HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY men first sailed into the CHURCHILL RIVER in 1686 , but it was not until 1717 that the HBC governor James Knight built a permanent post there, about 8 km from the mouth of the river. This early post was variously called Churchill River, Churchill or Churchill Factory until 1719, when the name was changed to Prince of Wales Fort. The company was interested not only in furs, but also in establishing a whaling industry. Fear of a sea attack by the French led the HBC to construct a stone fort that would command the entrance to the Churchill River. By August 1731 tradesmen had picketed the fort, which was 91.4 m2, at the mouth of the river on Eskimo Point (now Arviat). The walls of the original ramparts were completed in 1739, and the following year HBC governor Richard Norton moved to the new site. Work on the fort appears to have been practically continuous until 1771.
An animated version of the history of Fort Prince of Wales. From YouTube.
In August 1782, 3 French ships and about 300 men, under the command of the comte de Lapérouse, arrived at the mouth of the Churchill River. The fort was easily captured; its masonry was poor and Samuel HEARNE, governor of the fort, had insufficient men to operate its 42 guns. Hearne and the men were taken prisoner. Before sailing, Lapérouse spiked the cannon and blew up the buildings. The company ship arrived the following year and Hearne re-established the fur-trading post about 7-8 km upriver. He called it both Churchill Factory and Prince of Wales Factory. Prince of Wales Fort was neglected until 1934-35, when the Canadian government had the cannon dug up and remounted and the walls repaired. Today the partially restored fort is a national HISTORIC SITE and one of the main tourist attractions of the area around CHURCHILL, Man.
Prince of Wales Fort
Prince of Wales Fort In 1717 James Knight built a permanent post about 11 km from the mouth of the Churchill River. It was called Churchill Factory until 1719, when the name was changed to Prince of Wales's Fort. By Samuel Hearne, circa 1799 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-41292).
SHIRLEE ANNE SMITH
Links to Other Sites Prince of Wales Fort
This illustrated Parks Canada website is dedicated to the history of Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada.
Hudson's Bay Company Archives
A comprehensive information source about the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the fur trade in Canada. A Manitoba Government website.
The Canadian Register of Historic Places
Canada is home to a vast array of fascinating historical sites. Many of them are illustrated and described in this searchable online database of Canadian historic places that are of local, provincial, territorial, and national significance.
A profile of Samuel Hearne from the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.”
Lapérouse Captures Hudson Bay Forts
This Parks Canada website offers a brief profile of the remarkable 18th century French naval officer and explorer Jean-François Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse.
Prince of Wales's Fort
This story offers fascinating details about daily life in an 18th century Hudson’s Bay fur trading post. From the Manitoba Historical Society.
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