Appendix One - French Era Fur Trade Forts, Posts and Depots
Pays d'en Haut, (Upper Country), was a vast territory west of Montreal, covering the whole of the Great Lakes north and south, and stretching as far into the North American continent as the French had explored. North of the Great Lakes, the first mission, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, was established in 1639. Following the destruction of the Huron homeland in 1649 by the Iroquois, the French missionaries returned to mainland Canada with the remaining Hurons who established themselves in Wendake.
By 1660, France started a policy of expansion into the interior of North America from what is now eastern Canada. The objectives were to locate a Northwest passage to China; to exploit the territory's natural resources, such as fur and mineral ores; and to convert the native population to Catholicism. Fur traders began exploring the pays d'en haut (upper country around the Great Lakes) at the time. In 1659, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers reached the western end of Lake Superior. Priests founded missions, such as the Mission of Sault Sainte Marie in 1668.
In 1671, Father Jacques Marquette established a French mission at Michilimackinac that would over the next half century become a waypoint for exploration, a point for diplomatic relations with natives, and a commercial center for fur trade. On 17 May 1673, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette began the exploration of the Mississippi River, which they called the Sioux Tongo (the large river) or Michissipi. They reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, and then returned upstream, having learned that the great river ran towards the Gulf of Mexico and not towards the Pacific Ocean as they had presumed.
Fort Kaministiquia, (former spellings include Fort Camanistigoyan, Fort Kanastigoya, Fort Kamanastigoya and others), was a French fort located on the north shore of Lake Superior at Thunder Bay, Ontario at the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. It and Grand Portage to the west were the starting points of the canoe route from the Great Lakes to western Canada.
In 1685 Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut built a post nearby. In 1688 Jacques de Noyon went from Kaministiquia as far as Rainy Lake. In 1696 the post was abandoned along with many western posts when the system of fur trade permits (congés) was abolished due to a surplus of beaver.
In 1717 Zacharie Robutel de la Noue was sent west to find the western sea. It is not clear how far inland he got but he seems to have established Fort Kaministiquia and remained there until 1721. Coureurs des bois seem to have spread out from the fort, but we only know of them from rumors picked up by the English on Hudson Bay. Arthur S Morton, in his "A History of Western Canada" stated, he "thinks they may have gotten as far as Lake Winnipeg." From 1717 it was one of the postes du nord which included a post on the Nipigon River and one at Michipicoten. La Vérendrye took over the postes du nord in 1728 and in 1731-1743 he pushed trade and exploration west beyond Lake Winnipeg, mainly via Grand Portage using Kaministiquia as a base. It was abandoned in 1758 or 1760 with the fall of New France.
Trade was open again by at least 1767, most likely using the easier Grand Portage. When the North West Company was driven out of Grand Portage (it was on the US side) they established Fort William on the site of Fort Kaministiquia. Whatever remains of the fort is probably buried under the town of Thunder
Fort William, and Grand Portage were the two starting points for the canoe route from the Great Lakes to Western Canada. During the French period it was known as Fort Kaministiquia.
|Fort William (Hudson's Bay Post)|
Kamanistigouian, as a place, is first mentioned in a decree of the Conseil Souverain de la Nouvelle-France dated 23 August 1681 instructing one of two canoes to make known the king's amnesty to coureurs de bois, although the Kaministiquia River is depicted on the 1671 "Carte des Jésuites" as "Rrivière par où l'on va aux Assinipoualacs à 120 lieues vers le Nord-Ouest."
In late 1683 or spring 1684, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, established a trading post near the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. French authorities closed this post in 1696 because of a glut on the fur market. In 1717, a new post, Fort Kaministiquia, was established at the river mouth by Zacharie Robutel de la Noue. This post appears on 18th century French maps by Royal hydrographer Jacques-Nicolas Bellin as "Fort Caministogoyan". The post was abandoned in 1758 or 1760 during the British conquest of New France.
During the English period it was known as Fort William, and the fur trade was quickly re-established with most people using Grand Portage. By 1784, Montreal merchants and their "wintering partners" had formed the North West Company (Nor'Westers). The North West Company continued to use Grand Portage as their centre of operations after the area was ceded to the United States after the colonists' victory in the American Revolution.
