Fort Edmonton
Fort Edmonton (also named Edmonton House) was the name of a series of trading posts of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1795 to 1891, all of which were located in central Alberta, Canada. It was the end point of the Carlton Trail, the main overland route for Metis freighters between the Red River Colony and the west and an important stop on the York Factory Express route between London, via Hudson Bay, and Fort Vancouver in the Columbia District. The fifth and final Fort Edmonton was the one that evolved into present-day Edmonton. Fort Edmonton was named "Fort-des-Prairies", by French-Canadians trappers and coureurs des bois during the 19th century.

Fort Edmonton, Mark I (1795”“1801)
In the late 18th century, the Hudson's Bay Company was in fierce competition with the North West Company for the trade of animal furs in Rupert's Land. As one company established a fur trading post, the other would counter by building another post in close proximity. Expansion down the Saskatchewan River began in the 1790s. In the summer of 1795, the North West Company constructed Fort Augustus near the present-day city of Fort Saskatchewan by the North Saskatchewan River. In the following autumn, Hudson's Bay constructed Edmonton House nearby, where the Sturgeon River meets the North Saskatchewan River. In a possible revelation of the competitive nature of the companies, Fort Augustus and Edmonton House's distance was described as being a "musket-shot" apart, yet the proximity also offered mutual security to the European traders of both companies in a land where they were all intruders. Fort Edmonton was named by William Tomison, the HBC's Inland Master. It is thought that Tomison chose the name in honour of HBC Deputy Governor Sir James Winter Lake's birthplace of Edmonton, Middlesex, England. Tomison used the post as his headquarters until 1799, when he was stabbed in the leg by a native man and had to depart for Europe to recover. The crippling nature of his injury left Tomison unable to serve again.

Fort Edmonton, Mark II (1801”“1810)
In 1801, due to several years of declining fur returns and increasingly scarce firewood, it was decided to move Fort Edmonton and Fort Augustus upstream, to what is now the Rossdale area of downtown Edmonton. This area had been a gathering place for aboriginals in the region for thousands of years. The first woman of European descent to live in this region was the French-Canadian Marie-Anne Gaboury, who was also noteworthy as the grandmother of Louis Riel. She had accompanied her fur trader husband, Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière, into the west, and was known to take part in hunting expeditions. They lived in Fort Augustus from 1807 to 1811. John Rowand, chief factor at Fort Edmonton from 1823 to 1854, first worked at Fort Augustus from 1804 to 1806; he was stationed there again from 1808 onward.

Fort Edmonton, Mark III (1810”“1812)
Both Fort Augustus and Fort Edmonton moved to the White Earth Creek, near present-day Smoky Lake, Alberta. This location was only active for two years for two main reasons: the Cree had been encouraged to visit other posts to avoid violent confrontations with the Blackfoot, yet the Blackfoot refused to travel so far off of their normal circles and consequently took their trade south to Americans. The two posts shared a palisade from this time forward.

Fort Edmonton, Mark IV (1813”“1830)
Fort Edmonton and Fort Augustus moved back to the second site at the Rossdale flats, it having proven to be a site more amenable for the tribes to visit. The name Fort Augustus was dropped following the merger of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company in 1821. After the amalgamation of the companies (which thereafter used the Hudson's Bay Company name), Fort Edmonton became the headquarters for the Saskatchewan District, which stretched from the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the west to Fort Carlton in the east; from the 49th parallel in the south to Lesser Slave Lake in the north. The former Nor' Wester John Rowand was placed in charge of Edmonton in 1821 as chief trader. In 1823, Rowand was promoted to chief factor. Rowand managed Saskatchewan District from Fort Edmonton until his death in 1854.

Fort Edmonton, Mark V (1830”“1915)
Due to floods in the late 1820s, the Fort on the Rossdale flats had to be moved to higher ground. This fifth and final fort was built on the site that is now inhabited by the Alberta Legislature Building.

