EARLY GOLF AT FORT NISQUALLY 1840’S – 1850’S – A New Strategy
If the occupants of Fort Nisqually actually played golf in the 1840’s or 1850’s where would this fact rank on a chronological list of the earliest golf references in North America? This subject has been thoroughly researched over the last seventy-five years by historians such as: Chick Evans’ father, Ida Broke; H.B. Martin, Fifty Years of American Golf; Charles B. Macdonald, Scotland’s Gift Golf; Herbert Warren Wind, The Story of American Golf; and James Barclay, Golf in Canada. This article does not list all the references made by each author. The original dates when the game commenced are noted here. For the complete information, the reader should refer to the references in each volume.
EARLIEST GOLF REFERENCES IN NORTH AMERICA PRE 1870
1657 Golf at Fort Orange (Now Albany NY)
Because golf historians generally accept the concept that the idea for the game of golf on land originated in Holland the first reference to “golf” in North American appeared in the minutes of the Court of Fort Orange and Beverwyck on March 20th, 1657. Fort Orange became Albany, New York.
“Ordinary session held in Fort Orange, March 20, Anno 1657.
The officer-plaintiff against Charles Hendrickson, Meeuwes Hoogenboom, and Gysbert Van Loenen – the defendants.
The plaintiff says that Jan Daniel the under-sheriff, reported to him that on the 7th of March, being the day of prayer ordered by the honorable director general of New Netherland and proclaimed here, the defendants played hockey on the ice, demanding therefore that the defendants be condemned to pay the fine indicated in the ordinance.
The defendants appearing maintained that they did not play hockey and promise to prove it. The parties having been heard, the court orders the defendants to produce their evidence the next court date.”
The actual Dutch wording in the court documents referred to the game as “Kolven op het ijs”. (Kolven on ice). Recent research shows the word “Kolven” is the Dutch word for “Golf”. Two years later in another court proceedings villagers are prevented from playing Kolven on the streets.
1779 New York
The first written reference to the actual game of golf occurred in James Rivington’s Royal Gazette on April 21, 1779. James Rivington, as well as being the King’s Printer for the Royal Gazette, owned a shop in New York that frequently advertised sporting goods for sale.
“To The Golf Players” The Season for this pleasant and healthy Exercise now advancing, Gentlemen may be furnished with excellent CLUBS and veritable Caledonian BALLS, by inquiring at the Printer’s.” Rivington likely was directing this advertisement to the British Revolutionary officers who served in the War.
1786 South Carolina
For his book “The History of Golf in South Carolina in the late 18th Century” George C. Rogers conducted extensive research on early golf in the Carolinas from 1786 – 1815. Chick Evans first identified in his book, Ida Broke, the existence of golf during this period, His father, a Chicago librarian, discovered the early golf references while conducting research in the Charleston and Savannah pre 1800 newspapers. Rogers expanded the research in his 1980 publication.
“The South Carolina And Georgia Almanac 1788” reported “Golf Club formed 1786, Dr. Purcell President; Edward Penman Vice-President; James Gardner, Treasurer & Secretary”
1826 Montreal Quebec
James Barclay, noted Canadian golf historian, reported in his book “Golf in Canada” the first golf reference in Canada occurred on December 21, 1826 in the Montreal Gazette.
“To Scotsman – We are requested to state that a few true sons of Scotia, eager to perpetuate the remembrance of her customs, have fixed upon the 25th instant, for going to the Priests’ Farm to play GOLF.”
1887 Earliest golf reference in western United States
San Antonio Daily Express February 20, 1887
The front-page story described the game of golf and who laid out the course around the Army Post in San Antonio. “A stout old Scotchman known to local fame as Mr. Macdonough laid out a course of nine holes and the two played, indifferent to the fact they were the laughing stock of the post and such city visitors and tourists as chanced to see them.”
This article attempts to develop a possible source for the original story passed down to Roy Webster by Herbert S. Griggs. This article identifies a credible person from the 1850’s as the possible source for the story. If the reader believes the circumstantial evidence presented is truthful then one can conclude the workers at Fort Nisqually really did construct a small golf course near the fort in the 1840’s or 1850’s. In the following article, I question the credibility of each person as I trace the story backwards to the 1850’s First I ask, Was Roy Webster credible? Second Was Herbert S. Griggs credible?
