David Douglas, a Scotchman, arrived at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Astoria in 1840. He was not interested in the fur trade or for new territory for his government. He was a botanist, and he came to examine the things that grew in the heavily forested Cowlitz region. The Hudson’s Bay Company welcomed him and offered him hospitality, but he proved to be an unappreciative guest.
On one of his trips, he traveled up the Cowlitz and back. He told about keeping Cowlitz Indians in awe by dropping effervescent tablets into a cup of water. The Cowlitz onlookers assumed the resulting agitation meant that the water was boiling, and when Douglas drank the bubbling liquid they considered him to be big medicine.
Douglas was in truth, a dour Scott. He complained about the Indian canoe men who brought him down the Cowlitz River, saying that they over charged him for the journey. He had a low opinion of the Hudson’s bay Company personnel, too, saying that there wasn’t a man among them who had a soul that couldn’t be bought for the price of a beaver pelt.
Whatever Douglas thought of the people he encountered in the Northwest, he was impressed with the fauna and flora, and named many specimens. The world of science in turn was impressed with the Douglas’ findings, and the largest species of fir was named in his honor, the Douglas Fir.
JOHN R. JACKSON AND MICHAEL SIMMONS
Simon Plamondon was the first permanent white settler in Cowlitz country, and the second was John R. Jackson, an Englishman who arrived in 1844. He located on the north side of a gentle slope at the edge of a wide prairie several miles north of the Cowlitz Mission. His old log cabin can still be seen near the location of Mary’s Corner. Jackson’s farm adjoined that of Simon Plamondon. Simon assisted Jackson in the building of his first log house. The Lewis County Court convened in the homes of Simon Plamondon and Sidney S. Ford after its organization on October 4, 1847. By late fall of 1850; however, John R. Jackson’s new home, intended to replace his earlier cramped cabin, was underway. It became the focus of legal business in the county, which then comprised half of western Washington.
Michael Simmons explored the Cowlitz corridor that same year, and then went back to report to his wagon train that was camped near Fort Vancouver. One of Simmons’s party was a mulatto, and no Negroes were allowed in Southern Oregon. They all agreed to go north in spite of objections made by the Hudson’s Bay Company that wanted no Americans in the area. They still wished that this would become British Territory. This party finally went farther north of the Cowlitz area and Simmons founded the town of Tumwater, near Olympia.
LIEUTENANTS HENRY JAMES WARRE AND MERVIN VAVASOUR
In 1845, Lieutenants Henry James Warre and Mervin Vavasour, Royal Engineers and British officers, were sent by Great Britain, under the guise of being British gentlemen, on a secret mission to spy out the country. Great Britain wanted their advice and council regarding whether or not to fight against the United States for possession of the territory.