Rowand's administration
At this time, a long-serving member of the HBC, John Edward Harriott, became the chief trader under Rowand. The two gained family ties when Harriott married one of Rowand's daughters. On a couple of occasions when Rowand joined HBC Inland Governor George Simpson for travel abroad, Harriott acted as chief factor. Rowand's administration from the 1830s onward coincided with a great change in the Saskatchewan District. For the first time, missionaries, artists, and curious travellers came to Edmonton to visit, sometimes for extended periods, which frustrated Rowand to some degree. Prior to this time, the only Europeans to come that far into the west were men on some sort of company business. With Rowand having made Edmonton his home, the fort became an important centre in the west. It was a necessity for any traveller going any further west of Edmonton to go through there for provisions first. Rowand constructed a three-storey house in the heart of the fort for the exclusive use of him and his family, denoting his station to his subordinates, visitors and trade partners alike. Influx of missionaries Two Catholic missionaries, Francois-Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers, were the first to visit Fort Edmonton (called Fort-des-Prairies) in 1838. Starting in 1840, the Fort housed the Wesleyan missionary Robert Rundle as a company chaplain. Rundle's tenure lasted until 1848, and his ministry and missionary work was met with competition of a sort by Jean-Baptiste Thibault, a Catholic priest who, like Rundle, was attempting to evangelize natives in the area. A chapel was erected inside the fort in 1843, which the Reverend Rundle boasted could host "(one) hundred Indians"; the structure also had two small rooms for Rundle's private use. Meanwhile, Rowand complained that the presence of ministers in his fort was a distraction for the natives, and was ostensibly impeding the fur trade business. On a personal level, however, Rowand had taken a liking to Rundle, and entrusted the minister with teaching his children. In 1852, the Oblate missionary Albert Lacombe first visited Fort Edmonton. With Rundle having departed in 1848, Lacombe easily took up residence in the former Methodist chapel. Lacombe took pity on the fur trade labourers, opining that, "during the summer months, was as hard as that of the African slave.". He found little sympathy for the workers from John Rowand or the HBC clerks. The following year, Lacombe moved to Lac St. Anne, but had a new Catholic chapel constructed in the fort in 1857 (but did not dwell there); this chapel lasted nearly twenty years before being moved outside of the fort. A Methodist follow-up to Robert Rundle, Reverend Thomas Woolsey, was dispatched to Edmonton in 1852. His arrival in the fort coincided with Lacombe's residency in the former Methodist chapel, a discovery which distressed Woolsey. Conflicts and private frustrations with Catholic missionaries, and failures to convert Catholics to Protestantism, marked Woolsey's twelve-year residence at the fort. In 1854, the mission St. Joachim was officially founded in turn at Fort-des-Praires (Fort Edmonton). Oregon Mission Though somewhat distant from the territory in question, Fort Edmonton, an important stop on the York Factory Express overland trade route, was peripherally involved in the Oregon Boundary Dispute. A pair of British Army Lieutenants, Mervin Vavasour and Henry James Warre, were sent on a mission in the guise of eccentric gentlemen to reconnoitre the west coast and, among other objectives, to determine which HBC posts could be used in a military conflict. Their mission took them through Fort Edmonton in the fall of 1845, and again on their way back to Montreal in 1846. As with other posts he visited on his mission, Vavasour drew a plan of Edmonton. Other notable visitors The artist Paul Kane first visited the fort in 1845. He produced several works of art based upon his time there. Rowand's end In May 1854, John Rowand died while accompanying the annual York Boat trip eastward. Accounts suggest that he tried to break up (or join) a skirmish between some of the tripmen while at Fort Pitt, and in his rage he fell suddenly dead. He was initially buried at Fort Pitt, but was later exhumed and buried in Montreal as per his last will and testament.

