Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fort Vancouver (Oregon vacation part 2)

Wednesday, my dad and I took the boys up to Vancouver, Washington, to visit Fort Vancouver and the Pearson Air Museum.

Fort Vancouver (for reference, see National Park Service or Fort Vancouver sites)

For two little boys who love to play Age of Empires II, they thought it was really cool to see the palisade walls, the bastion, and the blacksmith shop just like a life-size model of the game. Shhhh! Don't tell them that it was actually a very educational visit.

Fort Vancouver started out as a trading post for the Hudson Bay Company in the early 1800's. They mainly traded in beaver skins.

YB tries on a beaver-skin hat in the welcome center.

All but one of the buildings were open for visitors, and there were actually a carpenter and a blacksmith on duty working in their shops and teaching visitors about their handywork.

The carpenter showed us how his foot-pedal lathe worked and then showed us how barrels are made. (If you click on the images, they will enlarge.)

Next we went up in the bastion
(a.k.a. "bombard tower" in AoE II).

Lotis the Canine Canonball

After the bastion, we headed over to visit the blacksmith's shop.
(Note the blur of motion as he strikes a nail he is making on the anvil.)

The blacksmith explains how they made the beaver traps and how they worked. It took 18 months to ship the raw materials (iron ore, coal) to Fort Vancouver, but it was better to make the traps there. If they made the traps in England and shipped them to Fort Vancouver, then they would be rusty and break by the time the trappers got them into the field.

Then he gave us a demonstration of how the beaver trap worked. (I didn't get the whole demonstration in the video, but at least the end of it.) Note there are no teeth in the "jaws" of the beaver trap because they didn't want to damage the fur.

Axe Head in the Making

The blacksmith also showed us how they made an axe. A hard piece of steel was put in for the blade and then welded in the soft iron of the axehead. Axe heads were a very popular trade item with the Native Americans. They would trade Native Americans 3 beaver skinds for one axe head. Oh, but they wouldn't give them a sharp axe, they'd give them a dull axe. That way, the Native Americans also had to trade an additional beaver skin for a file to sharpen the axe.

Like the carpenter, the blacksmith was also very friendly and engaging - showing things to the boys, asking them questions, and listening to their questions, too. In this photo, the blacksmith is showing the boys what a whitesmith does.

A whitesmith does fancy decorative work like the notches you see here.

These cannons were cast in 1804...
...the same year Lewis & Clark started their expedition.

3GR = 3 George Rex = King George III

I've never seen a well like this before.

The boys looking down the well.

The boys put me under arrest and locked me up in jail.

There is more to see at Fort Vancouver, and there were lots more photos, but I tried to pick out a sampling here to give you a feel for our visit to Fort Vancouver. Overall, I was very glad we went, and the boys seemed like they had a really good time and learned a lot. My only regret was that I forgot to bring our National Park Service Golden Eagle Pass, so we had to pay for admission. It was only $5 though and went to support a good cause - keeping history alive here at Fort Vancouver.

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