Historic Dunvegan is nestled in the scenic valley of the Peace River.
It is the site of one of Alberta’s earliest fur trade posts and mission
centres and is the best-known post on the Peace River.
The first white man to pass the site was Alexander Mackenzie on 11
May 1793. He was accosted by a band of Beaver who wanted to trade. In
March 1804, 11 years later, David Thompson, surveying for the NWC, noted
a suitable place for a post and camped in the area on his return from
the Rocky Mountains. On Thompson’s recommendation, the NWC made definite
plans to establish a permanent post in the area and in the spring of
1806, construction began.
During that spring there were some 45 men working at the fort, as
well as the officers of the NWC, the hunters for the post and the
hangers-on. That summer, those left in at the post had some trouble: a
fire burned part of the post, a hunter was lost to bad food, and three
of the women were extremely unhappy with their situation.
The hunting was very poor around the fort that summer, and the camp
was without food from 5 July until 14 July—survival was achieved only by
killing a couple of their dogs. Thankfully, on 14 July, 10 women of the
Flux Band came, loaded with meat.
The brigade came in, in mid-October. They were preceded by the
wintering Partner, A. N. McLeod and nine men in a light canoe. They had
taken six days from Fort Vermilion and 14 days from Fort Chipewyan. The
next day, Blondin came in with the brigade of seven canoes, accompanied
by Mr. A. McKenzie.
In 1809, Daniel Harmon took over charge of Fort Dunvegan. He was
succeeded by John McGillivray. Other NWC traders who were connected with
Dunvegan include McDonald McTavish, Joseph McGillivray, John George
McTavish, and James Leith; Simon Fraser, John Finlay, and Samuel Black
(the bully of Fort Chipewyan), all either outfitted or stopped at Fort
Dunvegan during their travels.
During 1815 and 1816, the HBC made two attempts to establish
themselves on the Peace River. The company was turned back by the NWC.
Wintering Partner, A. N. McLeod, who had been in charge in Fort
Chipewyan during Peter Fidler’s terrible four years at Nottingham House,
came in as Wintering Partner with the new title of Superintendent, with
a huge determination to drive the English [the HBC] out. He was
described as a big stout man in a big red jacket and a long sword. A
later writer described him as a "fire-eater" when he wrote that "he was
going to bring the English in Athabasca into order and would expel the
HBC from the Aboriginal territory and would destroy their
establishments." He felt that the former wintering partners in the area
had been too lenient and said "he would stand at no trifle."
Peace finally came after the union of the two fur trade companies in
1820. The consolidated company never built at Dunvegan but in about
1827, they rebuilt the NWC post. Things were quieter than before, with
traffic diverted to new posts at Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, and near
the Forks on Peace River.
Life as a Mission
Life as historic site