Remaining Years
Remaining administrators Following a few short-lived administrations in Rowand's wake, William Christie was a long-lasting chief factor at Edmonton from 1858 to 1872. Christie's protegé Richard Charles Hardisty, later a Canadian Senator, served as chief factor in Edmonton for an interim period from 1862 through 1864. The Hudson's Bay Company relinquished Rupert's Land to the Government of Canada in 1868, pursuant to the Rupert's Land Act 1868, thus ending the HBC's administration of the vast territory and beginning an era of settlement in the 1870s. By the 1890s, the fort was in disrepair and largely abandoned. The Hudson's Bay Company transitioned to retail stores, and business in Edmonton ran from one of those instead. Explorers In 1841 James Sinclair stopped at Fort Edmonton to receive instructions on where to cross the Rockies; while leading a party of nearly 200 settlers from the Red River Colony to Fort Vancouver in an attempt to hold Columbia District for Britain, Captain John Palliser stayed in Fort Edmonton for a time in 1858 while on his famous expedition. With the help of the factor's wife, Palliser held a ball there. In 1859, the 9th Earl of Southesk visited on his way to the Rocky Mountains, hoping that the fresh mountain air would improve his health. Under threat of warfare The spring of 1870 saw Fort Edmonton come under the threat of violence due to a war between the Blackfoot and Cree, resulting from the slaying of Cree Chief Maskipiton. The Blackfoot were unable to ford the North Saskatchwan due to the high spring waters, but they encamped across from Fort Edmonton and harassed it with their muskets nonetheless. Some wagons full of goods had to be abandoned by traders in a hurry to reach safety inside of the fort, and their contents were spoiled by the Blackfoot. Though the fort itself was not invaded, the men within were armed and ready to fight. Chief Factor William Christie chose to withstand the Blackfoot and not attack them, fearing that to do so would only invite further violence against the Hudson's Bay Company. Fifteen years later, on March 19, 1885, during the North West Rebellion, Edmonton's telegraph wire was cut. Fearing imminent attack, some settlers took shelter behind the fort's old wooden palisade. No attack happened. Dismantling What remained of the fort was dismantled in 1915. It was seen as a crumbling eyesore next to the Alberta Legislature Building, which had been completed three years earlier. The Government of Alberta indicated at the time that it would use the old fort's timbers to create a heritage site elsewhere in the city, but it never did.

List of chief factors

In 1923 the suspected site of the original Forts Augustus and Edmonton was a National Historic Site of Canada, and a plaque was place in Fort Saskatchewan. In 1959, the site of Fort Edmonton III was also made a National Historic Site and plaque was installed near the Alberta Legislature building. Similarly the Fort Edmonton-Fort Gary Trail was also named a National Historic Site and a plaque for it was installed in Edmonton in 1996.

In 1969, a reconstruction of the fifth Fort Edmonton began five kilometres upstream from its final site, representing it as it stood in 1846, but this time on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. This marked the beginning of Fort Edmonton Park, which has become one of the city's premier tourist attractions. The park represents, through various historical buildings, four distinct time periods, exploring Edmonton's development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest, to a booming metropolitan centre after the First World War.

Chief Factors at Fort Edmonton Chief Factor Years Served Notes William Tomison 1795”“1796 Started Edmonton House to compete with NWC Fort Augustus. George Sutherland 1796”“1797 William Tomison 1797”“1798 James Curtis Bird 1799”“1816 The fort was relocated twice during Bird's tenure. Hugh Carswell 1816”“1817 Francis Heron 1817”“1821 HBC and NWC merger coincides with the end of Heron's tenure; afterward, Fort Augustus was absorbed into Fort Edmonton. James Sutherland 1821”“1822 John Rowand 1823”“1840 Longest-serving chief factor at Edmonton. John Edward Harriott 1841”“1842 Rowand's chief trader and son-in-law by country marriage. John Rowand 1842”“1846 John Edward Harriott 1847”“1848 John Rowand 1848”“1854 Final years of service; died May 30, 1854. William Sinclair 1854”“1857 John Swanston 1857”“1858 William J. Christie 1858”“1872 Richard Charles Hardisty 1872”“1883 Later a Canadian Senator. James MacDougall 1883”“1885 Richard Charles Hardisty 1885”“1888 Harrison S. Young 1888”“1891 William T. Livock 1891”“1910 Transitioned to the retail store located on Jasper Avenue in what is now Edmonton's downtown core. The outward face of an old HBC department store still exists there, but the building is presently inhabited by Citytv Edmonton and a branch of the U of A.

Building Activity

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