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James Douglas
Tour Washington state's historic Fort Vancouver by lantern light
Tour Washington state's historic Fort Vancouver by lantern light

VANCOUVER, Wash. — It was a December night, around the mid-1800s from the look of it, in a cozy candlelit parlor. I was eavesdropping on a teatime conversation between James Douglas, Fort Vancouver's bow-tied chief trader, and Narcissa Whitman, another famed pioneer of the era. The topic: "country marriages." That was the euphemism of the day for pairings between local Native American women and the fort's male employees, brought to the edge of a wild continent on contract with the fur-trading Hudson's Bay Co. These "marriages" — made without chapel or pastor — often lasted only as long as the man's posting at the fort, after which...

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