Andrew Graham's "Memo."—Prince of Wales
Fort—The garrison— Trade—York Factory—Furs—Albany—Subordinate
forts—Moose —Moses Norton—Cumberland House—Upper
Assiniboine—Rainy Lake—Brandon House—Red River—Conflict of the
policy of the Company that for a hundred years had carried on
its operations in Hudson Bay was now to be adopted. As soon as
the plan could be developed, a long line of posts in the
interior would serve to carry on the chief trade, and the forts
and factories on Hudson Bay would become depots for storage and
ports of departure for the Old World.
It is interesting at this point to have a
view of the last days of the old system which had grown up
during the operations of a century. We are fortunate in having
an account of these forts in 1771 given by Andrew Graham, for
many years a factor of the Hudson's Bay Company. This document
is to be found in the Hudson's Bay Company house in London, and
has been hitherto unpublished. The simplicity of description and
curtness of detail gives the account its chief charm.
Prince of Wales Fort.—On a peninsula at the
entrance of the Churchill River. Most northern settlement of the
Company. A stone fort, mounting forty-two cannon, from six to
twenty-four pounders. Opposite, on the south side of the river,
Cape Merry Battery, mounting six twenty-four pounders with
lodge-house and powder magazine. The river 1,006 yards wide. A
ship can anchor six miles above the fort. Tides carry salt water
twelve miles up the river. No springs near; drink snow water
nine months of the year. In summer keep three draught horses to
haul water and draw stones to finish building of forts.
Staff:—A chief factor and officers, with
sixty servants and tradesmen. The council, with discretionary
power, consists of chief factor, second factor, surgeon, sloop
and brig masters, and captain of Company's ship when in port.
These answer and sign the general letter, sent yearly to
directors. The others are accountant, trader, steward, armourer,
ship-wright, carpenter, cooper, blacksmith, mason, tailor, and
labourers. These must not trade with natives, under penalties
for so doing. Council mess together, also servants. Called by
bell to duty, work from six to six in summer ; eight to four in
winter. Two watch in winter, three in summer. In emergencies,
tradesmen must work at anything. Killing of partridges the most
contract with servants for three or five years, with the
remarkable clause: "Company may recall them home at any time
without satisfaction for the remaining time. Contract may be
renewed, if servants or labourers wish, at expiry of term.
Salary advanced forty shillings, if men have behaved well in
first term. The land and sea officers' and tradesmen's salaries
do not vary, but seamen's are raised in time of war."
A ship of 200 tons burden, bearing
provisions, arrives yearly in August or early September. Sails
again in ten days, wind permitting, with cargo and those
returning. Sailors alone get pay when at home.
The annual trade sent home from this fort
is from ten to four thousand made beaver, in furs, felts,
castorum, goose feathers, and quills, and a small quantity of
train oil and whalebone, part of which they receive from the
Eskimos, and the rest from the white whale fishery. A black
whale fishery is in hand, but it shows no progress.
York Factory.—On the north bank of Hayes
River, three miles from the entrance. Famous River Nelson, three
miles north, makes the land between an island. Well-built fort
of wood, log on log. Four bastions with sheds between, and a
breastwork with twelve small carriage guns. Good class of
quarters, with double row of strong palisades. On the bank's
edge, before the fort, is a half-moon battery, of turf and
earth, with fifteen cannon, nine-pounders. Two miles below the
fort, same side, is a battery of ten twelve-pounders, with
lodge-house and powder magazine. These two batteries command the
river, but the shoals and sand-banks across the mouth defend us
more. No ship comes higher than five miles below the fort.
Governed like Prince of Wales Fort.
