Territorial Timeline

Astoria founded by the Pacific Fur Company

On March 22, 1811, John Jacob Astor's expedition from New York arrived off the mouth of the Columbia River in present-day Oregon. The building of Fort Astoria began on April 12, 1812 and it would serve as a fur trading post in the Pacific Northwest.

John Jacob Astor was a wealthy businessman who grew rich by buying and selling the furs brought to New York and Boston by various traders. Rather than deal with independent ship captains, Astor decided to build his own company to trade directly with the Indians and trappers of the Pacific Northwest. He planned to send one party overland and another by ship around Cape Horn; they would meet at the mouth of the Columbia River and establish a trading post there. His ship, the Tonquin, set sail from New York on September 10, 1810. The arrived off the mouth of the Columbia River on March 22, 1811. The crew selected a building site and began building Fort Astoria on April 12.

After unloading the supplies, the sailed north looking for furs to buy. At a harbor somewhere on the west coast of Vancouver Island, probably Clayoquot Sound, the crew dropped anchor and began trading with the Indians. Unfortunately, Jonathon Thorn, the commander of the Tonquin, exchanged harsh words with the local Indian chief. The next day, the Indians swarmed aboard the ship and massacred all but five of the crew. These five held the Indians back with gunfire, but when four of the men tried to flee in a small boat during the night, the Indians killed them. The fifth man stayed hidden on the ship, waiting for the Indians to return. When the Indians attacked again, he waited until the deck was well crowded to explode the ship's gunpowder magazine. A Chehalis Indian interpreter who accompanied Thorn escaped to tell the tale.

In the meantime, Astor's overland party, under the command of Wilson Price Hunt, left St. Louis on March 12, 1811. The party encountered countless obstacles: almost starved to death, and becomes lost in the wilderness for weeks. They finally reached Astoria on March 12, 1811.