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Why Esther Short slapped the French Canadian (1845)

Amos and Esther Short and their eight children landed at Fort Vancouver on Christmas Day 1845. After exploring part of the Willamette Valley looking for a place to start their potato farm, they returned to the fort, claimed a section of wilderness nearby, and built a log cabin. The eastern boundary of their land, marked by a balm of Gilead tree on the banks of the Columbia River, would one day become Vancouver's Main Street.

British try to evict the Shorts

Hudson's Bay Company officials at the fort looked at their new neighbors with suspicion and resentment. Since the fort was founded, no Americans had dared claim land in its vicinity. To make matters worse, just a year before the American settlers had dared to establish the Oregon Provisional Government and create the District of Vancouver. The British tried every means possible to evict Amos and Esther, including destroying their fences.

Esther goes boating on the Columbia

One time when Amos was away, they even loaded Esther and her children in a boat and cast them adrift on the Columbia. Somehow she managed to get the children safely back home, but after that Amos kept a gun handy. He ordered his enemies to keep off his land, but they disregarded his warnings and a shooting followed. Two men were killed.

A slap for Facette

While Amos was away defending himself against murder charges (the court later found he acted in self-defense), another band of Hudson's Bay men under the leadership of an adventurous French-Canadian, Francis Facette, was sent down to destroy the fences once again. Fed up, Esther hit Facette with the open palm of her hand and knocked him to the ground. The Hudson's Bay Company gave up in the face of her determination and Esther Short was here to stay.

A short time later, Amos drowned in the Columbia River while returning from selling his potato harvest in California. Undaunted, Esther carried on with the task of helping build the city of Vancouver (at first called Columbia City). In 1855 she donated Esther Short Park and a long strip of waterfront for the city's use forever. Vancouver was incorporated two years later on January 23, 1857.

To read more about early Vancouver, go to Why Vancouver never saw Vancouver (1792) and The fur traders and the Hawaiians (1825) or visit these Web sites:
- History of Vancouver
- Vancouver National Historic Reserve www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015
E-mail: pio@clark.wa.gov

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