The Fort and the Port

David W. Watts 24/01/2010


Two settlements of promise: each of illustrious name
Found on North America’s coast on the Pacific main—
For years the one in Washington was largest in the west:
On Columbia’s estuary, end of the York Factory Express
The other a Johnny-come-lately at the Fraser River’s mouth
In time surpassed its senior namesake to the south.

Two cities named Vancouver: each a rising star
Terminals of the fur trade and of the CPR
One a trading fort built by the Hudson’s Bay
The other the Pacific port of a cross-country Railway.

The two Vancouvers: crossovers of a later border line
By travelers back and forth, caught at a point in time
Built by men who started out on the other side
Fixed by a war that wasn’t, and a turning of the tide
The American site picked by a Scot who hailed from far away
The Canadian city by a Yank who ventured north to stay.

The fort to the south was first one out: for years it had it made
The northern port was a second thought when Moody failed the grade
The fort spoke its founders’ Canadian French and coast Chinook jargon.
The port took its tongue from the waves that came and English was the one
The fort was British till others came west on the Oregon Trail
The port American till Canadians came from the east by rail.

The fort and port: 60 years apart, each unrivalled in its time
When Oregon was jointly ruled till they settled on a line.
For the future province he would father Douglas chose to wait
The melting pot was McLoughlin’s lot and the 33rd US state—
The Olympic port with snow above is first on the coast today
The historic fort saw its fortunes fade and finally melt away.