On today’s date in 1843, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Chief Factor James Douglas began building Fort Camosun (known today as Fort Victoria) in Victoria, B.C. It would be the first HBC fort on Vancouver Island.
In 1819, Douglas joined the North West Company in Montréal as an apprentice before the company merged with HBC. In 1826, he travelled to Fort St. James in the New Caledonia district with Chief Factor William Connolly. Two years later, Douglas married Connolly’s part-Aboriginal daughter, Amelia.
In 1835, George Simpson appointed Douglas chief trader and then chief factor, and was eventually asked to establish a trading post and fort on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
On March 16, 1843, Douglas began building Fort Camosun. The fort was known briefly as Fort Albert before returning to the name Camosun until 1846, when it was renamed Fort Victoria in honour of the Queen. The fort was built using labour from local First Nations, who were paid one HBC blanket for every 40 pickets cut.
Douglas died in August 1877, and the fort was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1924.
BRITISH COLUMBIA’S 150th ANNIVERSARY
In 2008, Canada Post issued a 52-cent stamp (Scott #2283) commemorating the 150th anniversary of British Columbia.
Designed by Roy White and Matthew Clark, of Vancouver’s Subplot Design, the stamp features a gold-panning image in which a panner’s rugged hand outlines the province’s eastern border.
“We wanted the stamp image to be bold, tough and authentic without relying on an archival image,” explained White.
The image is superimposed over a modern-day map of B.C., including the Queen Charlotte Islands, which weren’t part of the colony 150 years ago.
An official first-day cover released as part of the issue featured a photograph of Douglas. The original photo showed Douglas facing the opposite direction, but Canada Post reversed the image so he was looking over the cover.
Interestingly, this placed his medal, the Star of the Order of Bath, on the wrong side.
The cover was cancelled in Fort Langley, B.C., and a total of 28,400 covers were printed.