If it can be proven that golf was played at Fort Nisqually in the 1840’s or 1850’s this would be the first golf reference for a course built west of the Mississippi River. If one golf reference can be found at a Hudson’s Bay fort then the natural question would be: Did the Hudson’s Bay employees play golf at other Company forts in Canada?
In 1982 I found Roy Webster’s article in the January 1954 issue of “The Golfer” publication describing golf being played at the old Hudson’s Bay Fort near Tacoma WA. This essay is an update to the research conducted in the Hudson’s Bay files to prove or disprove the Roy Webster’s claim. Roy Webster, a recognized Pacific Northwest golf historian, contributed a monthly article titled “Northwest Features” to the publication. To determine the authenticity of his story, for thirty years I have attempted to find a golf reference in the Hudson’s Bay Archives for Fort Nisqually. If the factor actually ordered golf clubs from Scotland for the fort then I assumed the shipment would appear in the Fort records. No such records have been found. Next I thought playing golf at the fort would be such an oddity, this activity would be recorded in the “Journal of Occurrences at Fort Nisqually” The Chief Factor or his assistant maintained a daily journal describing what occurred at the fort on that day. Unfortunately these journals are missing for the decade of the 1840’s.
Six months ago, strictly by accident, I found Roy Webster related his story to William Steedman, the golf reporter for the Seattle Times, on March 26th, 1939. By conducting further research in the Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver newspapers, I found Webster recounted his story on three other occasions before the January 1954 story appeared. I have reproduced all his stories here.
SEATTLE DAILY TIMES MARCH 26, 1939 By William F. Steedman
Washington Golf Started in ‘60’s
Fort Steilacoom Had First Course
Hudson’s Bay Factor was Pioneer
Interview with Roy Webster published in the paper
“Roy Webster munched a sandwich the other afternoon in the clubhouse at Earlington. ‘I was reading your notes on the early days of golf in Victoria and Seattle. And I wondered if you knew where golf was first played in the Pacific Northwest.
Away back in the 1850’s, when the Hudson’s Bay Company still held and operated holdings of land in these parts, it had a post at Fort Nisqually. The “factor” or boss of the post, was, as most of those Hudson’s Bay factors, appears to have been, a Scotsman. And true to the traditions of his race, he was a golf enthusiast.
He had clubs and balls sent out from Scotland, laid out a half dozen holes around the fort and played golf with his cronies and fellow representatives of the company.
The Hudson’s Bay Company and its factors and its organization have long since disappeared from this state. But parts of the post’s buildings still remain and until recently, they served as quarters for the medical staff of the state hospital that occupies the site today.
That’s the story as Roy Webster got it from the late Herb Griggs of Tacoma and as I got it from Webster.”
THE VANCOUVER DAILY PROVINCE January 11, 1947.
PUTTER PATTER by Bill Forst
We have word today from one of the Northwest’s keenest amateur golf historians, Seattle’s Roy Webster. Roy questions the accuracy of a statement our Ken McConnell made, to wit, that a Scot named Wastie Green laid out the first course on the continent at Beacon Hill, Victoria in 1894. Roy says:
I think the Tacoma Country and Golf Club was laid out in 1892 at what is known as South Tacoma.
However that was not the first golf played in the Tacoma Territory. Back in the 40’s or 1850’s what is now the Steilacoom Lake State Insane Asylum was the old Hudson’s Bay post and the present physician’s quarter were built for the factor and his staff.
Oldsters in Tacoma verify the legend that the factor laid out a 3 or 4 hole course near the south end of Steilacoom Lake. This same factor introduced Scotch broom to that district, which pestiferous weed has spread throughout the northwest.
The story of the old Hudson’s Bay post golf course was told to me some 25 years ago by the late Herbert Griggs, well known Tacoma attorney. A past President of the PNGA, he was killed in an auto accident near Shelton while returning from the Seniors tournament in Victoria a few days before.
Regards and a grand 1947 to you from ROY WEBSTER.”
THE BEAVER March 1947 The Ancient Game
“From Roy Webster, golf historian of the Pacific Northwest comes word of the first golf course in those regions, one that probably antedates any others on this continent. It was at Fort Nisqually in the 1840’s he says: that the Scots factor (evidently one Angus McDonald) laid out a three or four holes course near the south end of Steilacoom Lake. This, we imagine, was near the site of the first Fort Nisqually; the second site being occupied about 1845. According to Mr. Webster the grounds where those bearded Scotsmen sclaffed around the links with their cleeks and baffies is now occupied by the State Insane Asylum.”
