The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Old Northwest

The Land of Western Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Company

Much of the settlement of Western Canada had it’s origins in the old Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the earlier years, the Hudson’s Bay Company was said to have published a study declaring that the land in western Canada was unfit for agricultural purposes. Perhaps the report was slanted to help keep out the farmer. The report of course was proven to be untrue. Regarding the Hudson’s Bay Company monopoly, there was a contentious trial in 1849 against a trapper who was accused, by the HBC, of trading in illegal furs. The trader was found guilty of breaking the Hudson’s Bay monopoly, but because of an angry armed crowd present during the trial, the judge didn’t fine the defendant.

fort vancouver national historic site

Watchtower at old Fort Vancouver

This 1849 trial was most likely the key event that turned the tide against the HBC monopoly and, by 1870, the government dissolved the monopoly altogether and opened up trapping to anyone.

This was also an event that opened up the Canadian West to farming as well.  It was that year, 1870, in which the Canadian government purchased the rights to the Northwest from the Hudson’s Bay Company. This move in 1870 created opportunities for Canadians in the east who had been thinking of heading west. The completion of the western railroad first to Winnepeg, then on to Calgary and eventually into British Columbia accelerated settlement. To give you an idea of the railroad’s major role in settling western Canada, Canadian Pacific agents operated in many overseas cities. Immigrants were often sold a package that included passage on a Canadian Pacific ship, travel on a CP train, and land sold to them by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

fort vancouver exhibits

Weaponry exhibit at Fort Vancouver

Canadian West Ranching

The year 1870 was also a pivotal year for Canadian ranching. Just as in the U.S., the western ranching industry had the encouragement of government. During 1881 the Canadian government passed an act which allowed anyone to lease up to 100,000 acres at a cost of just one cent per acre per year. Granting or leasing acreage at a very low cost was something done by both the Spaniards and the Mexicans to help settle their territories in Texas, New Mexico and Alta California. The method proved successful for them as well as for the Canadian government decades later.

The ranch land was leased and the cowboy entered the western Canadian culture. While the Canadian cowboy and his American counterpart dressed similarly, there were a few distinctions. The history books point out that, unlike their American brothers, the Canadian cowboy seemed not to have the same negative baggage. Some might say that quite a bit written by the dime novelists of the era embellished the “negative’ exploits of the American cowboy. I think that when all was said and done both the Canadian cowboy as well as his brothers to the south put in a hard days work for their wages.

historic homes at fort vancouver

A home for Army generals built at Fort Vancouver

Visiting Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver in Vancouver Washington just across the Columbia River from Portland Oregon is one of the best ways to learn more about the Hudson’s Bay Company and it’s impact on the Pacific Northwest.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site today is a reconstruction of the old Hudson’s Bay fort as it would have appeared in the early 1800’s. Fort Vancouver at one time served as the headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia region.

pearson field museum fort vancouver

The Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver

The reconstructed buildings within the Fort’s walls are on their original sites. Adjacent to the fort is Pearson Field which today is operated as a city owned small aircraft field but does have the distinction of being the oldest operating airfield in the United States.

An excavation of the old site of Fort Vancouver took place beginning in 1947. According to National Park Service information, some two million artifacts were discovered at the excavation site. During the years during and after the excavation there were those who desired to keep the area an archeological site. In  1954, the area was was officially designated a site to preserve the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1965 Congress gave the go ahead for a complete reconstruction.

Two additional Trips Into History articles you may enjoy are found on the links below…

A Trip to Historic Portland Oregon

Visiting The Dalles Oregon

Two excellent books regarding the Hudson’s Bay Company and it’s impact on both Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest include…The Remarkable History of the Hudson’s Bay Company by author George Bryce and Hudson’s Bay Company Adventures : Tales of Canada’s Fur Traders by author Elle Andra-Warner.

columbia river near bonneville dam

View of the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, located on the northern shore of the Columbia River, is easily accessible and makes a great addition to your Pacific Northwest trip planner.

The site is just across the Columbia River from Portland Oregon in Vancouver Washington. The two cities are connected by the Interstate 5 bridge.

When on Interstate 5, turn off at the Mill Plain Blvd exit and follow the signs to the fort’s Visitor Center which is on East Evergreen Blvd. At the Visitors Center you can obtain detailed maps which can be used for your walking tour. The Visitors Center is located on a hill just north of the fort. The walking tour map information contains details of each of the site’s structures.

The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Visitors Center showcases interesting exhibits and offers visitors the opportunity to view several short films by request. It’s one of the best sites to learn about the settlement of the Pacific Northwest.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Trips Into History)

A Visit to Fort Apache Historic Park


Today the site of Fort Apache is an Arizona State Historic Park located off Arizona State Hwy 73. The site of Fort Apache is in the White Mountains of Arizona about 190 miles north of Tucson and about 177 miles northeast of Phoenix.  The fort is also four miles south of Whiteriver Arizona in a very scenic and pine forested part of the state.

fort apache arizona

Fort Apache Captain's Quarters

It’s a fun and educational stop during your Arizona vacation road trip and one of Arizona’s finest historic landmarks. You’ll also find several other historic sites within a thirty mile radius.

