Port Townsend
Port Townsend is located on the shores of northwest Puget Sound, at the end of the Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State. It was, certainly in the pre-steam era, a choice port of call for vessels of all sizes, particularly those from England.1 Prior to Spanish arrival to the area, circa 1789-92, the region was, as with today, populated by a variety of Salish-speaking peoples.2 However, the site of Port Townsend was the traditional land of the Chimacum.3
Vancouver arrived there in 1792 after a year at sea, as part of his mission to divine a rumoured waterway through which to lead vessels from the North American coast, across the continent, and into the Atlantic. Instead, he sailed to the southern reaches of Puget Sound.4 And, as with the Sound, Vancouver named Port Townsend after a naval colleague: the Marquis Lord Townshend (1724 - 1807), who was a key figure in the siege of Quebec.5
Later, though, the first US settlers to the region dropped the H from Townshend.6 Arguably, the town dropped its morality, too, in the mid-1850s, as it became a port of depravity and questionable indulgence. The town was rumoured to have one saloon for every seventy residents.7 Drunkards, gamblers, and soon-to-be-Shanghaied sailors stumbled through the streets and cavorted with prostitutes. Generally, sin abounded.8
According to J. Ross Browne's 1853 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, even the US Customs employees were somehow seduced by base pursuits, as they apparently spent what free time they had uselessly engaged in chasing wild Indians and porpoises.9
Mentions of this place in the documents
People in this document

Vancouver, George

Places in this document

Olympic Peninsula

Puget Sound

Quebec

The Colonial Despatches Team. Port Townsend. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/port_townsend.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)