Fort Pelly

Last updated
Fort Pelly
Fort Pelly trading post.jpg
Fort Pelly in 1887 (second fort)
Type Fort, Military Structure, fur trading post
Etymology Sir John Pelly, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company
Location Pelly, Saskatchewan, Canada
Nearest city Yorkton, Saskatchewan
Founder Hudson's Bay Company
BuiltFirst fort 1824
Second fort 1856
Governing body Parks Canada
Website Parks Canada official website

Fort Pelly was a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post located in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The fort was named after Sir John Pelly, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. The current village of Pelly, Saskatchewan, takes its name from the fort, [1] and is located approximately 8 miles north of the site of the fort.


The first fort

Before Fort Pelly was built there was a Fort Hibernia in the general area. [2]

The first Fort Pelly, at 51°46′42″N102°00′19″W / 51.77833°N 102.00528°W / 51.77833; -102.00528 , was constructed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1824, in the northeast corner of the elbow of the Assiniboine River. It was situated at a convenient portage point between the Assiniboine and Swan Rivers. Since the upper Assiniboine is shallow and crooked the area was most easily reached from the Swan River. The route was Lake Winnipegosis - Swan River - Snake Creek - Miry Creek - portage to the Assiboine River. [3] It was the administrative centre of the Hudson's Bay Company's Swan River District. [4] [5]

Fort Pelly consisted of a dwelling house, and Indian house, several staff houses, a store, and stables, all enclosed within a square palisade, 120 feet a side. Its first chief trader was Alan McDonell, who had selected the site and oversaw construction. The fort traded with Cree and Salteaux Natives from the surrounding area, along with recruiting employees from both nations. [6] In 1841 Fort Pelly had four employees, along with their Métis families. [6] The first fort was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1842 and rebuilt immediately by chief trader Cuthbert Cumming. In 1849 Thomas McKay, who would become first mayor of Prince Albert and a prominent territorial politician, was born at Fort Pelly.

The second fort

Fort Pelly was moved to 51°46′35″N101°59′51″W / 51.77639°N 101.99750°W / 51.77639; -101.99750 in 1856. This move, to approximately one quarter mile southeast of the original position, was due to problems with occasional flooding at the old location. The old fort was however still used in some capacity until at least 1859. On July 15, 1870, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered its lands to Canada, while retaining its posts and some land immediately surrounding them. The fort was now located on block 17 of the Fort Pelly Reserve. Around 1871 Fort Ellice succeeded Fort Pelly as district headquarters. In 1909 the Canadian Northern Railway was built 6 miles north of Fort Pelly, and trade at the fort all but ceased, and it was abandoned in June, 1912.

Current status

During the summers of 1971 and 1972, the former fort sites were excavated by the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History, at which time all known buildings were located, and 7,000 objects were recovered.

The first Fort Pelly site was designated a Historic Site by the Province of Saskatchewan in 1986 and is operated by the Saskatchewan Parks Service. [7]

The site of the second fort was purchased by the Fort Pelly Historical Society and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1953. [8]

Related Research Articles

Cumberland House, Saskatchewan settlement in northwestern Saskatchewan, Canada

Cumberland House is a community in Census Division No. 18 in northeast Saskatchewan, Canada on the Saskatchewan River. It is the oldest settler community in Saskatchewan and has a population of about 2,000 people. Cumberland House Provincial Park, which provides tours of an 1890s powder house built by the Hudson's Bay Company, is located nearby.

Fort Assiniboine Hamlet in Alberta, Canada

Fort Assiniboine is a hamlet in northwest Alberta, Canada, within Woodlands County. It is located along the north shore of the Athabasca River at the junction of Highway 33 and Highway 661. It is approximately 39 kilometres (24 mi) northwest of Barrhead, 62 kilometres (39 mi) southeast of Swan Hills and 91 kilometres (57 mi) northeast of Whitecourt.

Fur brigade

Fur brigades were convoys of canoes and boats used to transport supplies, trading goods and furs in the North American fur trade industry. Much of it consisted of native fur trappers, most of whom were Metis, and fur traders who travelled between their home trading posts and a larger Hudson's Bay Company or Northwest Company post in order to supply the inland post with goods and supply the coastal post with furs.

Henry Kelsey English explorer and fur trader

Henry Kelsey was an English fur trader, explorer, and sailor who played an important role in establishing the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. Kelsey was born in 1667 and married in East Greenwich, south-east of central London.

Fort Espérance was a North West Company trading post near Rocanville, Saskatchewan from 1787 until 1819. It was moved three times and was called Fort John from 1814 to 1816. There was a competing XY Company post from 1801 to 1805 and a Hudson's Bay post nearby from 1813 to 1816. It was on the Qu'Appelle River about 20 km from that river's junction with the Assiniboine River and about 7 km west of the Manitoba border. It was on the prairie in buffalo country and was mainly used as a source of pemmican which was sent down the river to Fort Bas de la Rivière at the mouth of the Winnipeg River.

