Puget Sound Agricultural Company records, 1833-1884, 1903, 1905, 1957, 1985  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Puget Sound Agricultural Company
Title
Puget Sound Agricultural Company records
Dates
1833-1884, 1903, 1905, 1957, 1985 (inclusive)
1833-1870 (bulk)
Quantity
1.91 cubic feet (4 boxes, 1 oversize folder in shared box)
Collection Number
5033 (Accession No. 5033-001)
Summary
Records of the food and supply subsidiary of Hudson's Bay Company located near Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest.
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

Languages
English, French


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Agricultural subsidiary of Hudson's Bay Company.

The Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC), which operated during the mid-nineteenth century as a subsidiary to produce food and supplies for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), was the first example of corporate farming and ranching in the Pacific Northwest. With both of its farms located south of Puget Sound, the British-owned PSAC began having problems after its land fell under US control. The Company then encountered constant encroachment and resentment from American settlers and politicians until it shut down.

Established in 1839, the PSAC operated two large farms: one at Nisqually, near present-day Dupont, and another at Cowlitz Prairie, near present-day Toledo. Nisqually was the larger of the two, with about 167,000 acres of land. An ulterior motive for the HBC was to establish a British presence in the Puget Sound region and bolster British claims to the area. In 1841 the Company made its first effort to settle Nisqually with people from the Red River Colony in Manitoba. However, only thirteen families completed the journey, and most of them drifted away after a few months. This was the only British effort to colonize the Puget Sound area.

Nisqually became mostly a ranch for sheep and cattle, though it did engage in some farming. Its first superintendent was Dr. William F. Tolmie, who managed Nisqually from 1843 to 1859 and was its Chief Factor from 1856 to 1870, though he did not live there after 1859. Tolmie originally hired Canadian, French, and Scottish workers as indentured servants, but soon began to employ Kanakas (people from the Sandwich Islands, near Hawaii) and Native Americans. Nisqually reached its peak production in the mid-1840s, when it had about 5,000 cattle, 9,000 sheep, and several hundred horses. Tolmie made efforts to breed better sheep, but most of the animals at Nisqually were of inferior quality. After Tolmie left Nisqually, his assistant Edward Huggins took charge of the farm’s daily management.

Cowlitz Prairie, which covered about 3,000 acres, harvested most of the Company’s wheat. This farm had more management turnover than Nisqually, but its farming methods remained consistent and reflected a blend of contemporary English farming practices and frontier pragmatism.

After the treaty of 1846, which established the 49th parallel as the border between US and British territory, the PSAC began having problems with American settlers. The treaty mentioned the PSAC specifically and validated the Company’s lands, but stated that PSAC holdings could be sold to the US at a later date. After this treaty, American settlers began to resent the PSAC and felt that they had a right to its land. Many settlers encroached on the Nisqually farm, where they illegally used Company buildings, destroyed fences, stole horses, plowed crops, and killed sheep and cattle. Public opinion supported the settlers, whom local juries were reluctant to convict when the Company filed lawsuits. By 1863, over 1,000 Americans had settled on PSAC land.

The PSAC also came under attack politically after the treaty of 1846. Washington territory’s first governor made repossession of PSAC lands a major issue and brought it to the attention of State Department officials. In Pierce County, beginning in 1852, the PSAC was forced to pay taxes on the Nisqually farm. However, the PSAC became upset because it was the only landowner in the county paying taxes, and in 1859 won a legal challenge to the assessment.

Finally, in 1869, the US negotiated an agreement with the British government to buy all PSAC lands. Soon afterward, livestock and other movable property were transported to Canada. By 1870, when the Company closed its farms, most had already deteriorated because of encroachment by American settlers.

The Puget Sound Agricultural Company never became very profitable during its thirty-year history. The Company did make a profit in most years, but not enough to justify the amount of capital invested. Between 1838 and 1870, stockholders received only seven dividends. Even this meager success, however, exceeded many dismal predictions that had accompanied the Company’s founding. Despite the lack of financial returns, the PSAC succeeded in opening new lands for farming and ranching, played a key role in the region’s economy, and was an important element of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The HBC purchased much of the wheat from the PSAC, most of which went to Russian fur trading posts in Alaska which the HBC supplied in exchange for a 10-year lease on a portion of Russia’s North Pacific coast. Some of the PSAC’s products went to the Hawaiian islands, and American settlers provided another market. The PSAC also tried to sell livestock products overseas, but its sheep and cattle were so inferior that their products could not sell in Britain.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Puget Sound Agricultural Company Records contain correspondence, financial records, management accounts, facsimiles of daily activity journals, court papers, a report, a map, and legal documents dating from 1833 to 1985 with a bulk of the materials dating from 1833 to 1870. The materials primarily document daily life and transactions with settlers and trappers at Fort Nisqually on southern Puget Sound. Records also pertain to Cowlitz Prairie, the location of the company's wheat farm holdings, Fort McLoughlin, and the Tlithlow and Muck Farm outstations. Major correspondents include James Douglas, who was second in command at Fort Vancouver and became governor of British Columbia in 1858, and William Fraser Tolmie, the chief trader (1847-1855) and chief factor (1855-1859) of Fort Nisqually.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's copyrights are in the public domain.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Historical featuresReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1-2
"The origin of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company" essay by AC Anderson, and "Puget Sound's Agricultural Company" essay featured in Landmarks
1865, 1985

CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/3-4
Regarding accounts for shipped furs
1857, 1860
1/37
Bound reproduction of typescripts of incoming correspondence and supporting documents to William F. Tolmie
1841-1861
Box
4
Bound typescript reproductions of correspondence with Sir James Douglas, second in command at Fort Vancouver and governor of British Columbia
1841-1858

Legal documentsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
folder:oversize
1
Employment agreement between J. Mackhail and the Puget Sound Agricultural Company
1850
Box/Folder
1/5
Agreement of employment between George Barr and William F. Tolmie
1856
folder:oversize
1
Land lease for Puget Sound agricultural claim, handwritten
1857
Box/Folder
1/5
Land lease for Puget Sound agricultural claim, typescript
1857
folder:oversize
1
Land lease renewal, handwritten
1867
Box/Folder
1/5
Land lease renewal, typescript
1867
folder:oversize
1
Statement of particulars on the winding up of affairs at the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, Nisqually Farm
1870
Box/Folder
1/5
Prospectus, Puget Sound Agricultural Company, Fort Nisqually
undated
folder:oversize
1
Blank prospectus, Fort Nisqually
undated
1
Power of attorney form
undated

Financial recordsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
folder:oversize
1
Account of sheep at Nisqually Farm
1843-1865
Box/Folder
1/6
Recapitulation of Advances of American Settlers (list of inventory items)
1845
1/6
Shipping list (when and where ship cargo was sent)
1847-1855
1/6
Memo of prices
1855, 1957
folder:oversize
1
List of stolen property
1856
Box/Folder
1/6
Nisqually accounts
1860
1/6
Inventory of Steilacoom Store
1865
1/6
List of shareholders
undated
folder:oversize
1
Manifest of cargo under Master William. A. Mowat
undated
Box/Folder
1/13-36
Tax and trade receipts
1845-1870
folder:oversize
1
Receipt from Ezra Meeker for materials received by Edward Huggins
1903
Box
3
Bound photographic reproductions of Fort Nisqually's cash sales
1848-1849

Court papersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/7
Copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Washington Territory
1861
folder:oversize
1
Order for the Pierce County Sheriff
1862
Box/Folder
1/8
Brief, tax case
1862
1/9
Brief of questions by Marcel Bernier
1865
1/9
Decision of the Washington Territory Supreme Court, sent by Judge E. Lander
1867

Puget Sound Agricultural Company business recordsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/11
Report of the Agents of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company from the General Meeting of Proprietors
1856
1/12
Transcribed excerpts from the first volume of the Fort Nisqually Journal 1834-1884 and recollections
1834-1884 (1905)
folder:oversize
1
Map of Cowlitz Farm
1846
Box
2
Bound photographic reproductions of Fort Nisqually: Journal of Occurrences, volumes 1, 2, and 3
1833-1839
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Fort Nisqually: Accounts with Settlers
1842-1852
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Fort McLoughlin: Inventory
1841
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Fort Nisqually: Accounts with the Red River Settlers
1841-1842
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Fort Nisqually: Accounts
1834-1837
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Fort Nisqually: Servants Accounts
1841-1848
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Tlithlow Station: Journal of Occurrences
1851, 1856-1857
3
Bound photographic reproduction of Muck Farm: Journal of Occurrences
1856-1859

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Actions and defenses--Washington (State)--19th century
  • Farms--Washington (State)--Lewis County--19th century
  • Farms--Washington (State)--Nisqually River Watershed--19th century
  • Indians of North America--Washington (State)--Government relations
  • Military bases--Washington (State), Western--19th century
  • Ranching--Washington (State)--Lewis County--19th century
  • Ranching--Washington (State)--Nisqually River Watershed--19th century
  • Corporate Names :
  • Puget Sound Agricultural Company--Archives
  • Geographical Names :
  • Fort Nisqually (Wash.)--History--Sources
  • Muck Farm (Wash.)
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Douglas, James, 1803-1877 (creator)
    • Tolmie, William Fraser (creator)
    • Corporate Names :
    • Hudson's Bay Company (creator)