Complement of men : forty-two. The natives come down Nelson
River to trade. If weather calm, they paddle round the point. If
not, they carry their furs across. This fort sends home from
7,000 to 33,000 made beaver in furs, &c, and a small quantity of
white whale oil.
the north bank of Severn River. Well-built square house, with
four bastions. Men: eighteen. Commanded by a factor and sloop
master. Eight small cannon and other warlike stores. Sloop
carries furs in the fall to York Factory and delivers them to
the ship, with the books and papers, receiving supply of trading
goods, provisions, and stores. Severn full of shoals and sand
banks. Sloop has difficulty in getting in and out. Has to wait
spring tides inside the point. Trade sent home, 5,000 to 6,600
made beaver in furs, &c.
Fort.—On south bank of Albany River, four miles from the
entrance. Large well-built wood fort. Four bastions with shed
between. Cannon and warlike stores. Men: thirty; factor and
officers. River difficult. Ship rides five leagues out and is
loaded and unloaded by large sloop. Trade, including two
sub-houses of East Main and Henley, from 10,000 to 12,000 made
beaver, &c. (This fort was the first Europeans had in Hudson
Bay, and is where Hudson traded with natives.)
Henley House.—One hundred miles up the
river from Albany. Eleven men, governed by master. First founded
to prevent encroachments of the French, when masters of Canada,
and present to check the English.
East Main House.—Entrance of Slude River. Small square house.
Sloop master and eleven men. Trade: 1000 to 2000 made beaver in
furs, &c. Depth of water just admits sloop.
Moose Factory.—South bank of Moose River,
near entrance. Well-built wood fort—cannon and warlike stores.
Twenty-five men. Factor and officers. River admits ship to good
harbour, below fort. Trade, 3,000 to 4,000 made beavers in furs,
&c. One ship supplies this fort, along with Albany and
These are the present
Hudson's Bay Company's settlements in the Bay. "All under one
discipline, and excepting the sub-houses, each factor receives a
commission to act for benefit of Company, without being
answerable to any person or persons in the Bay, more than to
consult for good of Company in emergencies and to supply one
another with trading goods, &c, if capable, the receiver giving
credit for the same."
to the interior was begun from the Prince of Wales Fort up the
Churchill River. Next year, after his return from the discovery
of the Coppermine, Samuel Hearne undertook the aggressive work
of going to meet the Indians, now threatened from the
Saskatchewan by the seductive influences of the Messrs.
Frobisher, of the Montreal fur traders. The Governor at Prince
of Wales Fort, for a good many years, had been Moses Norton. He
was really an Indian born at the fort, who had received some
education during a nine years' residence in England. Of
uncultivated manners, and leading far from a pure life, he was
yet a man of considerable force, with a power to command and the
ability to ingratiate himself with the Indians. He was possessed
of undoubted energy, and no doubt to his advice is very much due
the movement to leave the forts in the Bay and penetrate to the
interior of the country. In December of the very year (1773) in
which Hearne went on his trading expedition inland, Norton died.
In the following year, as we have seen,
Hearne erected Cumberland House, only five hundred yards from
Frobisher's new post on Sturgeon Lake. It was the intention of
the Hudson's Bay Company also to make an effort to control the
trade to the south of Lake Winnipeg. Hastily called away after
building Cumberland House, Hearne was compelled to leave a
colleague, Mr. Cockings, in charge of the newly-erected fort,
and returned to the bay to take charge of Prince of Wales Fort,
the post left vacant by the death of Governor Norton.
The Hudson's Bay Company, now regularly
embarked in the inland trade, undertook to push their posts to
different parts of the country, especially to the portion of the
fur country in the direction from which the Montreal traders
approached it. The English traders, as we learn from Umfreville,
who was certainly not prejudiced in their favour, had the
advantage of a higher reputation in character and trade among
the Indians than had their Canadian opponents. From their
greater nearness to northern waters, the old Company could reach
a point in the Saskatchewan with their goods nearly a month
earlier in the spring than their Montreal rivals were able to
do. We find that in 1790 the Hudson's Bay Company crossed south
from the northern waters and erected a trading post at the mouth
of the Swan River, near Lake Winnipegoosis. This they soon
deserted and built a fort on the upper waters of the Assiniboine
River, a few miles above the present Hudson's Bay Company post
of Fort Pelly.
