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Recalling Kamloops under the stars and stripes
In the 1840s, the Americans were on the verge of war with Britain over the Oregon Country — a vast swath of land covering present-day Oregon, Washington, much of B.C. and parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
While discussions continued and potential battle hung in the balance, what would become the Tournament Capital played a key role in the exchange.
According to Thompson Rivers University history professor John Hart, the Americans used Kamloops as a big part of their claim to present-day B.C.
Negotiations between the two sides included claims based on previous activity in the Oregon Country.
“To the Americans, they had a claim — and one of the claims they made was, ‘We were set up in Kamloops in 1812,’” Hart told KTW.
“They said, ‘It’s ours.’”
Only a few decades earlier, Fort Kamloops had been an American settlement — established by men sent up from John Astor’s Fort Astoria in present-day Oregon — flying an American flag.
“Kamloops gave the Americans the claim right up into B.C.’s Interior,” Hart said.
“In my opinion, their claim was pretty good.”
Shortly after the War of 1812 ended, Astor handed control of Fort Kamloops over to the Montreal-based Northwest Company, ending the American presence in Kamloops after about a year.
“So, Kamloops was very significant because it was an American fort,” Hart said.
Signing of a treaty in 1846 placed the Canada-U.S. border at the 49th parallel and war was averted.
Hart said he explains the lead-up to the treaty as being a seminal moment in B.C. history.
“As I’m teaching it, I tell the students, ‘If that war had occurred, this class would be discussing American history and we would be discussing our victory over those pesky Brits,” he said.
“No doubt, I think the Americans would have won if a war took place.”
The Kamloops Museum and Archives is showing an exhibit, put together by Ken Favrholdt, called The War of 1812 in the West, the Oregon Country Legacy.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, a plaque was unveiled at Riverside Park explaining the significance of the event to local history.
Re-enactors lowered a 15-star American flag and replaced it with a Union Jack. Nearly 100 people showed up for the event, which saw muskets fired and period songs sung by a choir.
The museum exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2014, at the Kamloops Museum and Archives.