A Brief History of Fort Langley - Relocation

New Fort Langley had been occupied just ten months when it was consumed by fire and had to be completely rebuilt. In May, 1840, construction commenced on a new complex which eventually enclosed an area 192 by 73 meters and contained three to four bastions and about 15 buildings. It is on this site that the present reconstruction has been made.

Two decades of intense activity followed the establishment of the new fort. Grain production increased, beef and pork were salted for the Company ships and two dairies were kept in full production. Salted salmon continued to be popular in the Sandwich Islands and an annual export of 2,000 barrels was not uncommon in the years between 1845 and 1854. Cranberries traded from the Indians and packaged at Fort Langley sold at substantial profits in San Francisco.

When the Company established Fort Victoria as future Pacific headquarters in 1843, Langley's Chief Trader Yale felt the importance of his post was being undermined. He so resented the supremacy of the nearby fort that he misjudged its effect. In fact, the reorganization of HBC Pacific operations occasioned by the settlement of the Oregon boundary in 1846 increased the value of Fort Langley.

The international line drawn at the 49th parallel limited Company access to the Columbia-Okanagan supply route, just as Simpson had predicted, and forced a re-examination of the Fraser River as a possible artery to the interior. By 1848, a new route for the fur brigade was established by horse from Fort Kamloops through the Cascade Mountains to Fort Hope and from there by the flat-bottomed cargo boat or bateau down the Fraser. Fort Langley, at the head of navigation, became the transshipment depot for the interior, finally making Simpson's plan for the Fraser a reality.

Trade Goods
Fur trade items photo courtesy of
J. Gottfred, Northwest Brigade Club.

The urgent duties of brigade terminus were added to the normal occupations of fishery and farm. Trade goods and supplies shipped from Fort Victoria were packed at Fort Langley for distribution inland; bateaux were built for river freighting to Fort Hope; iron goods were manufactured for inland forts; and provisions and fodder were grown for the horse brigades. In addition, outgoing furs were sorted, cleaned and packed in 113-kilogram (90 pound) bales for shipment to England.

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This page prepared by Gerry Borden - Heritage Communicator, Fort Langley National Historic Site
Updated: : April 11, 1998