From 1774 to 1821 rival traders from Hudson Bay and the St Lawrence, competing fiercely for an easily depleted resource, established over 600 western posts, most of them occupied for only a few years. Durable posts were located at strategic positions on the main transport lines and, in addition to trading, served as depots and administrative centres. With their greatly extended lines of communication the Montréal traders required many more posts than did the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) but, because the records of the St Lawrence fur trade are seriously incomplete, not all of the Montréalers’ posts are known.
Trading posts were concentrated in two environmental zones. Most were in the great forest lands from which came most furs. Others were in the narrow parkland zone that flanked the fur forest to the south. In addition to furs, these posts procured the dried buffalo meat (pemmican) that was required to provision the forest trade.
When the HBC and the North West Company united in 1821, 125 posts were in operation, 68 of them belonging to the HBC. Following the union, the reorganized HBC reduced the total number to 52, thereby eliminating unprofitable posts spawned by competition and establishing the pattern that persisted for the rest of the fur-trade period.
Click here for additional information on trade route development between 1760 and 1821.
This series contains two maps that pinpoint the location of Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company trading posts in 1821, and the consolidated Hudson’s Bay Company posts of 1825, respectively. The user can toggle between the two maps using buttons below.