Friday, June 20, 2014

West to Fort Nisqually. . .

Guard Tower with fireweed (2013)
Fort Nisqually here in Washington is a living history museum. But once it was a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company, and part of the setting for the next book I'm just beginning to research.

Here we can wander, imagining what life was like back in 1850, when we could tell how close we are to the end of summer by how many blossoms yet appear on that hardy wildflower, Fireweed. 

Notice the guard tower and the small cabin in the small cabin above. Here single men slept on one side, with married men on the other. Or so the guide told our friend who brought me these pictures. 

The guide wore clothing of a typical 'country wife' of the 1840s and 1850s, a woman of mixed blood, valuable to the traders for her links to Native American families and her skills for survival in the wilderness.

We can easily see class distinctions in the housing that remains true to the period -- the Commandant with every luxury of the 19th Century, a formal parlour, perhaps even a European wife. 

Officers and gentlemen lived in separate quarters, and the workers in a homely barracks. Notice those Hudson Bay blankets.

While relations with Native Americans at this point were mostly friendly, wooden walls surround the Fort Nisqually compound, with stock and gardens inside. 

Herbs and staples -- corn, tomatoes, squash -- supplemented fresh venison and beef. Even speckled chickens -- true to the period -- scrabble in their pens for food.

Goods, rum, mail, and news drew people to the fort's store, trappers and emigrants alike. Here at the store, people could buy or trade for kettles and pots, hats, bolts of fabric, dishes, blankets, and maybe some tobacco in a twist or maple candy. 

Perhaps one day soon, we'll wander around Fort Nisqually to watch the trader use a fur press or the blacksmith hammer out new shoes for horses. We'll admire the rich traditions of the Native American, Scottish, Hawaiian, French-Canadian, and English people who lived here and who came to this fort built in 1833 on the Puget Sound.

We'll gather around the campfire at Fort Nisqually and listen to the tales of life over 100 years ago, far from the comforts of the 21st Century.

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

For more information, visit the Fort Nisqually site HERE or Wikipedia for a bit more history.

1 comment:

Margaret Pinard said...

This is so cool! It reminds me of the details in Diana Gabaldon's trips to her fictional trading post in North Caorlina, circa 1780. And I find the mixed-blood ties really interesting, as I'm writing about relations between Scots immigrants and Mi'kmaq Indians in Nova Scotia. Thanks for the introduction to Fort Nisqually- I may have to visit myself! Only 2.5 hours from Portland. :)