Chapter 1: A Yuculta Attack

    It was in 1837 that the most exciting event took place at the fort.  From time to time war canoes had been seen going up and down the river.  An early entry in the Fort Langley Journal read:

"The war party of Cowichans returned this afternoon.  They have murdered one man and a woman and taken several women and children as prisoners, who as a matter of course, become slaves.  The head of one of their victims was pendant on the bow of one of the canoes, presenting a spectacle as dismal and disgusting as can well be imagined; a spectacle most shocking to humanity that this land of savage Barbarism produces...."

     Yale received word that the Yuculta from Quadra Island planned an attack on the Indian village near the fort.  He felt an attack on these friendly Indians was the same as an attack on the fort.  The constant attacks from the Yuculta kept the Indians in the vicinity of the fort in such turmoil that fur trading had seriously declined.  Yale ordered his men to their posts.  Patiently the gunners waited for the Yuculta armada to come within range of the death-crammed guns in the bastions.  When the attackers did eventually come around the bend in the river within view of the fort the odds were unbelievable.  The 25 men of the fort faced an enemy of 600.


     When word came to open fire the carnage was incredible.  Canoes were blasted right out of the water.  The muddy river turned red as the dead and dying fell from their wrecked crafts.  Any that escaped the initial onslaught of heavy firing were soon dispatched by Kwantlen warriors who had hidden across the river from the fort.  As their hereditary enemies swam to shore they ran out and cracked them over the heads with stone hammers.  It was never ascertained how many Yuculta warriors died in that brief encounter.  The raiders never recovered from the defeat.

     The year following the Indian attack Yale moved the fort stockade.  On October 14, 1838, he wrote Chief Factor James Douglas, McLoughlin's right hand man on the Columbia, that "we have abandoned the old fort which was in a dilapidated condition and removed into a new fort a few miles up the river."  Douglas had earlier concurred with such a move.

     Despite this Yale's work force the following year was reduced to 15 men.  They were:--Ovid Allard, Basil Brousseau, Pierre Charles, Louis Delonie, Narcisse Fallardeau, Angus McPhail, Fredereque Minie, Joseph Peaennau, Etienne Pepin, James Rendall, Louis Satakarata, I Ta, Xavier Vautrin, Wivicari, and Zahowbalow.

     Of these men Ovid Allard would be of great assistance to the peppery Yale in the building of the second Fort Langley.  Born at Lachine, Quebec, in 1817 to French parents J. O. Allard and a Ms. Chanteline, he had joined the company looking for adventure.  Stationed for five years at Fort Hall in the Snake River Country, he found the adventure he craved and fought Snake River Indians alongside Kit Carson and Jim Bridger.  In 1839 he came to Fort Langley where his tact and charming manners facilitated his successful trading with the Indians.

     While Yale and Allard were supervising the building of the new fort, Sir George Simpson was in Hamburg, Germany, negotiating the lease of the Panhandle portion of the Russian Territory.  The agreement was signed on February 6, 1839, by Simpson and Baron Wrangell.  By its provisions the Hudson's Bay Company was to pay rental in the farm produce for the territory involved.


     Yale suffered a serious setback when the second fort was completely gutted by fire on April 11, 1840.  He was assisted in the rebuilding of the third fort byAllard.  This fort was built a few hundred yards upriver from the ruins of the second. James Douglas, now in charge of Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island, came over on the Beaver to offer help in the rebuilding.  Yale told him that his Langley crew could manage on their own.

     At the end of August, 1841, Father Modeste Demers reached the Hudson's Bay Company farm via the portage crossed by the fort's discoverers in 1824.  Here he was met by one of the farm workers who got word back to Yale at the fort.  Yale immediately sent men and horses to transfer the priest's baggage to the post, where he was given a royal welcome.  By the time Demers reached the fort the message of his arrival had travelled up and down the river by moccasin telegraph to the Indians.  Six hundred Indians greeted the 'man dressed in black women's clothing' at the fort.

     The priest's message was primarily to the Indians.  For several days Demers preached Christianity to them.  Incredibly Kwantlen and Yuculta adults, who a few years earlier had been deadly enemies, listened attentively and with good order to the gospel message.  On one occasion the priest preached to 1,500 - 1,600 Indians just outside the gates of the fort.  The visit from the Catholic missionary boosted the company's tradings with the Indians.

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Copyright Donald E. Waite / Lisa M. Peppan