THE GOLFER published in Sam Mateo CA by Editor Helen Lengfeld
JANUARY 1954 Section; Northwest Features
“Golf was played over 100 years ago near Tacoma Washington, by the Hudson’s Bay Factor and his staff on a 6 or 7 hole course laid out by the Scottish post commander. The site of the golf course is now occupied by the Western State Hospital. For many years the hospital staff occupied some of the buildings, which housed the men in charge of the trading company in what was then British North America. When this part of North America was ceded to the United States the short course was abandoned when the factor and his men moved out.
It was sometime in the late 1830’s or early 1840’s that the Scot sent to the homeland for golf clubs and balls, which historical fact was well known by the early members of the Tacoma Country and Golf Club which by the way is the oldest incorporated golf club on the Pacific Coast and dates back to the early 90’s. The Factor also introduced Scotch broom to the Northwest, having the hardy bushes shipped over by trading ship and planted near the post grounds. Today Scotch broom has spread north and south for many miles and has become a pest, being as difficult to dig out as sagebrush.”
VICTORIA GOLF CLUB ARCHIVES
August 4th, 1962.
A letter from Herbert Griggs’ nephew to Chapin Foster, the curator for the Washington State Historical Society, requested information regarding Roy Webster’s claim. The Victoria GC archives does not have the response. The words “In a recent golf publication” imply another golf publication may have published Roy Webster’s 1954 article in 1961, or 1962. I have not found the Webster story in the Golf Digest, Golf World, or Golf Magazine for these years.
Letter to Chapin Foster, Curator of the Washington State Historical Society:
“In a recent golf publication there is a story by Roy Webster concerning golf in the Northwest in which he repeated a story which he said had been told to him about 30 years ago by Herbert S. Griggs, my uncle, to the effect “that the game was played in the present State of Washington in the 1840’s by the officers of the Hudson’s Bay post then located some 10 miles southwest of Tacoma near the present site of the Western State Hospital. The British trading company’s headquarters were near Fort Steilacoom, and the factor in charge sent to Scotland for clubs and balls and laid out a 7-hole course near the north end of Lake Steilacoom. When the United States took over that portion of British North America, now known as the State of Washington, the seven hole course was abandoned by the Company’s employees, according to the late Mr. Griggs.”
1980’s Colonel Parker’s unpublished Victoria GC history
Lieutenant Colonel Parker, who served the Victoria GC as the Secretary/Manager from 1955 – 1969, in his unpublished history of the club related the Hudson’s Bay Fort story.
“In the 1840’s the game was played in Washington State by the officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company before the United States took over the portion of British North America. The British trading company’s headquarters were near fort Steilacoom, and the factor (agent) in charge sent for clubs and balls from Scotland. There was a 7-hole course near the other end of Lake Steilacoom and some 2 miles east of the present village of Steilacoom. When the United States took over command of Washington, the small golf course was abandoned.”
The basic facts of this story closely align with the story Roy Webster told regarding early golf at the Hudson’s Bay Fort on at least four occasions.
While researching early golf history I have found the older the story the less the actual facts are true. There is, however, always a basic thread of truth in the old stories. What are the basic facts that we can derive from the Webster story between 1939 – 1962?
- Golf was played at a Hudson’s Bay Fort in the 1840’s and 1850’s
- The Factor for the Fort ordered clubs and laid out the course.
- The Factor introduced Scotch Broom to the area.
- Herbert S. Griggs related the story to Roy Webster
Because the primary evidence from the Hudson’s Bay Fort showing the Factor ordered golf clubs from Scotland for the employees at the Fort has not been found, this essay focuses on the legend passed down from Herbert S. Griggs to Roy Webster. This essay traces the possible person who lived at Fort Nisqually in the 1850’s. Furthermore this essay shows the link between the resident at the Fort and Herbert Griggs. If the persons mentioned in this essay are credible then the legend has a high degree of credibility.
Roy Webster – Golf Writer, Golf Historian, Salesman
Born in Chetek Wisconsin around 1886, Roy Webster was the eldest son of Dr. J. T. Webster. Roy graduated from the University of Chicago as a lawyer in 1907. He promptly headed west to Spokane WA. There he immediately gained employment working for the state government as the local milk and dairy inspector. He married Helena Hall on July 30th, 1909. The couple had two sons and one daughter before their divorce in the late 1920’s.
