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History Pre-confederation (to 1867)

Fort St. James and New Caledonia

Where British Columbia Began

by (author) Marie Elliott

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Jun 2009
Pre-Confederation (to 1867), General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2009
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


As BC 150 celebrations have made us aware, modern British Columbia began in the central interior of the province, where Simon Fraser founded the fur trade empire known as New Caledonia. Today only the restored trading post of Fort St. James and the ancient trails remain. Fort St. James and New Caledonia is the first history of this crucial chapter in over one hundred years. Using unpublished Hudson's Bay Company archival material, Marie Elliott delivers rare glimpses into the lives and times of the first fur traders, weaving a tapestry of colourful characters including the great Carrier chief Kwah, Nor'westers John Stuart and James McDougall, as well as a surprisingly strong cast of women including Miyo Nipiy, Governor Simpson's country wife, Margaret Taylor and the tragic Elizabeth Pruden.

Today, the trek from Stuart Lake to Fort Langley that took fur brigades a minimum of four weeks has been reduced to a scenic two-day drive; the three-day, perilous canoe journey from Fort St. James to Fort George can be completed on smooth highways in just a few hours. Elliott transports readers to a time when there was an ever-present threat of starvation, travel meant portaging rivers that rarely followed easy terrain and there were murderous consequences to the irascible, antagonistic relationship that existed between the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company. Perhaps most poignantly, Fort St. James and New Caledonia brings to life the difficulty of surviving the isolation of very long winters with prudently rationed rum, little if any company--and very few books. Elliott fills in a record previously silent on the day-to-day activities of people and companies integral to British Columbia history, creating a readable and valuable addition to the literature of the province.

About the author

Librarian Reviews

Fort St. James and New Caledonia: Where British Columbia Began

This book is about how the fur trade developed in central BC. It explains how the Northwest Company was able to become established in an area well-populated by First Nations groups and how they were able to maintain good relations. Elliot researched daily journals, letterbooks and account books of the major posts, as well as the correspondences from the posts to the governors and committees in London. She discusses which First Nations groups lived in the area and their contribution to the enterprise, including the women who were vital in the preparation of the furs and who became “country wives” to many of the company men. Aboriginal peoples acted as guides, hunters, trappers, interpreters, boatmen, packers, dog handlers and transporters of provisions. Includes French Canadian definitions and extensive notes.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2009-2010.

Other titles by Marie Elliott