Following the signing of the Jay Treaty of 1794 between Great Britain and the United States, which acknowledged American control of the area, the North West Company required a new midway transshipment point between their inland posts and Montreal. The partners needed to meet and exchange furs and supplies without being subject to American taxation.
|Fort William - HBC Company Burying Ground - Thunder Bay, 1871|
The post was named Fort William in 1807 after William McGillivray, chief director of the North West Company from 1804-1821. After the union of the North West Company with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) in 1821, the fort lost its raison d'être because most trade shifted to York Factory on Hudson Bay. It became a minor HBC fur trading post.
The original site disappeared under development of Canadian Pacific Railway railroad tracks and coal piles in the 1880s. A replica of Fort William was built further upstream on the Kaministiquia River at Point de Meuron, a former military staging location named after Lord Selkirk's Swiss de Meuron regiment. It is now known as the Fort William Historical Park.
Fort Frontenac, was a French trading post and military fort built in 1673 at the mouth of the Cataraqui River where the St. Lawrence River leaves Lake Ontario, in a location traditionally known as Cataraqui.
It is the present-day location of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
The original fort, a crude, wooden palisade structure, was called Fort Cataraqui but was later named for Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Governor of New France (Count Frontenac), who was responsible for building the fort. The fort, however, was still often referred to as Fort Cataraqui.
|Fort Frontenac on Cataraqui River|
The British destroyed the fort in 1758 during the Seven Years' War and its ruins remained abandoned until the British took possession and reconstructed it in 1783. The fort was turned over to the Canadian military in 1870–71 and it is still being used by the military.
Sault Ste. Marie, is a cross-border region in Canada and the United States. Formerly a single settlement from 1668 to 1817, it was subsequently divided by the establishment of the Canada–US border in the area. The name also refers to the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, a National Historic Site of Canada. Until 1987, the canal was part of the shipping route from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Superior. It includes a lock to bypass the rapids on the St. Marys River.
|Sault Ste Marie (Hudson's Bay Post) 1863|
The Illinois Country, (French: Pays des Illinois) — sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana (French: la Haute-Louisiane; Spanish: Alta Luisiana) — was a vast region of New France in what is now the Midwestern United States. While these names generally referred to the entire Upper Mississippi River watershed, French colonial settlement was concentrated along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in what is now the U.S. states of Illinois and Missouri, with outposts in Indiana.
Explored in 1673 from Green Bay to the Arkansas River by the Canadien expedition of Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette, the area was claimed by France. It was settled primarily from the Pays d'en Haut in the context of the fur trade. Over time, the fur trade took some French Coureurs des bois to the far reaches of the Rocky Mountains, especially along the branches of the broad Missouri River valley. The French name, Pays des Illinois, means "Land of the Illinois [plural]" and is a reference to the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian native peoples.
Up until 1717, the Illinois Country was governed by the French province of Canada, but by order of King Louis XV, the Illinois Country was annexed to the French province of Louisiana, with the northeastern administrative border being somewhat vaguely on or near the Illinois River. The territory thus became known as "Upper Louisiana." By the mid-18th century, the major settlements included Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher, all on the east side of the Mississippi in present-day Illinois; and Ste. Genevieve across the river in Missouri, as well as Fort Vincennes in what is now Indiana.
Fort Saint Pierre, on Rainy Lake was the first French fort built west of Lake Superior. It was the first of eight forts built during the elder Vérendrye's expansion of trade and exploration westward from the Great Lakes. He reached Grand Portage in late August 1731.
Here most of the men refused to continue because of the late season, difficult portage and largely unknown country. Vérendrye wintered with most of the men at Fort Kaministiquia, but was able to send a few willing men westward under Christopher Dufrost de La Jemeraye. La Jemeraye reached Rainy Lake before the freezeup and built a fort at its outlet. Next May he sent a small load of furs back eastward, Vérendrye arrived in July, and pushed west to Lake of the Woods where he built Fort Saint Charles which quickly overshadowed Fort St. Pierre.
Coureurs des bois spread out and drew trade away from the English, but we only know of them from rumors picked up by the English on Hudson Bay. The area produced fish and wild rice.
The local people were Monsonis, with Cree further west. Both were at war with the Sioux to the south. The post remained in operation until 1758. Fort Lac la Pluie was built nearby by the North West Company sometime between 1775 and 1787. There is a modern reconstruction of the fort. The site was on the north bank of the Rainy River just past a series of rapids near its outflow from the lake at the modern town of Fort Frances.