Roy moved the family to Tacoma around 1909 where he began his career as a salesman for the US Rubber Company. He began his golf career at Maplewood. For the remainder of his life he actively participated in the affairs of public golfers in Tacoma and Seattle. Periodically he wrote historical and current golf articles for the Tacoma Daily Ledger newspaper on a freelance basis. During WW2 he worked in co-operation with George Norgan in Vancouver BC to organize a series of golf matches between workers at the Boeing Plant in Seattle and the Boeing plants at Sea Island Vancouver and Chilliwack. After the War he continued as a salesman for the Pacific Car & Foundry Co. in Renton.
The Northwest newspaper golf writers constantly prefaced Roy’s comments as coming from “one of the keenest amateur golf historians in the Northwest.” When Helen Lengfeld, the Editor and Publisher of THE GOLFER hired Roy in 1953, she described him as “Roy Webster, whose long background of golf and golf writing makes him ideally qualified to represent the great Pacific Northwest for THE GOLFER”. He wrote a monthly column titled “Northwest Features”. The column described the highlights for the past month’s golf activities interspersed with historical material.
Roy’s, second wife Lavilla (Billie) Webster, was a prominent golfer in the public ranks. She won women’s championships in Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, and Boise. In 1940 she finished 2nd in the Washington State Public Links Tournament. As a resident of Boise she finished 2nd twice in the Idaho State Women’s Championship. She predeceased her husband by seven months in 1958. Roy died in Yakima on September 5th, 1958.
While in Tacoma newspaper accounts show Roy actively participated in the administration of the local tournaments. It would be perfectly reasonable to assume Herbert S. Griggs; a prominent member of the Tacoma Country & Golf Club, related the early Hudson’s Bay fort golf story to him.
Herbert S. Griggs – Tacoma Lawyer and Charter Member of the Tacoma Golf Club (later Tacoma Country and Golf Club)
In June 1888 Colonel Griggs along with his son Herbert Griggs arrived in Tacoma to create a “Monster Milling Company.” The objectives of the new St Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company included: to deal in real estate; to deal in logs, ties, timber, and lumber; to manufacture, purchase, and sell timber, lath, shingles, and all other wood products; to build, lease, and own timber lands, mills, wharves, docks, ships; to construct and own, bridges, railroads, and ships to move products; and to lease or purchase coal, iron, and other mines. “ Edward Huggins, the Pierce County Auditor, oversaw the new company for Pierce County.
Basically the Griggs family chose Tacoma as the place where the family would relocate their entire St Paul operation. Instantly the Griggs family became the most important family in Tacoma. As good citizens the family supported all aspects of social life in Tacoma. As a lawyer, Herbert, opened a local law firm. His firm drafted most of the articles for incorporation for the fledgling social societies. Herbert especially loved the local Musical Opera Society. He was an accomplished singer in the local productions. Because of their wealth Colonel Griggs and his sons became active participants in the local private banks. The family enterprises soon became the number one employer in the region, employing thousands of residents.
Newspaper accounts reported Herbert Griggs playing off a scratch handicap. Perhaps he learned the game as a member of the Town & Country Golf Club in St Paul. When the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA) formed in 1899, Herbert became an active representative of the Tacoma Country and Golf Club. He served as the association’s president from 1907 – 1911. He held the same position with his home club, the Tacoma C&GC from 1931 – 1932. As a senior he annually traveled to the Victoria Golf Club to play in the Pacific Northwest Seniors Golf Association tournament. While returning from this August event in 1933 he suffered a fatal auto accident on his return journey.
Chester Thorne – Tacoma Banker and Charter Member of the Tacoma Golf Club
Because of Mrs. Thorne’s family roots in Tacoma, Chester Thorne decided to move his family to Tacoma around October 1890. Mrs. Thorne was the daughter of one of the prominent attorneys, H.B. Hoxie, in Tacoma. “I (Chester) was out here about a year ago, and in that time I see that Tacoma has made great progress. I had been led to believe that business was at a standstill out here, but I see that the contrary is the case. There have been many large buildings erected since my former visit, and everything appears to be moving with its accustomed activity.”
