ALLARD, OVID, HBC clerk; b. 11 July 1817 in Montreal, Lower Canada, of French extraction; d. 2 Aug. 1874 at Fort Langley, B.C.
According to family tradition, Ovid Allard joined the Hudson’s Bay Company at Lachine in 1834 and was immediately sent west with the party of traders and trappers who later established Fort Boise, where he is said to have been second in command. In 1839 he was transferred to the headquarters of the Columbia Department at Fort Vancouver, and thence to Fort Langley, New Caledonia, the first HBC post established on the lower mainland of what is now the province of British Columbia. Toughened by his five years on the buffalo plains and well versed in Indian ways, Allard was a useful member of the Fort Langley establishment. When on 11 April 1840 the fort burned to the ground he helped to rebuild it on the same site; he is also said to have acted as Indian trader and supervisor. James Murray Yale reported to Sir George Simpson* on 17 Dec. 1845: “Ovid Allard otherwise called Chatelain, is still here, and acts as Interpreter &c, his habits were not very praiseworthy when he first came here but he has reformed much of late, and was always a smart fellow.” During this period, he married an Indian woman, Justine, who, according to family tradition, was a sister of the chief of the Cowichans. They had four children.
When the Oregon boundary treaty of 1846 made inevitable the withdrawal of the HBC from the Columbia to the Fraser, Allard helped to establish the new brigade route from Fort Kamloops to Fort Langley. In November 1847 he was sent with a party of six men to build Fort Yale and was afterwards placed in charge of the store; there he seems to have displayed considerable courage and resource in his dealings with the Indians. Allard was a member of the party which constructed Fort Hope during the winter of 1848–49 and again he was given charge of the store. He remained there until at least 2 June 1850, when he reported to Yale that he was “near out of all Articles of Trade.” Subsequently he returned to Fort Langley as Indian trader and supervisor, but after an acrimonious dispute with Yale, he was transferred to Fort Victoria late in 1852. The next year Allard was sent to Nanaimo where the HBC was developing its coal deposits. He remained there for five years, superintending the Indian labourers, who, according to his superior officer, Chief Trader Joseph W. McKay*, were “worse than useless if not kept under strictest surveillance.”
When the Fraser River gold rush began in the spring of 1858, Governor James Douglas sent Allard to reopen Fort Yale, which had been abandoned on the completion of Fort Hope nearly ten years before. Now an experienced man was again needed there to trade with the Indians and avert clashes with the miners pouring into the area. Allard remained at Yale until 1864, when business had so far declined that he was sent to take charge at Fort Langley. There he spent the remaining ten years of his life, looking after the affairs of the HBC farm and trading with the Indians for salmon, cranberries, and furs. He seems to have given satisfaction in this post, though he never attained a rank higher than that of clerk. Presumably his lack of education held him back. His letters are ungrammatical, and he admitted to his supervisors in Victoria that he did not feel himself competent to open a new set of books, for “your system of accounts confuses me much.”
This “faithful servant of the HBC” also took an interest in the affairs of the little community outside the fort. He served as chairman of the school board in the 1870s and was postmaster from 2 Sept. 1870 until his resignation early in 1871. It would seem that his health began to fail in 1867, but he was still in charge at Fort Langley when he died. He was buried in the old HBC graveyard near the fort, and his name is perpetuated on the cairn erected to mark this pioneer cemetery by the government of British Columbia. The fort he helped to rebuild in 1840 was restored in 1958 and is now the Fort Langley National Historic Park.
HBC Arch. B.113/b/2, ff.2–6, 6–6v, 18, 25v–26, 36; B.113/b/3, ff.44v–45, 60v; B.113/c/1, f.3. PABC, Jason Ovid Allard, “Biographical notes on Ovid Allard”; “Reminiscences,” undated; “Sketches of early life in British Columbia,” copied and annotated by George Green, 1942; Fort Nanaimo correspondence, August 1852–September 1853.
Colonist (Victoria), 1858–74. Gazette (Victoria), 1858–74. Mainland Guardian (New Westminster, B.C.), 5 Aug. 1874. Denys Nelson, Fort Langley, 1827–1927, a century of settlement in the valley of the lower Fraser River (1st ed., Vancouver, B.C., 1927; 2nd ed., 1947). George Green, “The fort builder,” Vancouver Province, 24 Jan. 1953. F. W. Howay, “The raison d’être of Forts Yale and Hope,” RSCT, 3rd ser., XVI (1922), sect.ii, 49–64. B. A. McKelvie, “Jason Allard: fur-trader, prince, and gentleman,” BCHQ, IX (1945), 243–57.