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Algoma’s Fur Trading History

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Algoma’s Fur Trading History

• Credit: Algoma Country

Part Two: Protecting the Fur Trade and the Environment

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This is the second blog in our four-part Fur Trade in Algoma blog series. Read about the Life of a Fur Trader here.

Protecting the fur trade

Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site of Canada
There were many rival fur trade companies in North America; companies serving Britain, France and the United States. In 1783, after the Treaty of Paris was signed, the newly formed United States was awarded Michilimackinac, the trading post on Mackinac Island, located in the straits where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. This strategic location meant that the Americans would have control of the upper Great Lakes. There was fear the Americans would stake a claim on St. Joseph Island. The Military Governor of Canada, Lord Dorchester, wanted to compete and even replace Michilimackinac as the hub of the fur trade, so Fort St. Joseph was commissioned.

Situated on St. Joseph Island in the North Channel of Lake Huron, Fort St. Joseph was built by the British in the late 1790s as a defensive post to protect the fur trade from the Americans. Its location was key because it was close to Fort Mackinac and navigation routes. You’ll find exhibits about life at the Fort in the visitor centre, and a short film presentation. Exhibits also contain artifacts found during archaeology digs at the Fort.

In 1974, Parks Canada launched a three-year research program (excavations and studying archives), leading to 21 buildings with excavated cellars and 21 above-ground buildings being identified. (Photo credit: Algoma Country)

The Fort was burned to the ground during the War of 1812, and you can explore the ruins today. The atmosphere of the site is very tranquil and the views of Lake Huron are stunning. Explore the grounds: there are three hiking trails. One leads to the original 1837 settlement built by Major Rains. Remnants of their flower garden still exist. The Cemetery Trail leads to a site with graves dating from 1796 to 1812. The third trail leads to the original site of the temporary Fort, built for soldiers working on the permanent Fort.

The stone chimney is an iconic ruin at the Fort site. (Photo credit: Algoma Country)

(Photo credit: Algoma Country)

This Fort also played an important role during the War of 1812; it became a rallying place as soon as the war was declared by the United States on Great Britain in June of 1812. Captain Roberts, along with soldiers, Canadians and local First Nations captured Fort Michilimackinac, without bloodshed. This military manoeuvre was not only the first of the War of 1812 but also served notice to the American garrison that war had been officially declared.

(Photo credit: Algoma Country)

Plan Your Visit to St. Joseph Island. It's easy to get to by car; just take the toll-free bridge from the mainland. There are motels, campgrounds and bed & breakfasts, restaurants and shops. If you’re boating in the North Channel, plan a day trip or overnight stay at the Richards Landing Marina (bicycles are provided), or the Hilton Beach Marina (bring your own bicycle). Another historic site to visit is the St. Joseph Island Museum.
Take part in Fort St. Joseph's Red Chair Experience #sharethechair

Recommended Driving Route: Island North

Protecting the Environment

Chapleau Crown Game Preserve
The first Europeans came looking for new fur trade territory, and they found it in Algoma. The fur trade opened the land up to railway, prospecting and logging. The Hudson’s Bay Company established a settlement in the area in 1777 on the Missinaibi.

However, with the fur trade came the over-trapping of animals. Beaver was the most coveted fur, but Europe also had a market for other types of furs, including lynx, marten, bear, fox, wolf, deer, and raccoon. Learn more about the different pelts and trade here.

For 1MB (Made Beaver) you could trade for things like one brass kettle, two yards of flannel, or two pounds of sugar. (Values from the North West Company trade goods). (Photo credit: Bruce Bay Cottages)

Hundreds of years of trapping would have taken a toll on the local population. This concern of the over-trapping of animals was brought to the attention of the Ontario Government by local Chapleau resident William MacLeod. He was very concerned about the decline of fur-bearing wildlife in the northeastern part of Ontario. In 1923, he wrote a paper about his concern, with recommendations. On May 27, 1925, the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve was created. His grandson, Bill MacLeod, has written several books about Chapleau, including one about the Game Preserve. Read our interview with Bill here.

(Photo credit: Algoma Country)

Today, the Preserve encompasses 2 million acres of land, and hunting inside the Preserve is banned. This preserve was created to ensure healthy populations of moose, bears and other animals and birds. The Preserve is the perfect place for nature lovers to enjoy wildlife viewing, photography, hiking, paddling, camping and fishing.

(Photo credit: Chapleau)

Plan Your Visit to Chapleau. There are many cottage resorts and campgrounds near the Chapleau Game Preserve or stay in Chapleau at one of the motels. Visit the shops, enjoy a bite to eat, visit the Chapleau Museum and the art gallery. Here are 10 Things to do in Chapleau

Recommended Driving Route: Grand Algoma

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