Fort Saint Charles, (1732) on Lake of the Woods was the second post built by La Vérendrye during his expansion of trade and exploration west of Lake Superior. It was located on Magnusens Island on the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, 3.5 miles east of Angle Inlet, Minnesota and one mile southwest of Penasse, Minnesota, the most northerly point in that state. The site of the modern reconstruction may be somewhat different since the lake levels were raised by control structures on the Winnipeg River. For related forts see Winnipeg River.
La Vérendrye reached the north shore of Lake Superior in late 1731 and sent men ahead to build Fort St. Pierre on Rainy Lake. In July or August 1732 he, his eldest son Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye, his nephew Christopher Dufrost de La Jemeraye, Father Charles-Michel Mesaiger and 50 canoes of Indians left Fort Saint Pierre and built Fort Saint Charles on Lake of the Woods. The fort was 60 by 100 feet with two gates and a double row of 15-foot palisades and four bastions and a watch tower. The internal buildings were roofed with bark. There was abundant fishing, hunting and wild rice, an important matter since it was difficult to haul food from Montreal or Fort Michilimackinac.
Next spring he sent Jean Baptiste and La Jameraye down the Winnipeg. They got to within 15 or 20 leagues of the lake when they were blocked by ice. The English on Hudson Bay reported increased activity of Coureurs des bois west of the fort, but La Vérendrye said nothing about them in his reports. On the first of January 1734 a group of Assiniboines reached the fort and brought the Europeans their first news of the Mandans. Some time after this two of his men returned from Lake Winnipeg and the first Fort Maurepas (Canada) was built soon after. In 1735 La Jameraye's men returned to the Lake from the Red River of the North via the Roseau River (Manitoba-Minnesota), Portage de la Savanne and Reed River.
On June 6, 1736 an expedition departed from Fort Saint Charles, consisting of Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye (the eldest son) with the Jesuit missionary priest Father Jean-Pierre Aulneau and nineteen French-Canadian voyageurs. They were headed for Fort Michilimackinac. They had traveled only a few kilometres from the fort when they were attacked by Sioux, who killed everyone in the party. The Sioux were retaliating against La Vérendrye père, whom they believed was trading guns to their traditional enemies, the Cree and Assiniboine. The expedition members were killed on a small island, called Massacre Island, Ontario, however historians have not been unable to reach consensus on its exact identity. After the massacre was discovered, La Vérendrye père directed that the bodies of his son and the priest, and the heads of the 19 voyageurs, be brought back for burial at Fort Saint Charles. The remains of his son and the priest were buried under the altar stone of the chapel, and the voyageurs were buried outside. The fort was abandoned in 1749.
Fort Lac la Pluie, was a fur trade depot established by the North West Company sometime between 1775 and 1787. It was located on a high bank on the west side of modern Fort Frances, Ontario across fromInternational Falls, Minnesota on the Rainy River downstream (west) of some rapids (Chaudière portage) where the river flows out of Rainy Lake. Upstream at the outlet of the lake was the old French post ofFort Saint Pierre (1731-1758). The site is marked by a granite boulder. Morton describes some canoeable rapids, Fort Saint Pierre and a fall that had to be portaged before reaching the fort, which implies that the river level may have changed.
The place was a depot rather than a trading post and served two purposes. By this time the trade had reached the rich Lake Athabasca country which was too far to reach from Montreal in one season. Each May, when the ice broke up, boats with trade goods would head west from Montreal and winterers with canoe-loads of fur would head east. They would meet at Grand Portage on Lake Superior, exchange goods and head back before the freezeup. To further save time goods and furs would be shuttled between Grand Portage and Lac la Pluie. Second, it was a source of food. The voyageurs had no time to hunt and it was difficult to haul food from Montreal. Rainy Lake produced wild rice and fish. The fort also built kegs and canoes.
With the growth of pemmican production around Lake Winnipeg its importance as a food source diminished. It declined further when the two companies merged and trade shifted from Montreal to Hudson Bay. In 1792 two men were killed while out fishing. Around 1795 John McKay (fur trader) of the Hudson's Bay Company had a rival post nearby. With the merger of the two firms in 1821 it was taken over by the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1830 it was named Fort Frances in honor of Governor Simpson's new wife. Its date of closure is uncertain. For the trade route in general see Winnipeg River.
