832 THE ADVOCATE VOL. 75 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2017 son’s Bay Company had a post at Victoria. The Oregon Treaty therefore provided that the boundary would follow the 49th parallel “to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Fuca’s Straits, to the Pacific Ocean”. The obvious question arises: Where is the “middle of the channel”? Existing maps were unclear. This question would not be settled until 1872. In the meantime, curious and momentous happenings would occur. In the curious category, we have the incident that occurred in 1859 known as the Pig War. The channel between Vancouver Island and the mainland is occupied by many small islands, in particular a group called the San Juan Islands, named after the largest and most westerly island of the group. This group of islands creates more than one channel in the strait. To the west of the group is Haro Strait and to the east is Rosario Strait. There is also a non-navigable channel that passes through the middle of the group called the Middle Channel or the San Juan Channel. Needless to say, Britain and the United States could not agree on which of these channels was the one referred to in the Oregon Treaty. A special joint boundary commission set up by Britain and the U.S. in 1856 also could not agree. The British wanted the boundary to be in Rosario Strait; the Americans wanted it in Haro Strait. They both wanted the San Juan Islands. The commission was disbanded after a year. Soon San Juan Island became the focus of the conflict. American settlers had started to homestead there. At the same time, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a sheep ranch at the southern end of the island. This led to a crisis in 1859. The manager of the Hudson’s Bay Company ranch, Charles Griffin, kept several pigs which he let roam freely. The pigs foraged on crops planted by local settlers. One of the settlers, Lyman Cutlar, got fed up with these predations and on June 15, 1859 shot and killed one of the pigs, which he found munching on his potato crop. Cutlar offered to settle the matter by paying Griffin $10 compensation, but Griffin wanted $100. The impasse quickly escalated. The Hudson’s Bay Company (in the person of Governor James Douglas) insisted that Cutlar be arrested and brought to trial. Alarmed by this threat, the local settlers appealed to the American commander of the Department of Oregon, Brigadier General William S. Harney, to send military protection. Harney, aggressive and anti-British, quickly dispatched 66 soldiers of the 9th Infantry to San Juan Island. In July 1859 the troops set up camp at the southern tip of the island. The company was commanded by Captain George Pickett (more about him later), who issued a proclamation claiming the island as United States territory.
Nov Advocate 2017
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