This Blessed Wilderness

Archibald McDonald's Letters from the Columbia, 1822-44

By (author) Jean M. Cole
Categories: History
Series: The Pioneers of British Columbia
Publisher: UBC Press
Paperback : 9780774808330, 308 pages, July 2001

Table of contents



Part 1: Fort George and Thompson River, 1822-28

Part 2: Fort Langley, 1829-33

Part 3: Fort Colvile, 1834-44

Part 4: Envoi, 1845-49




This informative and entertaining collection of letters provides an invaluable glimpse of both the man and life in the Pacific Northwest between 1822 and 1844.


The twenty-five years between 1821 and 1846 were turbulent but important years in the history of the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest: 1821 saw the merger of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, and 1846 saw the signing of the Oregon Treaty, which established the Canada-U. S. border. Archibald McDonald was a man who experienced these changes first hand. As a senior HBC officer, he was sent to the Columbia District headquarters at Fort George in 1821 to oversee the recently absorbed NWC posts and assets. After the merger, McDonald went on to direct operations at Thompson River (1826-28), Fort Langley (1828-33), and Fort Colvile (1833-44). During his tenure in the Pacific Northwest, letters were McDonald’s only link with the outside world. Collected here for the first time by Jean Murray Cole, these public and private letters to friends, business colleagues, missionaries, botanists, and many others provide a fascinating narrative of the expansion of the fur trade at a critical time in its history. McDonald’s witty and ironic style make these informative letters highly readable and entertaining. They are an invaluable primary resource for historians of the fur trade and the Pacific Northwest, anthropologists, geographers, and specialists in native studies. More general readers will be fascinated by these amusing snapshots of early settlement in the Pacific Northwest.


This book will be a “must-read” for those interested in the Pacific fur trade during this period, but the letters are interesting in themselves, and the background and explanatory notes provided by the editor give this book a much wider appeal.

- Morag MacLachlan