Fort San Miguel

Fort San Miguel was a Spanish fortification at Yuquot (formerly Friendly Cove) on Nootka Island, just west of north-central Vancouver Island. It protected the Spanish settlement, called Santa Cruz de Nuca, the first colony in British Columbia.

Fort San Miguel
Yuquot, Nootka Island, near Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Depiction of Fort San Miguel, 1793
Coordinates49.59163°N 126.615458°W / 49.59163; -126.615458
Typefortification, colony
Site information
Controlled bySpanish
Site history
In use1789–1795
Garrison information
Pedro de Alberni
GarrisonFree Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, First Company


It was first built by Esteban José Martínez in 1789 but dismantled in October of that year. It was then rebuilt and enlarged in 1790 then Nootka Sound was reoccupied by Francisco de Eliza. The fort was essentially an artillery land battery for the defence of the harbour and buildings. The Spanish settlement, called Santa Cruz de Nuca, was the first colony in British Columbia.

The fort lay near the home of Maquinna, chief of the Mowachaht group, who are now in the joint Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations band government with the Muchalaht at Gold River nearby on Vancouver Island.

On May 15, 1789, Martínez chose the location of his fortification at the entrance of Friendly Cove on Hog Island. Work progressed so that on May 26 they were able to place their artillery followed by the construction of barracks and a powder storeroom. On June 24, 1789, a salvo was fired from the new fort and the Spanish ships in what Martínez considered an official act of possession of Nootka Harbour. On July 4, the American vessels and their captains Gray and Kendrick (who had arrived in the harbour 7 months earlier than Martínez) fired salvos and fireworks in recognition of their recent independence from Britain accompanied by a further salvo from the Spanish fort.[1]:288

On July 29, 1789, new orders arrived from Viceroy Flores directing Martínez to abandon the station and return to San Blas. The artillery from the fort was loaded back aboard the Princesa and he left Friendly Cove on October 30, 1789.[1]:295 The fort was dismantled, but anticipating a reoccupation, Martínez buried crates of bricks and lime.[2]

The fort was rebuilt one year later, in 1790, by Pedro de Alberni, a senior captain of the Spanish Army, who served the Spanish Crown in the First Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia along with 80 other men. They sailed to Nootka with the Francisco de Eliza expedition. After arriving at Nootka, Eliza established three lines of defence: the 300-ton frigate Concepción, the soldiers under Alberni on land and on the frigate, and the rebuilding of the battery on San Miguel Island. The construction of the battery was difficult. It was built on top of a rocky islandtall but small. Embrasures had to be built to support the guns. It then took four days to emplace eight large cannons. Later, six smaller cannons were also emplaced. The battery did not have enough space for the remaining eight large cannon Eliza had brought, so they were stored ashore.[3]

The Spanish soldiers left the fort in 1792. In 1795 it was finally abandoned under the terms of the third Nootka Convention. Before being occupied by Spain the site had been the Mowachaht summer village of Yuquot. It was reoccupied by the Mowachaht under Chief Maquinna. Remnants of the Spanish post, including its kitchen garden, were still visible when John R. Jewitt, an English captive of Maquinna, lived there in 1803–1805.[4]

See also


  1. Thurman, Michael E. (1967). The Naval Department of San Blas, New Spain's Bastion of Alta California and Nootka 1767 to 1798. Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company.
  2. Tovell, Freeman M. (2008). At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco De La Bodega Y Quadra. University of British Columbia Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7748-1367-9.
  3. At the Far Reaches of Empire, pp. 144, 150-151
  4. A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives. digital full text here

Further reading

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