Crate,William Frederick
b. 1807(?)
d. 1871-10-01
William Frederick Crate, miller and HBC employee, was born between 1807 and 1813 in London. Crate was employed by the HBC to found and run its first flour mills in the Columbia District. Based at Fort Vancouver, Crate was placed in charge of mills. From 1834 to 1843 Crate rebuilt and expanded the HBC's network of mills east of Fort Vancouver and completed the company's first water-driven grist mill. This mill, capable of grinding 20,000 bushels of grain a year, supplied all of the flour for the HBC's western posts and supply ships.1
Crate left Fort Vancouver in 1843 for England to marry his wife, Sarah. After returning to North America, Crate lived briefly with his wife and two children in Vermont and then returned to his original job at Fort Vancouver in 1849. He built a new, larger grist mill and opened a sawmill which could cut 3,000 and 4,000 feet of timber in 12 hours. In addition to opening mills, Crate was in charge of a five-man maintenance crew responsible for the general upkeep of Fort Vancouver.2
Despite the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which confirmed the possessory rights of the HBC to its land and property north of the Columbia, the company had continued trouble with American settlers who took up claims to its land around Fort Vancouver. In order to protect some of the HBC's land claims, Crate filed personal land claims around the mill, which may have led to his decision to stay at the Fort after the HBC decided to relocate its operations to Fort Victoria in 1860. Crate was ordered to ship the milling equipment north, but only sent the equipment not fixed to the mill. The rest of the equipment he kept for his own and then later sold.3
Crate moved to Victoria in 1863 and lived on Government Street until 1867, when he moved north to a farm in the Cowichan valley. He succeeded in opening a grist mill on Quamichan land. The government was hopeful the mill would promote the sowing of grain by the Indigenous Peoples and white settlers, and went so far as granting free transport of machinery and building material on the government steamer. Crate died on 1 October, 1871.4
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