Fort Apache

Fort Apache was a major outpost during the Apache wars (1861-1886) and remained a military post until 1922.

Today, the 288 acre site is comprised of 27 buildings dating between 1870 and 1930. Buildings include a guardhouse, officer quarters, stables and dormitories. Also included is the White Mountain Apache Cultural Center and Museum.

The museum features an exhibit about the legacy of Fort Apache and an exhibit “Footprints of the Apache”. Many very interesting photos and artifacts make this a must see during your Arizona vacation. It’s one of the most historic of Arizona State Parks and it’s an ideal family road trip destination.

fort apache state historic park

Fort Apache Commanding Officer's House

Some may even remember the 1948 John Ford directed film Fort Apache starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple. The film involves an honorable and veteran war captain who finds conflict when his regiment is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe.

The Battle of Fort Apache

The Battle of Fort Apache took place on September 1, 1881. It was an engagement between the cavalry of Fort Apache and dozens of mounted White Mountain Apache’s. The attack on Fort Apache was actually a  reprisal for the Battle at Cibicue Creek in which a notorious medicine man had been killed along with a cavalry officer.

theodore roosevelt indian school

Theodore Roosevelt School Dormitory Building

The Fort Apache battle lasted all day but the Apaches more or less stayed outside of the range of the cavalry riflemen. Reinforcements arrived a few days later but by that time the Apaches had scattered into hiding.

Only three American soldiers were wounded and White Mountain Apache casualties were unknown. While the battle itself was not large in scope, it’s repercussions were.

After the battle other groups of Apaches left their newly formed reservations. They either escaped to northern Mexico or joined Geronimo and other Apache leaders in their war against the whites, both military and civilian. Many innocent people were killed in this running conflict. Geronimo was to later surrender at Skeleton Canyon New Mexico in1886. This represented the ending of the Apache Wars.

fort apache buildings

First Commanding Officer's Quarters log cabin

The Great Indian Leaders

Geronimo remains a Native American legend much the same way as Cochise, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The difference was that each of these Native American leaders met a different ends.

Cochise was sent to Florida as a captive, returned to Indian Territory and died, Sitting Bull was slain during the uprising that led to the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 and Crazy Horse was killed by a soldier at Fort Robinson Nebraska in 1877. Geronimo like Cochise was sent to Florida as a prisoner only later to be sent to the Indian Territory where he died.

What to See at Fort Apache

Fort Apache is one of the most preserved old forts in the southwest. The twenty-seven historic buildings on the site will give you plenty of opportunities for picture taking.

One interesting group of buildings was part of the original Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School which was established at the fort during the 1920’s. Several of the  school buildings you’ll view were built during the 1930’s by the WPA.

battle of cibucue creek

Cibucue Creek Battle Monument

Other finely restored structures include the commanding officers quarters, the captains quarters and general barracks structures. Visiting Fort Apache is definitely a trip back into history.

Another excellent stop to make is to the Kinishba Ruins.  The ruins are a National Historic Landmark and are located just four miles west of the fort. The Kinishba Ruins are what remains of a pueblo village that was once occupied by ancestors of today’s Zuni and Hopi pueblo tribes. The site was initially excavated during the 1930’s and was partially rebuilt. This historic site dates back to 1200 to 1400 A.D.

Each year there is an opportunity to attend the annual Apache Song and Dance Celebration at the fort. Arts and crafts are on display as well as food vendors, trail hikes and tours of Fort Apache / Theodore Roosevelt School National Historic Landmark. Information can be found at website

For additional information regarding planned events, visit website

You’ll also enjoy additional TripsIntoHistory photo articles found on the links below.

The Comanche Indians

Stagecoaches in Black Canyon Arizona

Fort Apache State Historic Park is open daily from 7A to sunset. The Nohwike’ Bágowa museum at the historic park is open Monday-Saturday 8am to 5pm during the summer, and Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm during the winter.

(Content and photos copyright TripsIntoHistory)


Fetterman Massacre

The Frontier Cavalry

One of the most significant battles of the U.S. frontier army in the 1860’s was the Fetterman Fight which is often referred to as the Fetterman Massacre. This battle among the U.S. Cavalry and Sioux Indians occurred in Wyoming a decade before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. There’s been a tremendous amount written  about Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn. Much less has been written about a conflict which happened in Wyoming, about 25 miles south of the present day city of Sheridan.

Diagram of Fort Phil Kearny, 1866

The Bozeman Trail

Back in the mid to latter part of the 1800’s many areas of the western U.S. where immigrant traffic was significant. One place in particular was the area of northern Wyoming. During the 1860’s, army forts were built along an emigrant path called the Bozeman Trail. This trail was a cutoff from the heavily traveled east/west Platte Road and Oregon Trail which was the main overland trail used by people moving to the west from the area of western Missouri. The Bozeman Trail ran northwest from the Platte Road beginning near Fort Laramie, WY. This trail ran to Montana where gold mining at that time was booming. Fort Laramie as well as Fort Phil Kearny and Fort C.S. Smith to the north were built along the Bozeman Trail to help protect wagon trains from Indian attack. Much of the trails traffic at that time were from miners heading to the gold fields. There are many side stories that go along with the history of this area but one, the Fetterman Fight, in particular, is of historical interest.

