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No. 33: Twelve Foot Davis

Henry Davis Fuller struck it rich on a 12-foot claim in the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1861.

After spending his fortune in Victoria, Twelve Foot Davis, as he became known, headed up to the Peace Country.

But this time, his luck was in furs, not gold. He found more lucrative employment trading supplies with the natives for their furs.

As historian David Leonard explains, Twelve Foot Davis strategically located himself with other independent traders, just across the river from the Hudson's Bay Company post at Fort Dunvegan.

What they would do is find out What did the Hudson's Bay Company charge for the fur? And whatever it was, they would be willing to pay just a little bit more.

We've got to keep in mind that the company's policies for pricing were set in Winnipeg, so they couldn't lower them on their own behalf. The result being, is that they did a fairly lucrative business in opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company.

Twelve Foot Davis found new territory at Fort Vermilion, and used Fort Edmonton as a supply base. He stubbornly continued trading right up to the turn of the century.

He had arthritis very bad. He was blind by the turn of the century and he had to have people cart him around on a wheelbarrow almost, as it were.

In July 1900, Twelve Foot Davis directed a supply trip lying flat on his back in a cart. He fell gravely ill, however, at Lesser Slave Lake. And, as historian David Leonard notes, in the weeks he lingered at death's door, Twelve Foot Davis found the Lord.

The last week or so before he died, he was famous for crawling out of his little hovel at Lesser Slave Lake and yelling to God to come and take him up.

In 1909, the body of Twelve Foot Davis was exhumed from his grave at Lesser Slave Lake, and, according to his dying wish, laid to rest on a hillside overlooking the confluence of the Peace and Smoky Rivers.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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