After the War of 1812 the territory on the Pacific Slope between 54 40’ and 42N. latitude was to be jointly occupied by Britain and the United States pending a final settlement. Fearful that the Columbia River would be lost to them, the Governor and COuncil of the Hudson’s Bay Company decided to establish a base north of the 48th parallel. In the summer of 1827 a party left Fort Vancouver to found Fort Langley on the Lower Fraser to link fur-rich New Caledonia tohe Pacific.
One of the responsibilities of the person in charge of a fur trade post was to maintina a daily recoord or assign that task to a clerk. Thigns to be noted in the journal were the weather, trading transactions, visitors to the fort, and the work done by the men. Inevitably, other information was recorded as the journal keepers, George Barnston, James McMillan, and Archibald McDonald, commented on activities within the fort and made observations about the landscape and the natural resources available. They also recorded their interactions with the Natives and speculated about their activities.
Journals kept at Fort Langley from 1827 to 1830 have miraculously survived and are presented here, carefully transcribed by Morag Maclachlan. Her informative introduction, explanatory notes, and biographical detail provide historical context. In a concluding commentary Wayne Suttles, drawing on his extensive work as an anthropologist, discusses the ethnographic value of the journals.
The Fort Langley Journals are a remarkable primary resource for historians, geographers, anthropologists, and First Nations people, all of whom will appreciate having them made more accessible. But they have an even wider appeal, offering the general reader a fascinating glimpse of the pre-settlement period in the Lower Fraser Valley.