Using his banking expertise, Chester immediately joined the Fidelity Trust Company Bank. In 1892 he began his long relationship with the National Bank of Tacoma that formed in 1892. The original Directors included FM Wade, President, J.C. Weathered, Vice President, Cashier, AF McClaine; Directors: Chester Thorne, Edward Huggins, John Burke, and JS Baker. In 1899 company records reported in the Tacoma Daily Ledger showed him as the President and Edward Huggins as the Vice-President.
Like Herbert S. Griggs, Chester Thorne joined the initial group that introduced golf to Tacoma in 1894. Also like Griggs he played off a scratch handicap giving one the impression he likely played golf in the New York area prior to his arrival. Similar to his fellow Tacoma golf club member Thorne played an active role in the PNGA. Chester followed Griggs as the association president from 1912 – 1915. Stuart Rice another prominent banker in Tacoma served as the PNGA President during the Griggs and Thorne presidencies. He served his club as president in 1906.
Chester Thorne died on October 16th, 1927. Samuel Jackson, President of the National Bank of Tacoma, outlined Chester’s contribution to Tacoma; “In the untimely death of Mr. Thorne, Tacoma has suffered a keen lose. His unique position here as a philanthropist, a banker, a citizen, a friend, and a gentleman, endeared him to all. Mr. Thorne had not only the highest standards but lived up to them. His place cannot be filled.” WR Rust, a Tacoma Investment Banker described Chester as a very modest individual with a great public spirit who contributed to Tacoma financially in many ways unknown to the public.
Edward Huggins- The Link, Puget Sound Agricultural Company Employee, Fort Nisqually Factor, Pacific Northwest Historian, Recognized Authority on life at Fort Nisqually 1850 – 1907
Born on June 10th, 1832 in St Olave, Surrey, England, Edward Huggins Junior was the first son of Edward and Eleanor Huggins. Edward senior worked as an agricultural labour. Edward Junior attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in the village. Upon graduation he sought employment as a clerk in a London. Fortunately he approached the Hudson’s Bay Company main office. Company employees encouraged him to travel to the Pacific Northwest where he would find employment. Full of adventure the teenage boarded the Company ship, the Norman Harrison, bound for Fort Victoria in October 1849. Upon his arrival in March 1850, Chief Factor James Douglas at Fort Victoria immediately dispatched him to Fort Nisqually to be Dr William Fraser Tolmie’s main assistant.
In 1850 Dr. Tolmie acted as the Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Nisqually. Basically the Fort traded furs for basics supplies with the First Nations bands occupying lands in the Puget Sound and interior regions. Tolmie also acted as the manager for the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) that controlled 100,000 acres of farmlands surrounding the fort. The PSAC raised sheep , cattle, and horses to supply the trading ships heading to Alaska. To maintain the animals the Agricultural Company grew various crops including potatoes, vegetables, and grains. The settlers in the surrounding farms traded their agricultural products for household and personal provisions. Basically the HBC and the PSAC supplied all the basic needs for the First Nations and the settlers in a vast area of Washington. One estimate placed the total value of goods on hand at the fort between $20,000 and $30,000 at any one time.
Upon his arrival at Fort Nisqually in 1850 Edward Huggins became Tolmie’s right hand man. Over the next nine years Tolmie trained Huggins in all aspects of operating the fort and the farm. The 1846 Boundary Treaty between the United States and Britain gave ownership of the 100,000 acres of lands occupied by Fort Nisqually and the PSAC to the Hudson’s Bay Company until the US government and the Hudson’s Bat Company could settle on a valuation for the property. The Hudson’s Bay Co and the US government would over time determine a valuation for the Company’s assets.
When the Indian Wars broke out in 1856, Edward Huggins volunteered to lead a group of fifteen to twenty Fort employees to the Muck Station. During the next three years this group headed by Huggins protected the southern area of the PSAC lands.
In 1859 the Hudson’s Bay Company foresaw the day when the company would lose all its holdings in Washington State. The Company moved Dr Tolmie to Fort Victoria to establish farms on Vancouver Island to replace the farms at Nisqually. Edward Huggins became the Manager of the PSAC and Fort Nisqually Over the next decade he basically oversaw the farming operation because little trading for furs was carried out at the fort. He did make excursions to Gray’s Harbor to trade for sea lion skins. In 1869 the Hudson’s Bay Company and the United States Government agreed on a valuation for all the Hudson’s Bay Company assets at Fort Nisqually. Huggins oversaw the transfer of the lands.
