The North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was established in 1670 and built trading posts on the Hudson’s Bay. The European traders of the HBC did not venture far inland, depending on First Nations Peoples to bring furs to the posts that were exchanged for goods like metal knives, pots, tools, glass beads, wool cloth, and other goods.
French traders were the first to travel into the west to trade and set up posts in the 18th century. After the British defeated the French in 1763 and took control of Canada, Scottish merchants took control of the fur trade based in Montreal.
In 1778, Peter Pond was the trader for the North West Company (NWC) based in Montreal who established a trading post on the Athabasca River to intercept all furs being carried by the Cree to the Hudson’s Bay. This proved to be effective as the Cree were saved the long journey to the Hudson’s Bay.
In the fall of 1788, the NWC sent traders to establish Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca and another on the Peace River near the site of today’s Fort Vermilion. In 1792, a fort named Fork Fort was built where the Smoky River and Peace River join. Forts were established by the NWC at Dunvegan, Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, New Caledonia, and into Washington and Oregon.
The aggressive efforts of the NWC from the 1780s to 1810 had made the company the main source of the best furs from Canada. This competition was making it very difficult for the HBC to make a profit.