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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 some of the Willamette Valley 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

At Fort Vancouver, Hudson's Bay Company officials 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 earlier the American settlers had dared establish the Oregon Provisional Government and create the District of Vancouver. The British tried every means possible to evict Amos and Esther Short, including destroying their fences.

Esther goes boating on the Columbia

Once when Amos was away, the British loaded Esther and her children in a boat and cast them adrift on the Columbia River. Somehow she managed to get the children safely home, but after that, Amos kept a gun handy. He ordered the British to stay 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 the resulting murder charges (the court later found he acted in self-defense), another band of Hudson's Bay men under the adventurous French-Canadian Francis Facette, was sent to destroy the Shorts' fences once again. Fed up, Esther Short slapped Facette 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 crop in California. Undaunted, Esther continued to help build the city of Vancouver, which was at first called Columbia City. In 1855, she donated land that is now Esther Short Park and a long strip of waterfront to the city. Vancouver was incorporated two years later on Jan. 23, 1857.

To read more about early Vancouver, go to Why Vancouver never saw Vancouver (1792) and Fur traders and Hawaiians (1825) or visit these Web sites:

- History of Vancouver
- Vancouver National Historic Reserve

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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

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