Rather than move to Fort Kamloops in British Columbia, Edward Huggins followed other early British settlers. By declaring himself and his wife a citizens of the US he and his wife would be eligible for 320 acres each. Huggins pre-empted the place he loved Fort Nisqually and 640 acres surrounding the fort. Over the next decade, he purchased several surrounding farms to increase his holdings to about 1,000 acres. Until his death Huggins and his family including six sons operated the farm.
Fort Nisqually as it appeared in the 1880’s while Edward Huggins owned the property.
From 1877 – 1892 Huggins served as the Pierce County Commissioner and the County Auditor. As previously mentioned in 1888 Colonel Griggs and his son Herbert first met Auditor Edward Huggins when the two presented their plans for the St Paul Tacoma Lumber Company.) In 1892 Edward Huggins and Chester Thorne were members of the first Board of Directors for the National Bank of Tacoma. From 1897 – 1905 Edward Huggins served as the Vice President for the Bank under Chester Thorne, the President.
In 1891 Edward encouraged a group of prominent citizens to form the Washington State Historical Society. Herbert Griggs served on the first Board and prepared the Articles of Incorporation for the new Society. Because of his vast knowledge, his extensive collection of papers and diaries pertaining to the history of Fort Nisqually and the surrounding area, Edward Huggins became the first curator for the Washington State Historical Society. In this capacity Edward served the community as the local expert on the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. He wrote extensively for the local newspapers describing the early days in Pierce and Thurston Counties. He acted as an advisor to local historians and writers. Even the local newspapers would contact him if an unusual event occurred. The locals wanted to know if the same event had occurred in the distant past. Fortunately Edward maintained meticulous diaries from the first day he arrived in the region.
Herbert Griggs and Edward Huggins had another mutual connection. They both loved music. Herbert performed frequently on stage at the Orpheus Club. On the day of his death Edward planned to attend a concert at the club, but he did not feel well enough. He remained at home writing a letter to a friend, entering information into his diary, and reading to his grand daughter.
Prior to his death Edward along with his neighbours agreed to sell their properties to the DuPont Powder Company of Wilmington, Delaware. In 1932 the Young Men’s Business Club of Tacoma undertook the project to save the oldest buildings in Washington State located at Fort Nisqually. After two years on September 4th, 1934, the reconstructed Fort Nisqually based on the original plans opened at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Upon his death on January 24th, 1907 the local residents lost their last link to the early history of the region. The local newspaper described him as “high minded and a man of the strictest integrity.
The reconstructed Fort Nisqually at Point Definace 1934.
Dr. William Fraser Tolmie – Physician, Botanist, Taxidermist, Fort Nisqually Factor, Puget Sound Agricultural Company Manager.
Born in Inverness Scotland around 1812, young William Fraser Tolmie’s life appeared on a path of struggle when his mother died. Fortunately his aunt and uncle assumed the parental role for the toddler. Thanks to his uncle he attended the Inverness Academy and the Perth Grammar School. Studying became a way of life for William. “A voracious appetite for classic literature, natural history, mathematics, geography, history, ornithology, politics, aboriginal cultures, religion and botany challenged the young Scot’s inquiring mind.” His uncle financed his two years at Glasgow University training to be a medical doctor.
Fortunately for the aspiring medical student, he met renowned botanist William J. Hooker and Dr. John Scouler. These two prominent Glasgow citizens introduced the young Scot to the officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company. With his inquiring mind and his desire for studying the new world, the Hudson’s Bay encouraged him to travel to the Pacific Northwest. Their choice proved to be a perfect match for the Company and the Northwest. Until his death Dr. Tolmie played a significant and everlasting role in the development of the Oregon Territory and British Columbia.
With his inquiring mind, his deep sense of equality, and his love for plants and animals, he preserved the native plants by sending specimens to his life long friend William Hooker at the Glasgow University. Each Hudson’s Bay shipping leaving Fort Nisqually contained plant specimens, birds, and animals indigenous to the Northwest. Because of his love for plants Dr Tolmie may have introduced the Scotch Broom to the Northwest.
When Fort Langley was established in 1827 the Company decided they required a Fort on the Puget Sound approximately half way between Fort Vancouver and Fort Langley on the overland route. The new fort would also serve the bands in the Puget Sound more easily for trading. In 1832 Chief Trader Archibald McDonald chose the site near the mouth of the Sequalitchew Creek for the new fort. He began the “Journal of Occurrences for Fort Nisqually”.
