Young Engage School

Engage shows students how he works with leather
Leather worker demonstrates methods of "tooling" and constructing shoes and bags.


Brief History of The Young Engagé School at Fort Vancouver:

Within the fur trade world of the 19th century, education--either at a school or through an apprenticeship—was crucial for advancement. Even at the frontier outpost of Fort Vancouver, education for your people was highly encouraged. At one time, it was recorded that 60 students were attending school at the fort, 40 of which were boys.

In the mornings girls and boys attended school together in the building known as the Owyhee Church, then separated in the afternoons. During the morning session, young men learned to read, to write the ornate copperplate script of the time, and studied subjects such as geography, botany, math, and music. Afterward, they worked in the fields, gardens, or tradeshops, while girls were instructed in handwork as would have been common at a Dame School. Young men learned skills on the job from tradesmen or engagé, the contracted employees of the company.

Re-enactment of sons and daughters of trappers at expedition campsite.
Children of trappers at expedition campsite


Both sons and daughters of trappers accompanied their parents on brigade, the year-long trapping expeditions. Young men assisted with trapping and repairing equipment, while young women helped clean pelts, make clothing, and cook for the camp.

The students were the children of Hudson’s Bay Company employees stationed throughout the region, as well as orphans of Native Americans who were sponsored for tuition by Company employees. They came from a variety of cultural backgrounds, often laced a single language for easy communication. Despite this barrier, the Fort Vancouver school flourished for a number of years, until disagreements over religious instruction and the departure of Chief Factor John McLoughlin weakened its support. Eventually the school closed, as students began to board at other area schools that had been established in the meantime.

Following this time honored tradition, our volunteer training program for young men was named the Young Engagé School. The curriculum- taught by instructors assisted by several Engagés-includes many of the skills that were included here historically, as well as themes which assist the students in sharing their knowledge with visitors to the site.

Wood working and carpentry were important skills taught by craftsmen.
A student learns to use hand tools in working with wood.


The Young Engagé School Today:
Student participants in the Fort Vancouver Young Engagé School must be between the ages of 12 and 18. Due to space restrictions of the site, the maximum number is 16 students. The class is divided into several small groups which will rotate through varied subjects over the course of the program. The class includes topics such as carpentry, cooking, animal life and trapping trade, and gardening.

A mid morning snack and lunch of historic food types will be prepared in the Fort Vancouver kitchen, and all meals will be taken together on site. All activities will be closely supervised by several Fort volunteers (Engagé) and National Park Service staff. Engagé are required to attend an orientation and instruction classes prior to assisting in the Young Engagé School.

To learn more about the program, find out if you are a candidate, and the Application Process, click these links or write to the address below.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Attn: Youth Volunteer Interpretive Training Program
612 East Reserve Street
Vancouver, WA 98661


Last updated: October 11, 2019

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Vancouver , WA 98661


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