Getting the Date Right

People seem to be having a terrible time getting the right date for the establishment of Fort McLeod, the Northwest Company post at McLeod Lake. A few days ago the Prince George Citizen had a piece about the bicentennial celebrations in Fort Saint James which referred to Fort Saint James as the oldest permanent European settlement in British Columbia. In a letter published in the Citizen of August 11th, reader Doug Baker corrected this statement, pointing out that McLeod Lake was established before Fort Saint James. He dated the establishment of Fort McLeod to August of 1885. This is so far off that I am surprised that the Citizen editors did not catch it.

The next day the Citizen published a letter from Kevin Beliveau who gave the date as 1804, with Fort Saint James established in 1805. That is closer, but still wrong. In point of fact, the Northwest Company did not decide to expand its operations to the West of the Rockies until the summer of 1805. Fort McLeod was established in the autumn of 1805, Fort Saint James in 1806. These dates may be found in the Reverend F. A. Runnals A History of Prince George (1946), pp. 20-22 and in Father Adrien Gabriel Morice’s The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia (1904) pp. 53-63, as well as in the introduction by W. Kaye Lamb, the Dominion archivist, to his 1960 edition of The Letters and Journals of Simon Fraser, at pp. 15-23. The latter two are works with which, I would think, anyone interested in the history of our region would be familiar, and to which they would know to turn to check such matters as this.

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