The Settlers and Miners Flood the Area

Fort Phil Kearny which was directly on the Bozeman Trail north of Fort Laramie was under constant assault from several Indian tribes, most notably the Lakota Sioux. The issue from the Native American perspective was simply that they had occupied this land for centuries and were understandably not happy to give it up. The massive flow of settlers were a steady reminder to them that things were changing fast. The gold boom in Montana worsened the situation from the perspective of the Indians. In addition, the emigration from the east disturbed the buffalo hunting grounds which were the main source of sustenance for the plains tribes. In a situation like this conflict is inevitable.

Colonel Henry B. Carrington, Commander of Fort Phil Kearney

The Fetterman Massacre

There were many skirmishes between the U.S.cavalry and Indian during this period and  many books have been published on the topic.Many moves as well have been produced on the subject of the Indian Wars. Regarding the area of Wyoming and Montana there was one conflict in the 1860’s which stood out among all others.This was called the Fetterman Massacre. In essence, an entire command of cavalry and infantry soldiers (81 in all) commanded by a Captain William J. Fetterman stationed at Fort Phil Kearny were annihilated by a surprise grouping of some 1500-2000 or more Indians on Dec 21st, 1866. The battle itself lasted only about thirty minutes. There are many reasons why this occurred and who may or may not have been to blame. Most accounts appear to place the blame on an overly eager cavalry officer who reportedly disobeyed direct orders from the fort commander, Colonel Henry B. Carrington.

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History Quiz

On the same day of this massacre, the Indians had attacked another site just outside Fort Phil Kearny and Captain Fetterman was sent out with his troops to give chase. A small group of Indians made themselves known to the soldiers not far from the fort and near a rise in the terrain. Captain Fetterman, in pursuit, led his troops over this small rise. This was only about one mile from the fort itself.

Modern day Bozeman Trail Historical Marker

Unknown to Fetterman was the fact that the Indians had hid in gulleys and behind rocks just over the crest ready to spring the trap. After ascending the rise, the troopers were greatly overwhelmed by the attacking Indians. The rise was in eyesight of the fort but not the battle site just over the rise.

The Aftermath and Conclusions

The Fetterman Fight in 1866 stood as the U.S. Cavalry’s worst defeat up to that date. George Armstrong Custer’s  battle was still 10 years into the future. That historic battle would take the place of the Fetterman Massacre as the worst cavalry defeat during the Indian Wars.


Site of the Fetterman Massacre

The obvious fact that the troops in this instance were vastly outnumbered certainly contributed to the defeat.  In addition, the soldiers were using outdated weaponry such as the single shot muzzle loading Springfield Civil War era rifle. This was before the use of repeating rifles which changed the odds greatly.  A contributing factor was that the soldiers in this battle were not considered experienced Indian fighters and did not display the horsemanship of the average Indian warrior. Although taking place very near the fort, the battle field could not be seen from Fort Phil Kearney and this delayed the sending of reinforcements in any timely manner.

Also, you’ll enjoy our photo article regarding the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon Texas during the Red River War.

Much was made of the fact that Captain Fetterman went against the orders of his commander, Colonel Carrington. The question of why Fetterman led his troops over the rise will never be answered for certain.

As a side note, there are many stories connected with this particular battle, the fort itself, the commanding officer of Fort Phil Kearny, a Congressional inquiry and the army’s response. A decade later the Battle of the Little Bighorn was actually a continuance of the unrest in the Wyoming/Montana region. There are some very interesting books available on the subject and you’ll probably find information at your local library that cover these topics from both the governments perspective and that of the Indian. Only the Battle of the Little Bighorn stands as a larger defeat for the frontier U.S. Cavalry.

Fetterman Battlefield Site Plaque

What the visitor to this site in Wyoming will see is a monument dedicated in 1908 at the very sight of the battle (the top of Lodgepole Ridge). Fort Phil Kearny itself was burned down by the Indians shortly after the army vacated the fort some two years later supposedly because the expanding railroad was making the trail obsolete and as part of an agreement to end Red Cloud’s War of which the Fetterman Massacre was a part. Red Cloud’s War, led by Chief Red Cloud, is often referred to as the one Indian War lost by the U.S.

Visiting the Site

There is a monument (shown above) at the site of the battle which is accessible to visitors. As mentioned above, the monument was erected during a ceremony on July 3, 1908. The site is in Johnson County Wyoming, about 25 miles south of Sheridan Wyoming and just west of Interstate-90. For the history minded traveler, this site would be a great addition to a western U.S. trip planner.

(Photos and images from the public domain)