Charlie Lake Cave, 7 km north of Fort St John, is recognized as one of the oldest archaeological sites in Canada, revealing evidence of human habitation 10 500 years ago. In 1793 Alexander MACKENZIE reached a point on the PEACE RIVER south of here. A series of forts were established during the fur-trading era. The first, built by the NORTH WEST COMPANY and named Rocky Mountain Fort in 1794, was replaced with Fort d'Epinette in 1806 near the mouth of the Beatton River (renamed Fort St John by the Hudson's Bay Company [HBC] in 1821). The HBC fort was later relocated 3 more times near the site of the present-day city; the last one at Fish Creek (1925-75). Towards the end of World War I and into the 1920s, settlers moved westward to the fertile agricultural lands on both sides of the Peace River. The population increased greatly after completion in 1942 of the Alcan Military Road, now known as the ALASKA HIGHWAY. The discovery of oil and natural gas south of the city in 1951 attracted more people.
Fort St John has since become the largest centre in British Columbia north of Prince George, with a trading area population of 60 000. Agriculture, forestry and the natural gas industry are the basis of the expanding local and regional economy. The Peace River region produces nearly all of the province's grain crops and CANOLA. As well, as the energy capital of British Columbia, Fort St John promotes itself as "The Energetic City." The city's facilities include a campus of Northern Lights Community College and the North Peace Cultural Centre.
The district municipality of Taylor, 16 km south of the city, is the site of natural gas processing plants, sawmills and a pulp mill providing additional employment for Fort St John residents.
Author ALAN F.J. ARTIBISE Rev: KEN FAVRHOLDT
Links to Other Sites
Fort St John
The official website for the City of Fort St John, BC.
See maps and statistical data for regions and communities throughout British Columbia. A Government of British Columbia website.
BC Geographical Names
Search the BC Geographical Names Information System for historical and geographical data about specific locations in British Columbia.
British Columbia Archives
Explore the fascinating history of BC through online digitized copies of selected government documents, manuscripts, maps, architectural plans, photographs, illustrations, audio and video files, newspapers and much more.
The Changing Faces of the North Peace
This illustrated history of the North Peace region of British Columbia focuses on the City of Fort St. John. Topics include native settlements, early forts, women pioneers, transportation, local industry, and more. From Canada’s Digital Collections.
Deh Cho Travel Connection
An extensive online guide to the Deh Cho Travel Connection, a remarkable journey through Canada’s north that traverses the Mackenzie, Liard, and Alaska Highways. Click on the links for more information about the history of the route, interactive maps, and details about local communities, parks, and wildlife. From the website for Industry, Tourism and Investment, Government of the Northwest Territories.
The website for Jane’s Walk, a network of free walking tours that explore the quality and livability of local neighbourhoods based on ideas espoused by Jane Jacobs. Click on "The Community" to access the latest news and photos on their blog and more. Also, check out "Find Your Walk" for maps and descriptions of local walks throughout the country.