Beginning in 1807, David Thompson, working for the North West Company, explored much of what would become the Columbia District. In 1811 he located Athabasca Pass, which became the key overland connection to the emerging fur district.
The American Pacific Fur Company (PFC) founded Fort Astoria near the entrance of the Columbia River and began to counter the interior NWC trade posts. Funded largely by German-American merchant John Jacob Astor, the company men had previously sailed around Cape Horn on board the Tonquin. During the War of 1812, the Pacific Northwest was a distant region of the conflict. Prior to the war, both companies operated in the region peaceably with each other. News of a coming British warship put the American company into a difficult position. In October 1813, management met at Fort Astoria and agreed to liquidate its assets to the NWC. The HMS Racoon arrived the following month and in honor of George III of the United Kingdom, Fort Astoria was renamed to Fort George.