Puget Sound Agricultural Company
The Puget Sound Agricultural Company was formed in 1839 to manage the production of livestock and food supplies, and to promote British settlement in Oregon territory. Its early directors were Governor John Henry Pelly, Deputy Governor Andrew Colvile, and Sir George Simpson.1
The PSAC operated two large farms. The farm at Fort Nisqually, now in present day Tacoma, Washington, served as the company's headquarters. The second centre was located at Cowlitz Farm near present day Toledo, Washington. At Cowlitz, the PSAC focused on the production of peas, potatoes, and grain.2 In the late 1850s and early 1860s there was much debate about the company's claim to the territory in Washington and Oregon especially with the increase in American settlers in the region. Due to this tension, the company felt its land, recognized in an 1840s treaty, was being taken — although this treaty expired in May 1859.3 It should be noted that the treaty disregarded the original Indigenous territory which the PSAC took in order to establish their company.
The PSAC also established itself on Vancouver Island in the early 1850s. In the mid-nineteenth century, the PSAC undertook the development of several farms on Vancouver Island. The move to the island was due both to the concession to the United States and that it was the closest British held region from which the company could continue its operation.4 After surveying the island, the company requested that about ten square miles be reserved, this had to include as much open or prairie land as possible. In 1851, land was reserved for the company near Esquimalt Harbour, in which approximately 74 labourers were needed for the purpose of cultivation.5 In 1852, the PSAC commenced two large agricultural establishments in both Esquimalt and Victoria.6
In 1853, Governor James Douglas commissioned the PSAC to operate a sheep farm, called Bellevue, on San Juan Island. With the already growing disputes on San Juan Island and the question of its sovereignty beginning in 1846, the purpose of the sheep farm was to hold the island as a de facto dependency of Vancouver Island.7 Over the next ten years, the farm was surrounded by American settlers who saw the farm as an infringement on American territorial rights. The creation of the farm did aid in the increase of tension on the island with the British wanting to hold the island and the Americans' unwillingness to acknowledge the HBC's ownership of the territory with the farm. Eventually San Juan was awarded to the United States by the German Kaiser.8
Beyond these disputes and tensions, the PSAC continues to have a lasting memory on Vancouver Island, especially through Craigflower Manor. The manor (1856) is one of the oldest remaining farmhouses in British Columbia. It was constructed by the HBC, as part of the PSAC's subsidiary endeavours. Today, the farmhouse represents the efforts of the HBC to establish a base for colonial settlement on Vancouver Island. It also remains as a reminder of the importance of farming on Vancouver Island prior to 1858 and the gold rush.9
Mentions of this organization in the documents