Chapter 1: The Hudson's Bay Company Farm or the Great Langley Prairie

Photo courtesy of Provincial Archives, Victoria, B.C.
James Murray Yale
The third Chief Factor in charge of Fort Langley, he ruled the outpost's destiny for 25 years.
(page 15)


Falls on Kanaka Creek
Falls on Kanaka Creek
(page 16)
    It was in the early 1830s that the Company's Board of Directors decided that Fort Nisqually should replace Fort Langley.  The Board was concerned with the difficulties sometimes encountered by their overseas sailing vessels in attempting to navigate the Fraser as far as Fort Langley to collect the yearly take of furs and salmon.  The Board also felt that Nisqually would be more easily accessible from Fort Vancouver.  They sent Chief Trader Francis Heron, then in charge of Fort Colville on the Upper Columbia, to supervise the (<--14) (17-->) move.  Dr. McLoughlin stalled it, and before the Board could again intervene, steam vessels began appearing on the Pacific Coast putting as end to the need for a move.  McLoughlin instructed Yale to commence farming operations at Fort Langley on a large scale.  Yale found 2,000 acres of choice farmlands southeast of the fort capable of producing enormous crops.  These fields became known as the Hudson's Bay Company Farm or the Great Langley Prairie.  Etienne Pepin plowed the first furrow on the farm.

     Also known as Etienne Pepen, Etienne Maillé and Etienne Magice, Pepin was born in Yamaska, Quebec, the eldest child of Marguerite Pepin and Michel May.  He started his service with the Hudson's Bay Company in the mid 1820s, starting at Fort Vancouver and then moving to Fort Langley in December of 1827.  In HBC records, he is listed as a servant in 1827, but by 1838 is listed as a blacksmith, though journal entries indicate that he functioned as a blacksmith as early as 1828.  He had at least two, perhaps three country wives, and had three children, Marie in 1835, François in 1838, and Simon in 1855, all born at Fort Langley. 

In 1856, Etienne married Isabelle, a Kwantlen woman in a Catholic ceremony.  In 1858, Etienne was recalled by Jason Allard to be the farm's overseer, and shortly thereafter became the senior representative of the non-Scottish tradesmen.  Etienne Pepin died in Fort Langley in 1874, at approximately 75 years of age, and was buried in the fort's cemetery, along--it is thought--with Isabelle.

   In 1836 Yale received a visit from the Hudson's Bay Company's steamer Beaver.  As a floating post this vessel took away some trade from Fort Langley's doorstep.  The Beaver was the first steam vessel on the Pacific Coast and was a familiar sight on the Fraser in the early days.

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Copyright © Donald E. Waite / Lisa M. Peppan