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coat of arms

Before the arrival of Europeans, the area now known as the Pacific Northwest was governed by the many Native American peoples’ tribal laws and traditions.

With the signing of the Treaty of 1818 between the United States and Great Britain, the vast Oregon Country (as it was known by Americans) was opened to joint occupation and settlement by the two powers. But the legal status of government, especially in the contested area of present-day Western Washington, was vaguely defined.

The powerful Hudson’s Bay Company had legal jurisdiction over British subjects, and held some influence with American settlers and Native Americans in the region.

At right: the Hudson’s Bay Company flag, (Clark County Historical Museum, (cchm04370.tif))

After the settlement of the international boundary in 1846, the Hudson’s Bay Company left Fort Vancouver and soon a US military presence replaced the Company.

old fort

Pictured: the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, (Clark County Historical Museum

The City of Vancouver was incorporated on January 23, 1857.

At incorporation, the city was bordered on the north by present day West Fourth Plain Boulevard, and by the Military Reserve to the east.

Between the incorporation of the city and 1883, law enforcement for the City of Vancouver appears to have consisted of citizens appointed by the City Council as needed. They were, at various times, called Policeman, Constables and City Marshals.

By 1880, the population of Vancouver was 1,722.