Early History of Our Area
When local history is discussed, residents generally go back only to the time our pioneers settled this area. Few people realize that this area was very active for over one hundred years prior to the coming of the homesteaders during the early 1900's. In 1792, both the Hudson's Bay Co. and the North West Trading Co. established fur trading posts approximately 6 miles south east of Elk Point on the north side of the Saskatchewan River. These two sites were named Fort George and Buckingham House and were the most westerly of all fur trading posts along the Saskatchewan River at that time. The following information was taken from the journal of Duncan McGillivray, which was written by Dr. A.S. Morton, who journeyed to the Hudson's Bay archives in London, England and wrote a day by day journal about the activities that took place at Fort George in 1794-95. The chief factor at that time was Duncan McGillivray. All fur trading posts were required to keep a daily record which eventually ended up in the Hudson's Bay Co. archives. At that time Fort George was not controlled by the Hudson's Bay Co.; however, the two companies joined forces in 1820 and consequently their daily journals were turned over to the Hudson's Bay Co.
Dr. A.S. Morton mentions in this journal that during the spring trading season of 1795, approximately 1000 people gathered at these two trading posts. They included the people in charge, their families, their tradesmen, the buffalo hunters and the Indians who came to trade their furs. At that time, the trading area for these two posts extended to the Rocky Mountains to the west, the area north to the present day Peace River country and as far south as the present Montana border. The items of trade were flint lock guns, axes and knives, blankets, copper kettles, copper tea pails, beads and trinkets of all kinds and the most prized item of all which was rum and whiskey. The Indians brought their winter's catch of furs and traded them for the above mentioned trade goods. Everything was bartered as there was no money system as we know it today.
Since horses were not available at that time, people depended mostly on their canoes for travelling. The Saskatchewan River was the main highway of transportation. Many of our famous explorers passed by our doorstep on their way to explore the west and far north. Some of these explorers were Alexander MacKenzie, Peter Pond, LaVerendrye and others.Few people know that David Thompson, the famous map maker of the west, wintered at Fort George in 1795, where he and his Indian bride spent their honeymoon. Part of his time at Fort George was spend on his map making. He had crude instruments compared to today's standards; however, the maps he made were amazingly true and accurate.
Both Buckingham House and Fort George closed in 1801 and were re-established the same year on Fort D'Isle which was located 18 miles west on a small island in the Saskatchewan River. Many of us do not realize that we are living in an area which is very rich in history. During the middle and late 1800's a series of Red River Cart trails passed by our doorstep. They extended from Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to Fort Edmonton. The mode of travel was the Red River cart which was a two wheeled wagon pulled by oxen. They were driven on ungreased wooden axles which creaked so that the noise could be heard for miles. Some of these old ox cart trails are still visible to this day.
Another historic happening in our general area was, the Frog Lake Massacre which took place on April 2, 1885. It was part of the North West Rebellion, an uprising that threatened the entire west.
We will be celebrating our 200th anniversary of the founding of Fort George and Buckingham House in 1992. I am sure many activities will take place at that time and it will be something worthwhile waiting for. We will be getting a lot of publicity as well as an influx in tourist trade which should benefit this area as a whole.