In June 1833 McDonald left Dr Tolmie in charge of the construction of the new Fort Nisqually as well as care for Pierre Charles who suffered from a axe cut to his ankle. During his six month residence at the Fort, Dr Tolmie. Tolmie chose the site for the first [permanent Fort Nisqually. He constructed the new Fort on the prairie lands above the beach. . Today remnants the original fort can be seen on the left hand side of the 9th hole on the Washington State Golf Association “The Home Course”. The original fort lacked a convenient source of fresh water. During its ten-year life span few British citizens worked at the fort. The factors (agents) in charge of the fort included: Dr Tolmie, Francis Heron, William Kittson, and Alexander Anderson. From 1834 – 1841 Dr. Tolmie had assignments at Fort McLoughlin, located at Bella Bella on the BC coast and at Fort Simpson on the Nass River in the Northwest Territories. He continued interacting with the First Nations Bands, collecting plant and animal specimens for shipment back to Scotland, and recording the activities of the area. In 1841 and 1842 Tolmie returned to Scotland on leave. He traveled extensively in Great Britain and Europe especially his favourite place Paris. (It would seem reasonable he saw golf being played in Great Britain during this visit. He socialized with the gentry as an expert on the Pacific Northwest.)
As the fur trading operation at Fort Nisqually began to decrease the Company decided to begin a farming operation at Fort Nisqually. In 1838 The Hudson’s Bay Company formed a separate enterprise called the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) to operate the farm. The PSAC began to cultivate the lands for food and grain crops, as well as to maintain sheep, pigs, cows, horses and oxen.
In 1843 after a two-year sabbatical in Europe, Dr. Tolmie returned to Fort Nisqually. His superiors instructed him to construct a new Fort Nisqually closer to a water supply. Dr Tolmie believed he could keep the territory British if he introduced British settlers into the area. He offered the new arrivals farmland. Edward Huggins in his series of articles for the Oregonian Newspaper referred to these British settlers as “Gentlemen Farmers who loved to maintain their British heritage including fox hunting. The 1850 census shows about 300 British citizens living in the area.
The January 1850 PSAC records showed Tolmie had created a monster international trading company. In ten short years the company operation at Nisqually had over 12,000 sheep, 10,000 head of cattle, 600 horses, and oxen. The territory included 161,000 acres or 252 Square miles. Basically this included all the lands between the Nisqually and the Puyallup Rivers including Tacoma, the Puyallup Indian Reservations, Fife, Puyallup, and all the towns south through Kapowsin and the Ohop Valley and west to the Puget Sound. From their dock on the Sound ships transport horses, cattle, sheep, tons of mutton, wool, hides, butter, potatoes, peas, and grains. Most of the PSAC employees had British origins.
In 1850 the settlers and the employees at the Hudson’s Fort and the PSAC began to feel unsafe. The first rumblings of discontent with the First Nation’s Bands began to surface. Even though the Washington Territory had been officially formed in 1847, the area required a protective force. To solve the issue the US Government sent a detachment of soldiers to Fort Nisqually. The Army rented the former John Heath farm from the Company. Heath had recently died leaving a fully operating farm with suitable structures for the Army to occupy. The Army constructed Fort Steilacoom around the Heath holdings This Fort operated until 1870. The Washington State Government paid $650 for Fort Nisqually lands in order to construct the Washington Psychiatric State Hospital.
Dr. Tolmie managed the PNWAC and Fort Nisqually until the Hudson’s Bay Company moved him to their new Fort Victoria. Edward Huggins assumed Dr. Tolmie’s position as head of the PSAC.
Because all the individuals including Roy Webster, Herbert Griggs, Chester Thorne, Edward Huggins, and Dr William Fraser Tolmie can be classified as credible participants in the legend, there is a high degree of truth to the story. Fort Steilacoom, the future site for the Washington State Psychiatric Hospital was never a Hudson’s Bay fort. Although Dr. Tolmie probably never played golf, “the gentlemen farmers may have asked him to order a shipment of golf clubs from Scotland. One of the gentlemen farmers likely would know how to layout a course around the fort. The primary evidence required to absolutely prove the legend is correct could possibly be uncovered in the Edward Huggins diaries, papers, and published articles. In his articles Huggins identified the British citizens living in the are from 1845 – 1855. One of these Britishers may have been the “Golfer”.
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