A lesson in history of Hudson's Bay Company

Fort Nisqually: DuPont marks trading company’s significance in South Sound

rboone@theolympian.comAugust 20, 2012 

Those who visited a 20-acre site off Center Drive on Sunday in DuPont took a trip back in time – a time when that site was home to Fort Nisqually and the Hudson’s Bay Company, which did business at the fort from 1843 to 1870.

The event, Hudson Bay Day at Fort Nisqually, was organized by the DuPont Historical Society and the Archaeological Conservancy, which opens the site once a year to the public, historical society President Lee McDonald said.

Runners and walkers use Center Drive to get their exercise, but many who run by the old fort site are unaware of its significance, she said.

“This brings it home for them,” she said.

Visitors could enjoy food, up-tempo Celtic music – courtesy of an Olympia band called Loch Dhu, which is Gaelic for Black Lake – or tour the site with local historian Drew Crooks.

Crooks led groups of people around what was the perimeter of the old fort, pointing out how gates and watchtowers were situated on the property, and just how busy and diverse the old trading post was. It was used by American Indian tribes, such as the Nisqually, as well as English, Irish, Scottish and American settlers.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, which was headquartered in London, made its name in trading furs, but later gravitated toward farming in DuPont.

Fort Nisqually got its start in 1833 as Nisqually House, Crooks told one tour group of about 10 people, but later the fort moved inland from Puget Sound to the Center Drive site in 1843, still close to Sequalitchew Creek, its fresh-water source.

French, English and Chinook jargon – a language used between tribes – likely were spoken at the old fort, he said. Although it was called Fort Nisqually, it was not caught up in any battles at the time, but was the “Walmart of its day,” where goods were traded and people could get supplies, Crooks said.

The site is mostly a vacant field today, except for several tall black locust trees, which are thought to have been planted in 1854.

The fort closed in 1870, and Edward Huggins, an assistant to Dr. William Tolmie, the chief trader during the Hudson’s Bay Company days, later chose to stay and homestead the property.

After Huggins died in 1906, the property was sold to the DuPont chemical company, which developed explosives on the site.

The company, by building structures for its business as well as for its employees, also set the town on its course to becoming the city it is today, Crooks said.

In the 1930s, a replica of Fort Nisqually was established at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, including two original buildings from the DuPont Fort Nisqually site.

After the tour, Crooks said the history of DuPont also could be viewed in terms of corporate history – from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the DuPont chemical company to Weyerhaeuser, which developed the master-planned community Northwest Landing.

rboone@theolympian.com 360-754-5403 theolympian.com/bizblog @rolf_boone

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service