Fort McMurray

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Fort McMurray (1870-1958) - A Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) fur trading post and fort first established in 1870 by Henry John Moberly at present day Fort McMurray, Alberta. Named after William McMurray, the chief factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the region. Closed in 1958.


A Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post and fort first established in 1870 along the banks of the Athabasca River at the present day city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

Henry John Moberly established the post in May 1870 at the foot of the rapids on the Athabasca River as a terminus for a proposed steamboat route. He left Fort Chipewyan on 11 May 1780 with two boats and their crews as well as five men who would stay the summer to raise the fort. He arrived at the mouth of the Clearwater river, selected a site and began to clear it. He discovered evidence of a previous post at the exact spot and later determined that it had been abandoned some 86 years earlier after a smallpox epidemic had killed off the native population.

The boat crews remained at the site until the end of May, helping with the construction. After the boat crews left, Moberly and his five men built a temporary house for himself, a good store, a men's house and a carpenter shop before the hard winter set in. The next year they put up a good officer's house and were force to rebuild the store which had been destroyed by a fire and gunpowder explosion. By the next spring all was completed and they had a comfortable post.

By 1880 the fur trade in the area was in decline. The severe winters and frequent forest fires discouraged trappers from staying in the area and the unprofitable trading post operation was shut down. The building continued to house the local post office and served as a steamboat transfer point for river travelers. The Hudson’s Bay Company operated a sternwheeler steamer, the SS Grahame, on the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers starting in 1884.

In the 1920s conditions improved and the HBC built a retail type store on Franklin Ave, west of Morrison Street in the now town of Fort McMurray. The HBC established a store in Waterways across from the railroad station in 1926. Both stores were successful for a time. The Waterways and Fort McMurray stores merged in 1947. The HBC closed the Fort McMurray store in 1958 and the Waterways store in 1972.

In later years the rich oil sands at Fort McMurray transformed the once small HBC post into a small city.

Current Status

Unknown but presumed to be overbuilt with modern construction.

Location: Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Map point is approximate.

Maps & Images

Lat: 56.7292 Long: -111.38569

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 850'

See Also:


  • HBC Archives - Fort McMurray, post B.307, records (1870-1900)
  • Voorhis, Ernest, comp., Historic Forts and Trading Posts of the French regime and of the English Fur Trading Companies, Dept.of the Interior, Ottawa, Pdf, page 107.
  • Moberly, Henry John; Cameron, William; Bleasdell; Innes, John; When Fur Was King, J.M. Dent, London & Toronto, 1929, Online


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