Fort Albany was a Hudson's Bay Company trading post established in 1679 near the site of the present day Fort Albany First Nation. The fort was one of the oldest and most important of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts. It was also involved in Anglo-French tensions leading to the Battle of Fort Albany in 1688.

1744 Map of James Bay, including "Fort Saint-Anne", the French name for Fort Albany

History edit

The area was explored by Charles Bayly, the first overseas governor of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), around 1675, and the original Fort Albany was established in 1679.[1] The fort was named in honour of Henry Stuart, 6th Duke of Albany.[2]:39 It was one of the original Hudson's Bay Company trading posts, the others being Moose Factory on the south shore of James Bay, Charles Fort (later Rupert House) on the east, York Factory in the Port Nelson region, and New Severn (aka Fort Severn).[3]:21 In these early days of the company, each fort was run by a governor, who served for a number of years and oversaw the company employees, managing the trade of their fort.[3]:22

The original fort was built inland from the mouth of the Albany River, partly for defense, and moved several times. Ships from England had to lay at the river mouth at Albany Roads. In 1683, Governor Henry Sergeant was directed to make it the primary trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company; it was the largest fort on the Bay at that point, with four bastions and forty-three guns.[3]:51 In 1684 a Monsieur Péré reached the fort from French Canada. He was arrested and his two companions were sent to Charlton Island. In 1685, the French built Fort des Français at the juncture of the Albany and Kenogami Rivers to block the indigenous people from coming north to trade with the HBC.[citation needed]

Nine Years' War edit

In 1686, all three posts on James Bay (Moose Factory, Rupert House, and Fort Albany) were captured by an overland expedition from Quebec. Fort Albany was named Fort Saint-Anne by the French. In 1688 the English sent ships to reestablish their posts but were defeated by French ships that had come to re-supply the forts. In 1693 the English retook the fort and held it thereafter.[3]:52 By the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, Albany was to be returned to the French, but nothing was done before the war resumed in 1702. In 1709 the French tried and failed to capture the fort. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht gave Hudson and James Bays (along with the rest of Rupert's Land) to the English.

Expansion of the fur trade edit

Following the end of decades of conflict with the French, sloops from Albany traded along the east coast until a new post was built on the Eastmain River in 1723-24 and Moose Factory was reestablished in 1730.[citation needed] By 1771, one ship serviced Albany, Moose Factory, and the East Main sub-house on the east shore.[3]:112

During the 18th century, trade between the Cree and the Hudson's Bay Company continued. In the 1720s and 1730s, 50% of the value of all trade to the Cree at Fort Albany was arms, while cloth and blankets accounted for approximately 25%. This pattern had reversed by the 1780s, when arms accounted for less than 25% and cloth and blankets more than 75% of the trade to the Cree from Fort Albany. By the 1790s, the Cree were using European cloth to make jackets and other clothes, which had acquired ceremonial and practical significance.[2]:49

Around the mid-1700s, the company's policy was to primarily engage in trade with indigenous people at their forts on the coast. By 1743, Chief Factor Joseph Isbister had found that trade at Albany was being undercut by coureurs des bois that had established trading posts upriver from the fort. So, going against company policy, he took a team 160 miles up river to establish the subsidiary Henley House and re-establish HBC authority.[4] This policy officially changed in the 1770s, and the company began establishing series of inland posts that fed into the coastal forts and factories, which would function as depots for storage and ports for trade back to Europe. According to a report by long-time company factor Andrew Graham, by 1771, around the time of the change in policy, Fort Albany was staffed by 30 men in addition to the chief factor and his officers, and oversaw the sub-houses Henley House and East Main, each with eleven men governed by a sloop master.[3]:111

Another official policy of the company was to not allow any of the indigenous people they traded with into any forts. This policy, relaxed by Chief Factor George Spence (1747-1752), was strictly enforced by Chief Factor Joseph Isbister when he returned to the fort in 1752. This sudden removal of access to Fort Albany and Henley House angered Wappisis, a Cree man influential over the indigenous people of the area, and in December 1754 he and a few others destroyed Henley House, killing the five HBC men there and raiding the stores, threatening death to anyone that told the Company people that they had done it. Wappisis went to Albany in May 1755 to trade and attempted to blame "French Indians" on the destruction of Henley House. Isbister heard in June from another indigenous person that Wappisis had done it, and Isbister hanged Wappisis and his two sons on June 21, 1755. The employees at Moose and Albany were concerned following the destruction of Henley House, since this was the first such incident of indigenous violence in the company's history.[5][4] Henley House was re-established under Chief Factor Humphrey Marten by 1768.[6]

