Fort Churchill (2)
Fort Churchill (2) (1689-1941) - A Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) fur trading post, whaling station and fort first established in 1689 near the mouth of the Churchill River on the western shore of Hudson Bay. Initially named Fort Churchill but quickly abandoned, reestablished in 1717 and named Prince of Wales Fort in 1718, moved to new stone fort that was captured by the French in 1782, reestablished in 1783 as Fort Churchill on the original site (not the stone fort) near present day Churchill, Manitoba. Abandoned in 1941.
Fort Churchill I (1689)
A Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) fur trading post and fort first established in 1689 but burned down that same year and the site was not reoccupied by the HBC until 1717.
Prince of Wales Fort I (1717-1730)
The site was reoccupied in 1717 and a new post constructed. In 1718 the fort was named Prince of Wales Fort after the royal family.
Prince of Wales Fort II (1732-1782)
In 1730 the HBC authorized the construction of a new stone fortification at the mouth of the Churchill River. Construction began on 3 Jun 1732 with a construction crew of just 24 laborers and tradesmen. Construction took 40 years and was completed in 1772, just before the start of the American Revolutionary War.
The new fort was a classic design for the time, a square stone fort with a protruding five sided bastion at each corner, sometimes called a "star fort". The main entrance was protected by a stone ravelin. The outer wall was separated from the inner wall by an earthen rampart. Forty cannon were mounted within the embrasures along the parapet and commanding every approach to the fort.
The fort was designed for a 400-man garrison under the assumption that the few permanent members would be supplemented by crews from British ships.
With the entry of the French into the war on the American side, French admiral, Comte de la Pérouse, led the Hudson's Bay expedition to capture British posts in support of the American revolution. He attacked and captured the HBC posts at York Factory and Prince of Wales Fort in 1882.
The Prince of Wales Fort had only 39 defenders and surrendered to the French without firing a shot in August 1782. The French tried to destroyed the fort but were able to do little damage and left after three days. The French took with them more than 7,500 beaver skins, 4,000 marten pelts, and 17,000 goose quills valued at over 14,000 pounds. The HBC returned to the fort after the end of the war but did not rebuild it.
Fort Churchill II (1783-1941)
The HBC reoccupied the Prince of Wales Fort site in 1783, and then built a new post about 2.5 miles up river on the old site of Fort Churchill. This new Fort Churchill post remained the company’s main post in the area until the twentieth century and continued to operate until abandoned about 1941.
George Simpson McTavish described the post about 1879:
"The name Fort Churchill is very imposing, indicating a defensive place. A more dilapidated hamlet could scarcely he found anywhere ...wooden pickets or stockades [surround] the few houses in an oblong shape, enclosing probably less than two acres of ground. An idea of the size of the place can be visualized when the buildings are numerated. They are all of one storey because of the scarcity of wood, the limit of trees being only forty miles Northward."
The set of buildings inside the fort stockade included the officer's house, the trading store, a packing room, a carpenter’s shop, a blacksmith’s shop, a provision shed, a powder magazine, two one-room cabins, and a larger house for married employees and their families. The population at the post during the 1800s was usually less than ten and at times only five.
The Hudson’s Bay Railway came to Churchill in 1929 and started a change in the basic pattern of life at the post but the coming of the American Army base at Fort Churchill in 1942 changed the population and the economy and the HBC post was closed.
Part of the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site of Canada. Remains of the stone Prince of Wales Fort can be visited.