Fort McLoughlin

Fort McLoughlin

Fort McLoughlin was a fur trading post established in 1833 by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) on Campbell Island in present-day British Columbia, Canada.

One of the primary reasons for the establishment of Fort McLoughlin, as well as Fort Simpson to the north, was to undermine the American dominance of the maritime fur trade. By 1830 the higher prices paid for furs by American coastal traders had resulted in an indigenous fur trading system that diverted furs from the interior New Caledonia district of the HBC to the coast. Fort McLoughlin and Fort Simpson were built to intercept these furs before they could reach American traders, who had no permanent posts on the coast. The strategy was ultimately successful. By 1837 American competition was essentially over.cite book |last= Mackie |first= Richard Somerset |title= Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843 |year= 1997 |publisher= University of British Columbia (UBC) Press |location= Vancouver |isbn= 0-7748-0613-3 |pages= pp. 125-126 online at [ Google Books] ] Furs from the interior reached the coast along indigenous pathways, or "grease trails", one of which had been followed by Alexander MacKenzie in 1793. By the late 1830s HBC traders of New Caledonia were complaining that their furs were finding their way to Fort McLoughlin, where they were fetching higher prices. By the end of the decade, with American competition reduced, the HBC was able to fix prices uniformly and eliminate much of the flow of furs to the coast, which by its nature was less secure than the interior.cite book |last= Mackie |first= Richard Somerset |title= Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843 |year= 1997 |publisher= University of British Columbia (UBC) Press |location= Vancouver |isbn= 0-7748-0613-3 |pages= pp. 132-134 online at [ Google Books] ]

Fort McLoughlin was built in May or June, 1833, on a protected bay on Campbell Island, at Lama Passage in Fitzhugh Sound, part of what today is called the Inside Passage. At first the post was known simply as Milbanke Sound, after its ocean access. The fort was situated in the midst of a densely populated indigenous area. The Nuxálk, or "Bella Coola" people were the main traders at the fort. George Simpson, wrote that the fort was near a village of about 500 "Ballabollas" (Bella Bellas, known properly as the Heiltsuk). William Fraser Tolmie, who was stationed at the fort during its early years, wrote about "Quaghcuils" (Kwakwaka'wakw), "Kitamats" (Kitimaat, a Haisla subgroup), and "Chimnseyans" (Tsimshians) trading there, in addition to the Nuxálk. Duncan Finlayson wrote in 1836 that indigenous people trading at Fort McLoughlin included the "Bela hoola", the "Wacash tribe of Milbank Sound", the "Oyalla tribe", and the "Chichysh". Charles Ross, who took over command of the fort in 1842, estimated the local "Billbillah" population at 1,500, and the "Bellwhoola" at 650.

Although successful in the fur trade, Fort McLoughlin was not self-sufficient in food. Supplies were brought annually from Fort Langely, Fort Nisqually, and Fort Simpson. In 1841 Simpson wrote that Fort McLoughlin was visited by about 5,200 natives from seven main villages, trading furs worth about 2,500 to 3,000 pounds sterling. Both Simpson and Ross agreed that the fort's annual profit was about 1,500 pounds.

Fort McLouglin was closed by Simpson in the early 1840s because the HBC's steamship "Beaver" was able to collect furs along the coast without the need for permanent posts.cite book |last= Mackie |first= Richard Somerset |title= Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific 1793-1843 |year= 1997 |publisher= University of British Columbia (UBC) Press |location= Vancouver |isbn= 0-7748-0613-3 |pages= pp. 269-270 online at [ Google Books] ]


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