Fort Carlton Protected area

Fort Carlton was a Hudson's Bay Company fur trade post from 1795 until 1885. It was rebuilt by the Saskatchewan government as a provincial historic park and can be visited today. It is about 65 kilometers north of Saskatoon.

Fort Ellice was a Hudson's Bay Company trading post established on the Qu’Appelle River upstream from the fork with the Assiniboine River in 1794. In 1817 it was rebuilt on the south bank of the Assiniboine at Beaver Creek. In 1862 a new post was constructed a short distance from the original fort and in 1873 it replaced Fort Pelly as the headquarters for the Swan River District. It closed in 1892. Many famous Metis traders were in charge of this post, namely, John Richard McKay, James McKay and William McKay Sr. The fort was located in what is now west-central Manitoba, Canada, just east of that province's border with Saskatchewan.

William Fraser Tolmie Canadian politician

William Fraser Tolmie was a surgeon, fur trader, scientist, and politician.

James McMillan (1783–1858) was a fur trader and explorer for the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company. He led some of the earliest surveys of the lower Fraser River and founded Fort Langley for the HBC in 1827, and was its first Chief Trader.


Red Deer Lake (Manitoba) lake in Manitoba, Canada

Red Deer Lake is a lake in western Manitoba, Canada. It is located approximately 5 miles north of Barrows and 10 miles west of Dawson Bay which is the northwest part of Lake Winnipegosis, and 8 miles east of the Saskatchewan border.

Bas de la Rivière

Bas de la Rivière is a geographical area on both sides of the Winnipeg River at and near the mouth where it empties into Lake Winnipeg. It had a storied historical period in the opening of the west and the subsequent fur trade and settlement.

Canadian canoe routes

This article covers the water based Canadian canoe routes used by early explorers of Canada with special emphasis on the fur trade.

Saskatchewan River fur trade

Saskatchewan River fur trade The Saskatchewan River was one of the two main axes of Canadian expansion west of Lake Winnipeg. The other and more important one was northwest to the Athabasca Country. For background see Canadian canoe routes (early). The main trade route followed the North Saskatchewan River and Saskatchewan River, which were just south of the forested beaver country. The South Saskatchewan River was a prairie river with few furs.

Pedlar is a term used in Canadian history to refer to English-speaking independent fur traders from Montreal who competed with the Hudson's Bay Company in western Canada from about 1770 to 1803. After 1779 they were mostly absorbed by the North West Company. The name was first used by the Hudson's Bay Company to refer to French coureurs des bois, who travelled inland to trade with the Indians in their villages and camps. This was in contrast to the HBC policy of building posts on Hudson Bay, to where the Indians would bring furs to trade with them.

Brandon House was a Hudson's Bay Company post or posts from 1793 to 1824. It was located at several places on the Assiniboine River between Brandon, Manitoba and the mouth of the Souris River about 21 miles southeast of Brandon. Because of its location near the Souris River it was a center for trade with the Mandans in North Dakota. It was moved four times and there were related forts nearby, so its history is necessarily complex. For background see Assiniboine River fur trade.

Fur trading on the Assiniboine River and the general area west of Lake Winnipeg began as early as 1731.

Joseph Smith was a British fur trader and explorer working for the Hudson's Bay Company. He was one of the first Europeans to explore the interior of what later became Canada from Hudson Bay. Smith died June 1765 en route to York Factory from the Saskatchewan River country. Smith's explorations played an important role in opening up the interior of western Canada to European trade, and his journals provide one of the earliest accounts of Cree life.

The Athabasca Landing Trail was a long-distance portage route that linked Fort Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan River with Athabasca Landing on the Athabasca River. The distance of the trail between Fort Edmonton and Athabasca Landing was 100 miles, giving the trail the nickname "The 100 Mile Portage."



  1. Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan
  2. Martin Kavanagh, "The Assiniboine Basin", 1946, page 69
  3. Elizabeth Browne Losey,"Let Them be Remembered:The Story of the Fur Trade Forts, 1999,pages 492-500
  4. George Bryce. (1910), The remarkable history of the Hudson's Bay Company (page 491), London: Sampson Low, Marston
  5. Richard Somerset Mackie (1997), Trading Beyond the Mountains; The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843 (Map 1, p. xvi), Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press
  6. 1 2 Tolmie, William Fraser. The journals of William Fraser Tolmie, physician and fur trader. Vancouver, B.C.: Mitchell. 1963, p. 340
  7. Fort Pelly #1 Provincial Historic Site . Canadian Register of Historic Places . Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  8. Fort Pelly National Historic Site of Canada . Canadian Register of Historic Places . Retrieved 12 August 2012.