Fort Whoop-Up (1869-1887) - An American whiskey trader post first established as Fort Hamilton in 1869 near present day Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The fort was relocated after the original burned down in 1870 and became known as Fort Whoop-Up. Damaged by fire in 1888, lost to creditors in 1892 and the remains washed away by a flood in 1915.
History of Fort Whoop-Up
Established by the American whiskey traders Alfred B. Hamilton and John J. Healy in 1869 on the Oldman River near present day Lethbridge, Alberta. The original fort was a simple collection of log cabins and not adequate for the trade that developed. A larger and more secure post was under construction when the first post burned down. The new post was well built with a high palisade and two bastions on opposing corners. The post was built with squared logs and took two years to complete. It became known as Fort Whoop-Up.
Whiskey was used in the trade as a mandatory sweetener for the deal. The furs and hides were still traded for trade goods and the whiskey was expected to be provided at the end of the trade. Other whiskey traders did directly trade whiskey for furs.
A confluence of events and actions forced the formation of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873 to control the American wolvers and whiskey traders. In 1874 the newly formed NWMP marched west from Winnipeg, split into three major columns and descended onto the three biggest troubles spots. The column headed by Colonel James F. Macleod headed for Fort Whoop-Up looking to stop the whiskey trade and to remove the American flag flying over the post. Macleod and his command arrived in October 1874 but he found no whiskey. Macleod and his force moved on to establish Fort Macleod about thirty miles further west and began patrolling the area.
The NWMP established an outpost at Fort Whoop-Up in 1875 by renting a building from Healey and Hamilton. The Fort Whoop-Up NWMP Post not only served as a barracks for the detachment but also as a jail for offenders. The NWMP patrolled from Fort Whoop-Up until 1888 when a fire damaged their quarters and the post was moved into Lethbridge as the Lethbridge NWMP Barracks.
In 1876 Dave Akers acquired the fort property from Healey and Hamilton. The trade declined as the Buffalo became extinct and Akers began to use the fort as a ranch. He lost the fort property in 1892 to creditors and that signaled the end of the post. The last remains were washed away in a 1915 flood.
Must See! A reconstruction of the fort was built as a centennial project in 1967 and upgraded over the years. The entrance to the fort is through the gift shop and a gallery area where a short video explains the basics of the fort history. The three galleries include the Warren Crowshoe Gallery, the Thunder Chief Gallery and the Shockley Firearms Gallery. The fort interior contains a line of rooms build along two sides of the palisade. These period rooms are connected together so that you can walk through them all without going outside. This creates a great linear tour of the post and insures that you don't miss anything. The rooms are wonderfully furnished with period gear. The first set of rooms recreates the NWMP post complete with the jail and the barracks area with all the accouterments. The last set of rooms recreates the trading area. If you watched the entrance video you will understand the display that depicts the narrow Indian trade entrance, the counter where the furs were examined and pushed into the fur room, the trade goods and finally the whiskey room. All of the rooms are interesting and very informative.
The fort is not on the original location but that does not detract from current setting. The actual location is about three miles further south on private property near the confluence of the St Mary and Oldman Rivers. The replica fort can be viewed from the cliff above where a viewing platform directly overlooks the post.
Visited: 11 Aug 2014