In 1777, Gloucester House was built 243 miles upriver from Henley House and in 1786, Osnaburgh House was built at the outflow of Lake St. Joseph. This westward expansion significantly increased the trade of Fort Albany. In 1793, the Governor of Albany Fort established posts on the Rainy River and Winnipeg River. Posts supplied from the HBC-run Fort Albany competed with North West Company men from Lake Superior and even HBC posts supplied from York Factory, until the union of the two companies in 1821.[7][verification needed]

Fort Albany was the headquarters of the Albany District of the Hudson's Bay Company, which, as of 1830, bordered Severn District to its northwest, Moose District to its southeast, the far western reaches of Upper Canada to its south, Lac La Pluie District to its southwest, and Winnipeg District to its west.[8] The east-flowing Albany River drew furs from as far west as Lake St. Joseph. From there, a portage ran west to Lac Seul, the English River, the Winnipeg River and beyond. A north-flowing branch, the Kenogami River led upstream toward Lake Superior at Wawa, Ontario and another branch, the Ogoki River led toward Lake Nipigon.[citation needed]

Following the 1821 merger of HBC with the North West Company, Albany District thrived, recovering from the decline in trade caused by competition while the supply of fur-bearing animals dwindled. In order to curb the extinction of fur-bearing animals, the Governor of Rupert's Land George Simpson established beaver preserves throughout the district.

Land transfer to Canada edit

Fort Albany, 1886

In 1868, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered their North American territory known as Rupert's Land to Great Britain, which then gave it to the newly-formed Dominion of Canada with an 1869 "deed of surrender." Following this transfer to the Dominion, the province of Ontario engaged in litigation, arbitration, and negotiation to define its northern and western borders. In 1878, arbitrators granted Ontario territory north to the English and Albany rivers, causing Fort Albany to become part of the province. The Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889 officially expanded the province of Ontario north to Albany River and west to Lake of the Woods. At the suggestion of magistrate E. B. Borron, Ontario initially allowed the old HBC regime to manage the territory, until the province was able to more substantially take on its management, which began by appointing HBC officers as justices of the peace.[9]

Treaty No. 9 edit

In 1905, Treaty 9 was signed by the Indigenous people living around Fort Albany, who had become concentrated in the area over the past few decades and who had been seeking a binding agreement with the government to protect their way of life. The signature of this treaty marked the legal creation of Fort Albany First Nation.[10]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Voorhis, Ernest (1930). "Historic Forts of the French Regime and of the English Trading Companies". Government of Canada. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Fulford, George Taylor (October 1994). Children's Drawings in a Mashkeko ('Swampy Cree') Community (M.A. thesis). McMaster University. hdl:11375/13823. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bryce, George (1910). The remarkable history of the Hudson's Bay Company: including that of the French traders of North-western Canada and of the North-west, XY, and Astor Fur Companies. London: Sampson Low, Marston.
  4. ^ a b Van Kirk, Sylvia (1969). "ISBISTER, JOSEPH". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  5. ^ Thorman, George E. (1974). "WAPPISIS". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  6. ^ Pannekoek, F. (1979). "MARTEN, HUMPHREY". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  7. ^ Arthur S Morton, "A History of the Canadian West"
  8. ^ Mackie, Richard (1997). Trading beyond the mountains: the British fur trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. xvi. ISBN 0-7748-0559-5.
  9. ^ Reimer, Gwen; Chartrand, Jean-Philippe (March 14, 2005). "A HISTORICAL PROFILE OF THE JAMES BAY AREA'S MIXED EUROPEAN-INDIAN OR MIXED EUROPEAN-INUIT COMMUNITY" (PDF). Prepared for Department of Justice Canada.
  10. ^ Wheesk, Sheila (February 26, 2022). "TREATY NO. 9". GRASAC The Great Lakes Research Alliance. Retrieved June 4, 2023.