by Joei Carlton Hossack
It was a perfect day trip from Vancouver, British Columbia to the National Historic Site at Fort Langley. It was sunny and warm and there was little traffic on the highway for our mid-week outing.
My friend Edith and I arrived at the Fort just in time to attend the staged wedding of Allison, a First Nations woman and Jason, a fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company, or in this case, audience members. Before vows were exchanged gifts of Hudson Bay blankets, cranberries, hides for moccasins and tools were traded between the husband’s and wife’s families. A simple ceremony followed and promises were made that when a judge arrived at the Fort the marriage would be formalized.
For two hours we lived in the 19th century, wandering in and out of the reconstructed wooden buildings. From the cooperage, where barrels were built to store and ship salmon, cranberries and farm produce, we went to the blacksmith shop where farm tools were forged then set out for viewing and giant bellows hung from the ceiling. The storehouse, built in the 1840s and renovated in the 1930s is the only original building left on the site. We drifted into the First Nations building, next door, for a little fur trading and to examine the pile of pelts on the tables.
We stopped at the Barrel Café and realized that a traditional lunch menu of harvest soup with bannock (bread prepared by frying), scones, chicken and cranberries sandwich, maple baked beans or settler’s shepherd pie to mention just a few items, were available. We had already lunched on a “James Dean” burger in town but couldn’t resist a cup of tea and a cranberry scone.
In November, 1858 British Columbia was proclaimed a colony at a ceremony in The Big House. The building served as the Fort’s office and residence of the chief trader, the clerk and their families.
After an informal introduction to the livestock, consisting of rabbits, pigs and sheep all housed in individual pens, we took our seats and listened to a presentation at the Heritage Garden. We sampled green beans and a vegetable that was the precursor of celery but tasted harsh to my palate. We munched on tiny edible flowers and enjoyed the delicate flavor. Small paper bags were handed out to carry away sprigs of mint and sage and handfuls of beans.
Now well fortified, I tried my hand at some gold panning. There might have been nuggets in that water but I found nothing larger than tiny flakes and certainly nothing I wanted to take home. We ended our tour at The Servant’s Quarters, walking from room to room and taking pictures of the food in the center of tables, the bear rugs on the floor, the chamber pots under the beds and snowshoes that hung from the rafters or propped against walls.
To ease our way back into the 21st century we browsed through the antique shops on Mavis Avenue before hitting the ice cream shop in Fort Langley.
About the author:
Joei Carlton Hossack is the author of ten adventure travel books, an entertaining and inspirational speaker and amateur photographer. Her favorite mode of transportation is traveling solo in her RV. She teaches memoir writing and travel writing. Please visit her website at www.joeicarlton.com. Joei has created a new line of books called Mini Reads and a new line of bookmarks combining her love of photography and bead work. The bookmarks are available at www.etsy.com/shop/BookBlingbyJoei