Fort Niagara, is a fortification originally built to protect the interests of New France in North America. It is located near Youngstown, New York, on the eastern bank of the Niagara River at its mouth, on Lake Ontario. René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built the first structure, called Fort Conti, in 1678. In 1687, the Governor of New France, the Marquis de Denonville, constructed a new fort at the former site of Fort Conti. He named it Fort Denonville and posted a hundred men under the command of Capt. Pierre de Troyes, Chevalier de Troyes.
The winter weather and disease was severe, and all but twelve perished by the time a relief force returned from Montreal. It was decided in September 1688 to abandon the post and the stockade was pulled down. In 1726, a two story "Maison a Machicoulis" or "Machicolated House" was constructed on the same site by French engineer Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry.
It was called the "House of Peace" or trading post to appease the Haudenosaunee, orIroquois. The name used today, "The French Castle" was not used until the 19th Century. The fort was expanded to its present size in 1755 due to increased tensions between French and British colonial interests.
Fort Crevecoeur, (French: Fort Crèvecœur) was founded on the east bank of the Illinois River, in the Illinois Country near the present site of Creve Coeur, a suburb of Peoria, Illinois, in January 1680.
Nearby, Fort Pimiteoui was established in 1691, a center of trade during the colonial period. Henri de Tonti was a primary founder of the Crevecouer and Pimiteoui outposts. On January 5, 1680, French explorers René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and Henri de Tonti established Fort Crèvecoeur, in which Mass was celebrated and the Gospel preached by the Récollets,Gabriel Ribourde, Zenobius Membre and Louis Hennepin.
They finished the fort in early March, naming it "Fort Broken Heart" because of the tribulations, including desertions, that they suffered during its construction.
Fort St. Joseph, is a former British outpost on the southernmost point of St. Joseph Island in Ontario, Canada, on Lake Huron.
The fort consisted of a blockhouse, powder magazine, bakery building, Indian council house and storehouse surrounded by a palisade. Situated on approximately 325 hectares along the St. Mary's River, Fort St. Joseph was the staging ground for the initial attack in the War of 1812.
The fort was not only an important military outpost, but also a significant meeting place for trade and commerce in the region. During its short but illustrious occupation, it was the British Empire's most westerly outpost. Today, Fort St. Joseph is operated by Parks Canada and is designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, or Fort Detroit was a fort established by the French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701. The site of the former fort is now within the city of Detroit in the U.S. state of Michigan, an area bounded by Larned Street, Griswold Street, and the Civic Center.
|River view of Detroit, 1794|
The primary purpose of the fort was as part of the French-Canadian trading post system, which stretched from the Atlantic Coast and the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, and south to the Mississippi River through the Illinois Country. The fort served as a supply depot for traders in the western Great Lakes.
|Michilimackinac on Lake Huron|
The French had first established a presence in the Straits of Mackinac in 1671 when Father Marquette established the Jesuit St. Ignace Mission at present-day St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 1683, they augmented the mission with Fort de Buade. In 1701, Sieur de Cadillac moved the French garrison to Fort Detroit and closed the mission.
By 1713, however, the French decided to re-establish a presence along the Straits of Mackinac, and built the wooden Fort Michilimackinac on the northern tip of the lower peninsula. They sent Constant le Marchand de Lignery with a contingent of soldiers and workmen in 1715 to accomplish the job. Over the decades, they made several modifications and expansions to the palisade walls. Chevalier Jacques Testard de Montigny, who was a Lt. and a Knight of the Order of St. Louis, was appointed in 1730 and served for three years as commandant of the fort. He was previously commandant of Fort La Baye (Green Bay, Wisconsin). Many of his relatives settled in Michigan.
The French relinquished the fort, along with their territory in Canada, to the British in 1761 following their loss in the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War. The British continued to operate the fort as a major trading post, but most residents were French and Métis (Ojibwe-French), who spoke predominately French and worshipped at Sainte Anne Church in a small log structure. Other civilian residents included British fur traders, some of whom resided within the fort in the southeastern row house.
La Baye, was a small trading post established on the Baie des Puants in 1634 by Jean Nicolet. Nicolas Perrot, who was sent by Father Claude-Jean Allouez, continued the work that Nicolet had started. In 1671, the Jesuits constructed a mission. Fort La Baye was thus constructed in 1717. The town of La Baye was incorporated in 1754. At the end of the Seven Years' War, it went under British control in 1761 and was renamed Green Bay.
|“The Landfall of Jean Nicolet,” Edwin Willard Deming|
It was not until 1763 that concerted civilian settlement by people with some European ancestry began in the area. The first settlement in that year was led by Charles de Langlade, who was the son of a French-Canadian father and an Odawa mother. Most of the families had come to La Baye from the Mackinac area.
