This year, Kamloops celebrates the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Europeans in the area. Published in cooperation with the Kamloops Museum and Archives, this series looks at the early days of the fur trade in North America and how it brought European explorers to the place we call "The meeting of the waters." In Part 1, New York-based fur trade magnate John Jacob Astor set his sights on the lucrative maritime fur trade on the West coast of North America. In the second part of the series, he sent an expedition aboard the ship Tonquin to begin the enterprise, but its commander, Capt. Jonathon Thorn, lost his temper and slapped a chieftain while trading at Clayuquot Sound. That led to disaster and murder in Part 3, but trading was, nonetheless, established at Fort Astoria. In this, the final part in the series, a new expedition sets out overland to what is present-day Kamloops.
So it was that on July 22, 1811, David Stuart, Alexander Ross and seven others from Astoria left for the Interior. They had three canoes loaded with trade goods and necessities.
Accompanying them were David Thompson's party and the couple from the Interior, who were no doubt happy to see the last of Astoria. Stuart and Ross eventually arrived in the Okanagan country and made their way to the shores of the Thompson River and the future site of Kamloops.
In the end, Stuart's expedition was successful. The Secwepemc proved to be hospitable and willing to trade with the newcomers. By the time they left in February, 1812, 2,500 beaver pelts had been amassed by Stuart and his men, and Kamloops, or "Cum Cloups" as Alexander Ross later called the site, was established as a site worth visiting.
The mysterious couple accompanied the Astorians and the Thompson party to the Okanagan Valley, where they disappear from history.
Stuart journeyed back to Astoria in May of 1812 and informed his colleagues of his experiences. He was instructed to return to Kamloops and build a permanent post as soon as possible.
In the late summer of 1812, he returned to Kamloops with a valuable load of trade goods and set to work building a sturdy structure to secure his stock. This was Kamloops' first "fort," and it was probably located on the south shore in the Mission Flats area.
Shortly after Stuart constructed his post, Joseph Laroque of the North West Company appeared and built a competing post across the river, close to the Secwepemc village site. It was North West Company policy to vigorously challenge and compete with all newcomers to what they considered their territory.
Even so, Stuart said that the Nor'Westers gave him no trouble, and he felt he had achieved as much as he could despite the presence of the Nor'Westers.
John Jacob Astor's trading post at Astoria turned out to be a short-lived venture. The arrangements he made with the North West Company came to an end when a majority of partners backed out of any agreement to co-operate with Astor's Pacific Fur Company.
When the United States went to war with England in 1812, the Astorians were unnerved by rumours of British warships en route to destroy any American presence on the coast. Their own supply arrangements were precarious, since the Royal Navy was likely to intercept any ship sent to replenish their supply of trade goods.
In the end, John George McTavish of the North West Company bought the trading post and all remaining stock in 1813. The fort at Kamloops passed to the North West Company as well, and in 1821, the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company merged.