The Shuttleworths of Fort Colville

A Surprising Family in Early Eastern Washington

From India to Fort Colville and Okanagan, Henry Shuttleworth and his family lived interesting lives in 19th and 20th century west.

Frontier Washington was full of surprising and unexpected character, but perhaps none more so than Henry Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth was born in Bengal, India around 1837, Shuttleworth was the probably the son of a British East India Company employee and a local Bengali woman. While his youth is largely unknown, as a young man Shuttleworth received some form of education. He shows up in the Washington Territory in the 1850s, working as a clerk for the Hudsons Bay Company.

The British Empire had places for such mixed-race children of the Crown, as it were. Typically, they were educated to occupy middling stations in the imperial apparatus, and when reaching adulthood expected to marry other mixed-race or native persons, just as Shuttleworth would soon do. While in the territory during the 1850s, Shuttleworth's position as a clerk in the Hudson Bay Company was a respectable one, and while stationed at Fort Colville he married Isabella, a Native American woman from a local tribe.

Shuttleworth and Isabella had several children together before moving to western Canada. In 1870 a census taker recorded the family as Henry and Isabella, sons George and Henry, and daughter Mariah. The eldest son George later married a chief’s daughter before moving to Okanagan where he worked as a rancher for years and taught local citizens Interior Salish. George Shuttleworth would live to be a hundred. Another Shuttleworth son, Harry, would join George in Canada’s rodeo competitions in the early 20th century.

While much is not known of Henry Shuttleworth’s life in eastern Washington, the few glimpses gained from early records show the racial diversity in Spokane early settlement population. From 1850 to the late 1870s, Spokane's community was largely made up mixed race people, and as the Shuttleworth family showed, this blending of cultures could extend across the ocean.