the Inside Passage the San Juan Islands

Garrison Bay, San Juan Island

Monday, May 30, 2011S.V. CAMBRIA

The formal gardens of English Camp at Garrison Bay, San Juan Island.


We're anchored just off English Camp, a National Historical Park, where something extremely rare in history occurred – a war was averted through international negotiation, with no human casualties.  It started with a pig....

In 1846, the Oregon Treaty was signed which established the boundaries between the US and Canada along the 49th parallel, from the Rocky Mountains to the middle of the “channel”, but failed to specify which one – Haro, nearest Vancouver Island, or Rosario, nearer the mainland.  The San Juan Islands lie in the middle.  And both sides laid claimed to the group.
It didn't take long for word of good farm land and profits to spread to the mainland and by the spring of 1859, at least 18 Americans had settled claims on San Juan Island proper that the British believed were illegal.  The uneasy peace which had existed between countries ended on June 15 of that year when Lyman Cutlar, an American, shot a pig that was rooting in his garden.  Unfortunately, the pig belonged to the Hudson Bay Company (British owned) and Lyman was threatened with arrest and his countrymen with eviction by British authorities bringing the unresolved territorial issue to the surface: did the island belong to the US or Britain?

A delegation was sent to the commander of the U.S. Army's Department of Oregon seeking protection and a company of infantry was then sent to San Jan Island.   The British responded by dispatching three Royal navy warships to dislodge the American troops.  Reinforcements were then dispatched by the U.S. Army before both nations agreed to a joint occupation of the island until the water boundary could be settled.

In the manner of good government, that didn't occur until twelve years later when the issue was submitted for arbitration to Kaiser Wilhelm I, the monarch of Germany, who ruled the islands belonged to the US and set the border in Haro Strait.  The Royal Marines left Garrison Bay in the fall of 1872 leaving behind structures so well built that the family who bought the property from the US government lived in several of the structures for over 30 years, some of which are still standing today.

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