Information contained below is from research conducted by Mark Weadik (American Mountain Men) and John Martinson, the Idaho historical Society.


Table of Contents

Kullyspell House
Salish House/Flathead House/Fort Connah
Spokan House
Fort Vancouver
Fort Colville
Fort Walla Walla


Kullyspell House (1809-1812)

Kullyspell house (David Thompson spelled Kalispell that way), was located on the north end of Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho. It was the earliest fur trade post in the American Pacific Northwest. A geographer and surveyor of rare skill, Thompson explored and mapped vast fur regions for the Northwest Company (NWC) of Montreal. Reaching south from present day British Columbia, he added what now is North Idaho to the Canadian fur empire. It was David Thompson that discovered the route that Idaho Highway 200 now follows.

Despite being on the trail of the Kalispel, Flatheads and other tribes going to buffalo, the trade post only lasted until 1812 as it did not have the pasture for horses or camping.

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Salish House / Flathead House / Fort Connah (1810-1875?)

This Northwest Company post was established by Thompson in 1810, at what is now Thompson Falls, Montana. This became the early trade center for the Kalispel, and Flatheads, as well as other tribes going to buffalo.

After the merger of the NWC into the Hudson's Bay Co. in 1821, the post was moved to the vicinity of Plains, Montana, and was referred to as Flathead House. The 1824-25 Snake Country brigade led by Peter Skene Ogden was outfitted from this post. Jed Smith of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. (American) traveled to this post in 1827 on his return from California to the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous.

It operated as an HBC post until 1872, long after the Oregon Territory had become part of the USA. Angus McDonald bought the post from the HBC and operated it as Fort Connah for several more years.

Note: At some point the fort may have been moved to the vicinity of Pablo, Montana.

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Spokan House (1810-1825)

This NWC post was established by Jocko Finlay and Finan McDonald in 1810. These men traveled into the country with David Thompson in 1809, and were sent to build the post and establish trade with the Spokan Indians.

The original post was built on the low point of land at the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. The area was a meeting place for the Spokans for fishing, horse racing and gambling (stick games). The Little Spokane River was rich in beaver, as were the lakes to the north.

Not to be outdone, the Pacific Fur Company (PFC) also built a post in the spring of 1812 along the Spokane River about 1/4 mile up stream from the NWC post.

In April of 1813 word reached the posts of the war with Great Britain. The PFC knew that Great Britain would blockade the mouth of the Columbia and cut off their supplies. This prompted the sale of the PFC posts and supplies to the NWC.

The NWC people immediately moved into the PFC Spokan post as it was much better built and larger. Most of the PFC employees were French Canadian and went to work for the NWC. Some of the Americans choose to return overland to the states.

All supplies and trade goods were shipped to the post from Fort William on Lake Superior, across Canada by canoe to Rocky Mountain House, then via horse pack over the mountains and on to the posts in the Columbia. Furs went out by the same modes.

In 1821 the NWC was merged with the HBC, and all of the posts in the Columbia became HBC posts.

Spokan house was also a social center holding winter balls in addition to the periodic Spokan tribal dances, horse races and stick games.

In 1824 George Simpson, Chief of HBC's Canadian operations, toured the Columbia Department posts. Dr. John McLoughlin also accompanied him. Simpson found Spokan House supplied with far too much luxuries, and too many on the payroll. Big cuts were made.

Spokan House was abandoned in 1825, and a new post, Fort Colville was built on the Columbia just above Kettle Falls. This new post could be supplied by bateaux (boat) on the Columbia from Ft. Vancouver.

Jocko Finlay with his Spokan wife and family stayed on at Spokan House. Jocko died in 1828 and was buried at Spokan House.

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Fort Vancouver (1825-1856)

This HBC post was built in 1825 on the north side of the Columbia just up river from the mouth of the Wallamette River.

This post was the hub of the HBC's Columbia Department, supplying all of the other posts in the Columbia Basin and Puget Sound. the Snake Country Brigade and Southern Brigade operated out of Fort Vancouver.

The post had over 1200 acres under cultivation, plus a substantial garden and orchard. There was a sawmill and grist mill as part of the operation located on the falls of the Wallamette at what is today Oregon City, Oregon. The post had a blacksmith shop that made traps and other ironwork items for the furtrade. The trade goods and other supplies were brought by ship once a year from England. The fort kept one years extra supplies on hand in case of a shipwreck.

Most of the furs, beaver and sea otter, were shipped to Canton (China). There, the furs were traded for tea, opium, silk and spices which in turned were shipped to England. The ships would stop at the Sandwich Islands for fresh water, fruits and repairs.

The HBC had an agreement with the Hawaiian King to supply laborers for the HBC posts. As far as we know these were voluntary contracts for given lengths of time for each worker, with pay standard for the times. These workers were called "Owyhees". Their name for themselves was "Kanakas". Tropical fruits were also shipped to Fort Vancouver from the Sandwich Islands.

After 1843 the fort did a considerable business supplying immigrants taking up homesteads in the Wallamette Valley.

After 1843 the Oregon Territory was ceded to the US, and the boundary was set at the 49th parallel. The fort continued to operate until 1856, when operations were moved to Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island.

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Fort Colville (1825-1871)

This post replaced Spokan House in 1825. It was located just above Kettle Falls on the Columbia River.

The Kettle Falls area was the largest Indian fishing center on the Columbia, with tribes from the Columbia Plateau annually coming to the falls to fish.

The Post did a very profitable trade in beaver pelts and other furs until around 1840. The post had some 300 acres under cultivation, along with a grist mill and sawmill.

The fort continued to operate after the Oregon Territory was ceded to the US in 1846. Its main activity was supplying settlers, and miners coming into the Colville area. The fort was abandoned in 1871. Angus McDonald was the last district manager. The US military established a post by the same name in what today is the town of Colville, Washington.

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Fort Walla Walla (1818-1860?)

In 1818, just north of where the Walla Walla and Columbia Rivers merge, Donald Mackenzie built a fort that was to become one of the most important key strategic posts in the Pacific Northwest. The fort was christened Fort Nez Perce, but later took on the name Fort Walla Walla, after the nearby river. The fur companies, trappers, and explorers navigating the rivers played a major role in discovering and mapping the region.

In 1821, the Northwesters' merged with the Hudson Bay Company. By then, the Fort already played an active role in providing horses to the trapping parties venturing into the rich fur areas of the Cascades, Snake and Great Salt Lake Regions. The Fort also played a vital role in controlling the area, due to conflicts with the local Native American population struggling to keep their lands. Fort Walla Walla was known as the "Gibraltar of the Columbia." Without it's presence the course of history in America would certainly have been changed.

There were six forts in all to bear the name "Fort Walla Walla". Three of the forts were near the river and part of the early fur trade. Fire and deterioration destroyed the first two forts. Then in the mid-1850's, the United States Army advised the few remaining Hudson's Bay men to vacate the third Fort Walla Walla due to Indian uprisings. A fourth fort was built near Blue Creek, located about 38 miles up the Walla Walla river to protect a new settlement from Indian attacks. A fifth fort was built closer to the new town of Walla Walla. That fort was also short-lived. In 1858 the fort was moved west to the city and became the final site of Fort Walla Walla.

Close to the Fort was the infamous Whitman massacre, while related more to the Oregon Trail than the fur trade, both the Whitmans and Spaldings were observers and participants in the furtrade era. For this reason I have included a brief chronology of the Spalding's & Whitman's in the Northwest.

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