Two centuries before Confederation of Canada, a pair of resourceful Frenchmen named Radisson and des Groseilliers discovered a wealth of fur in the interior of the continent – north and west of the Great Lakes – accessible via the great inland sea that is Hudson Bay. Despite their success, French and American interests would not back them. It took the vision and connections of Prince Rupert, cousin of King Charles II, of England, to acquire the Royal Charter which, on May 2, 1670 granted the lands of the Hudson Bay watershed to “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson’s Bay”. It soon became known as the Hudson Bay Company. The Hudson Bay Company is still in existence today. We saw some of their stores in the bigger cities in Canada. The charter granted the company a monopoly over the region drained by all rivers and streams flowing into Hudson Bay in northern Canada. The area was named “Rupert’s Land” after Prince Rupert.
Fort Garry was named after Nicholas Garry, deputy governor of the Hudson Bay Company. It was established in 1822. In 1826, a severe flood destroyed the fort.
Lower Fort Garry was built in 1830 by the Hudson’s Bay Company on the western bank of the Red River, 20 miles north of the original Fort Garry. Although these trading posts were called forts, they were not in the traditional sense as we think of it today. They were not meant to be places of defense. The interesting thing about Lower Fort Garry trading post, is that all the buildings are made of stone, rather than wood.
The troops, used to keep law and order in the area, becoming a nuisance by causing minor disturbances themselves, were put to work at the fort completing the construction of the walls which were finished in 1848. This facility was never attacked, and housed no cannons, or other weapons of defense.
On March 20, 1869, the Hudson’s Bay Company reluctantly, under pressure from Great Britain, sold Rupert’s Land to the Government of Canada. The sale involved roughly a quarter of the continent.