Fort William of 1816 – The height of the fur trade in North America

One of the largest living history attractions in North America, Fort William offers a vivid image of the fur trade life. Re-enactment of the old days was our main reason we chose to visit the fort, as we very much enjoyed the cheerful animators from Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. Although the park staff was very limited after the big lockdown from the beginning of the year, we considered lucky to be able to visit it, as the park re-opened mid-summer.

The story of the North West Company and its rendezvous place at Fort William covers but a brief span of history. Between the American Revolution (1776-1783), the war of 1812, and later the Pemmican War, then until its own absorption by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, the North West Company exercised a virtual monopoly of all trade into the northwest directed from Montreal. As the company’s inland headquarters, Fort William became the pivotal point in a vast fur trading empire, in a peaceful time before the several changes of what will later become Canada, such as 1869 when Hudson Bay Company turned over the governance to the new nation of Canada who decided the future of the North West territories. Anyway, Fort William remains an eloquent proof of peaceful trading times, frozen in time at the height of the fur trade in North America, as it was in 1816.

Hope you will enjoy the little movie, and the cheerful animators of Fort William!

Tip(s) of the day:

  • Ask as many questions as you want, all the staff looks knowledgeable, and willing to take extra time to answer all your questions;
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the site is quite big, and not much shade between the buildings;
  • Take water and sunscreen with you, especially during the summer months;
  • Admission was $5.00 as of August 2021, for hours of operation and more info you can read here.

~ visited in August 2021

23 thoughts on “Fort William of 1816 – The height of the fur trade in North America

    1. Fort William reminded me a lot about Louisbourg (which we loved), unfortunately they were short staffed at the Fort, very few people returned to work after the park reopened this summer.

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    1. Not sure how the fort got its name, but since few Scottish personalities, like Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser hold an important place in the Canadian history, including the North West Company, I wouldn’t be surprised they named it after another Scottish explorer home town.

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    1. The last photo of my little video has a map with all forts as of 1815, I was so impressed by their numbers, both North West Company and Hudson Bay’s. I was just checking that map, and it looks like Fort Douglas was there prior Upper Fort Garry. I am curious how many of them are still there..

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      1. I’ve never heard of Fort Douglas. I’ll have to look at that map on my computer, it’s too small on my phone! My brother worked in Churchill for a few seasons. The lodge he worked at was a former Hudson Bay fort/lodge. Unfortunately it burned down a few years ago. Did you watch Frontier? On CBC 4 or so years ago? They were pretty brutal people.

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      2. Fort Gary was actually renamed after Fort Gibraltar (Douglas was in the vicinity, but destroyed later). We learned about Pemmican war at the Fort, it seems the movie is about, I’m going to watch it for sure, thank you for the tip🙂 1816 was the last year of North West Company at the fort, before HBC took them over, brutal times indeed.

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    1. We enjoyed very much both Fort William, as well as Louisbourg (which we visited back in 2013). We loved all the re-enactments, it is so funny when you ask them something, and they answer you back as they play certain characters from few hundreds years ago.

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