Vavasour, Lieutenant Mervin
b. 1821(?)
d. 1866(?)
Mervin Vavasour was British officer in the Royal Engineers, selected along with Captain Henry James Warre to spy on the Americans in the Oregon Territory in 1845.1
Vavasour was born in Upper Canada in 1821 to Captain Henry William Vavasour of the Royal Engineers and Louisa Dunbar, daughter of Sir George Dunbar. After training as a gentleman officer and then as a Royal Engineer, Vavasour was posted to Canada in 1842, where he worked on the Rideau Canal.2
At the height of tensions between the United States and Britain over ownership of the Oregon Territory, the British government sent two officers, Captain Warre and Lieutenant Vavasour, to spy on the American military strength and determine the defensibility of the British position in Oregon, in the case of a war with the United States. Disguised as travellers, Warre and Vavasour journeyed from the Willamette Valley in present day Oregon to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island from May 1845 to July 1846. They concluded that the British position in Oregon was indefensible.3
This information was given to the British government. It is likely this strengthened those favouring a boundary settlement along the 49th parallel when negotiating the Oregon Treaty of 1846.4
Vavasour later helped the surveying of Ireland, after which he was promoted to captain. From 1851-1852 he served in the West Indies and in 1853 went on half pay.5
  • 1. Frances Woodward, Vavasour, Mervin, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
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