A period of
surprising energy was now seen in the English Company's affairs.
"Carrying the war into Africa," they in the same year met their
antagonists in the heart of their own territory, by building a
trading post on Rainy Lake and another in the neighbouring Red
Lake district, now included in North-Eastern Minnesota. Having
seized the chief points southward, the aroused Company, in the
next year (1791), pushed north-westward from Cumberland House
and built an establishment at Ile à la Crosse, well up toward
Crossing from Lake
Winnipeg in early spring to the head waters of the Assiniboine
River, the spring brigade of the Hudson's Bay Company quite
outdid their rivals, and in 1794 built the historic Brandon
House, at a very important point on the Assiniboine River. This
post was for upwards of twenty years a chief Hudson's Bay
Company centre until it was burnt. On the grassy bank of the
Assiniboine, the writer some years ago found the remains of the
old fort, and from the well-preserved character of the sod, was
able to make out the line of the palisades, the exact size of
all the buildings, and thus to obtain the ground plan.
Brandon House was on the south side of the
Assiniboine, about seventeen miles below the present city of
Brandon, Its remains are situated on the homestead of Mr. George
Mair, a Canadian settler from Beauharnois, Quebec, who settled
here on July 20th, 1879. The site was well chosen at a bend of
the river, having the Assiniboine in front of it on the east and
partially so also on the north. The front of the palisade faced
to the east, and midway in the wall was a gate ten feet wide,
with inside of it a look-out tower (guérite) seven feet square.
On the south side was the long store-house. In the centre had
stood a building said by some to have been the blacksmith's
shop. Along the north wall were the buildings for residences and
other purposes. The remains of other forts, belonging to rival
companies, are not far away, but of these we shall speak again.
The same activity continued to exist in
the following year, for in points so far apart as the Upper
Saskatchewan and Lake Winnipeg new forts were built. The former
of these was Edmonton House, built on the north branch of the
Saskatchewan. The fort erected on Lake Winnipeg was probably
that at the mouth of the Winnipeg River, near where Fort
Alexander now stands.
another post was begun on the Assiniboine River, not unlikely
near the old site of Fort de la Reine, while in the following
year, as a half-way house to Edmonton on the Saskatchewan,
Carlton House was erected. The Red River proper was taken
possession of by the Company in 1799. Alexander Henry, junr.,
tells us that very near the boundary line (49 degrees N.) on the
east side of the Red River, there were in 1800 the remains of a
Such was the condition of
things, so far as the Hudson's Bay Company was concerned, at the
end of the century.
years they had extended their trade from Edmonton House, near
the Rockies, as far as Rainy Lake; they had made Cumberland
House the centre of their operations in the interior, and had
taken a strong hold of the fertile region on the Red and
Assiniboine Rivers, of which to-day the city of Winnipeg is the
Undoubtedly the severe
competition between the Montreal merchants and the Hudson's Bay
Company greatly diminished the profits of both. According to
Umfreville, the Hudson's Bay Company business was conducted much
more economically than that of the merchants of Montreal. The
Company upon the Bay chiefly employed men obtained in the Orkney
Islands, who were a steady, plodding, and reliable class. The
employes of the Montreal merchants were a wild, free, reckless
people, much addicted to drink, and consequently less to be
The same writer
states that the competition between the two rival bodies of
traders resulted badly for the Indians. He says: "So that the
Canadians from Canada and the Europeans from Hudson Bay met
together, not at all to the ulterior advantage of the natives,
who by this means became degenerated and debauched, through the
excessive use of spirituous liquors imported by these rivals in
One thing at any rate
had been clearly demonstrated, that the inglorious sleeping by
the side of the Bay, charged by Dobbs and others against the old
Company, had been overcome, and that the first quarter of the
second century of the history of the Hudson's Bay Company showed
that the Company's motto, "Pro Pelle Cutem," "Skin for Skin,"
had not been inappropriately chosen.