In 1816 La Baye had a population of about 40 families, who were virtually all Métis. In the summer of 1820 La Baye was estimated by Henry Schoolcraft to have 500 inhabitants, all essentially Métis or at least in Métis families, that is even if they could be called clearly French, Odawa, or some other Native American group, their spouse was of a different group.
Fort La Baye, was a French military post at La Baye (Green Bay), which was built in 1717, and occupied until 1760.
One Commandant of the Fort was the famous Chevalier Jacques Testard de Montigny, Knight of the Order of St. Louis. By 1718, there were a number of French Canadian families living in the area near the fort. Other families settled across the river from the fort in an area which was called Munnomonee,because of the Menominee native people that lived there. Most of the families had come to La Baye from the Mackinac area.
In 1733 the Sauks, allied to the Meskwaki (Fox), attacked the French at Fort La Baye. When a French force went out after them, the sons of De Villiers and Repentigny were killed. In 1737 Claude-Antoine de Bermen de La Martinière was appointed commander of the fort. Pierre-Paul Marin became the leader of a French force against the Meskwaki and Sauks. He prevailed and in 1739 the Marquis de Beauharnois, Governor of Canada, wrote "Sieur Marin has re-established peace and quietness".
Fort Rouillé and Fort Toronto, were French trading posts located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Fort Rouillé was named for Antoine Louis Rouillé, who at the time of its establishment around 1750 was Secretary of State for the Navy in the administration of Louis XV. It was abandoned in 1759 due to the turbulence of the Seven Years' War.
Fort Charlotte, the former grand depôt of the North-west Company. The NWC were induced to remove their depôt to the mouth of the Kamanatekwoya, and construct Fort William.
(See: Grand Portage as a Trading Post: Patterns of Trade at “the Great Carrying Place”)
Grand Portage National Monument is a United States National Monument located on the north shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota that preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage.
The Grand Portage, is an 8.5-mile (13.7 km) (2720 rod) footpath which bypasses a set of waterfalls and rapids on the last 20 miles (32 km) of the Pigeon River before it flows into Lake Superior. This path is part of the historic trade route of the French-Canadian voyageurs and coureur des bois between their wintering grounds and their depots to the east.
Composed of the Pigeon River and other strategic interior streams, lakes, and portages, this route was of enormous importance in pre-industrial times. It provided quick water access from Canada's settled areas and Atlantic ports to the fur-rich North-Western Territory. Some 50 miles (80 km) upstream from Lake Superior, this trade route crosses the Height of Land Portage, on the Northern continental divide, and connects South Lake in the Pigeon River/Great Lakes watershed with North Lake of the Rainy River watershed. Grand Portage therefore was an essential link between the drainage basin of the Nelson River to Arctic Ocean and that of the Saint Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean.
As early as 2,000 years ago, Indian Nations probably used Gichi-onigaming, or “the Great Carrying Place”, to travel from summer homes on Lake Superior to winter hunting grounds in the interior of Minnesota and Ontario. In 1729 Cree guide Auchagah drew a map for some of the first French fur traders, to show them how to reach the "western sea" of Lake Winnipeg. In time, Grand Portage became the gateway into rich northern fur-bearing country, where it connected remote interior outposts to lucrative international markets.
The Grand Portage trail is an 8.5-mile (13.7 km) trail connecting Grand Portage with Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River.Voyageurs from the interior of Canada would carry their furs by canoe to Fort Charlotte, and portage the bundles of fur to Grand Portage. There they met traders from Montreal, and exchanged the furs for trade goods and supplies. Each canoe "brigade" then returned to its starting place. The fur traders built Fort Charlotte as a trading fort at Grand Portage. There they built the Grand Hall in the French colonial style, which housed their meetings, a general store, and other facilities.
In mid-July 1802, partners of the North West Company, the most successful fur trade company in North America, met in their Grand Hall at Grand Portage. They voted to move their summer headquarters from the protected shores of Lake Superior’s Grand Portage Bay 50 miles (80 km) north to the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. Almost from the time the British Nor’Westers had organized at Grand Portage in the mid-1780s, an emerging United States wanted them to stop competing with Americans in this territory.
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