraser and Thompson rivers. Astoria became Fort George, the company's headquarters west of the mountains.

Russian Claims.—Away to the north, a Russian expedition under Behring had discovered and explored the Alaskan coast as early as 1741, and at a later date Russian settlements were made at various points. These were mere trading posts for the prosecution of the fur trade. In 1799 the territory was granted to a Russian-American fur company, which established about forty stations. The chief post was New Archangel, now Sitka. Russia afterwards claimed the whole Pacific coast as far south, at least, as 49°—the present southern boundary of Canada—but no settlements were established that far south, and meanwhile the indefatigable traders of the North-West Company were fast taking possession.

The Nor'-Westers a Power in Canada.—If the Hudson's Bay Company was powerful in England, the North-West Company was all-powerful in Canada. In Lower Canada a majority of the executive and legislative councils, if not actually partners in the company, were at least interested in it. Selkirk did not hesitate to charge that even the judges were not beyond its influence. Once a year a gathering of the partners took place at the company's chief northern depot, Fort William, on Lake Superior, at the mouth of the Kanunistiquia River, where the town of Port Arthur now


Previous The History of the Dominion of Canada (1897) Next