Alberta Jasper House History

Jasper's History

In 1813, North West Company built Rocky Mountain House on Brule Lake as a provision depot for brigades crossing Jasper's Athabasca Pass to the Pacific. When Jasper Hawes took command of the post in 1817 it became known as "Jasper's House" to avoid confusion with Rocky Mountain House on the Saskatchewan. Hudson's Bay Company moved Jasper House upriver to this site in 1829, but in the mid 1800's decreasing traffic over this famous Jasper, Alberta pass sent the post into decline. Paul Kane arrived in 1846, when this was a remote outpost commanded by Colin Fraser, George Simpson's former piper. Half a century later, Jasper House was closed.

Action at Jasper House:

As fur trade expanded west, Thompson's route over Jasper's Athabasca Pass to the Pacific Ocean became even more important. Assistance was needed for bi-annual fur brigades that exchanged mail, supplies and furs through this pass. In 1813, North West Company built a post on Brule Lake, the last shelter before the pass and the fur-rich lands of New Caledonia district across Alberta's mountains. Having three rugged apartments, this post would serve fur traders for sixteen years.

By 1817 the famous Jasper post was controlled by Jasper Hawes, whose name became synonymous with this post, and later, Canada's National Park. In 1821, Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company amalgamated. Four years later, this post was rebuilt on the Athabasca River near Jasper Lake. This new Jasper site was more useful, but the buildings were crude. It was located at a strategic trail junction, where there were places to winter horses nearby.

For half a century, Jasper House served as a main stop for all Jasper Alberta fur traders using the Athabasca, Bess and Yellowhead passes, and as an important meeting place for travels, adventurers and explorers. In 1909, the last remnants of Jasper's House were gone and fur traders were replaced by steam engines.

Jasper House Historic Timeline:

1813 - The North West Company builds the first Jasper House at the north end of Brûlé Lake as a provisioning post for fur traders.

1821 - The Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company merge and keep the name Hudson's Bay Company.

1824 - Yellowhead Pass gains popularity as a route to transport leather into New Caledonia.

1829 - The first Jasper House closes and another post is built further upstream.

1829-1830 - Hudson's Bay Company builds the second Jasper House at the north end of Jasper Lake. Here, wind blows the snow off the ground, creating a reasonable pasture for horses. This site is strategic to Athabasca and Yellowhead Passes as well as to Fort St. John via Bess Pass and the Smoky River.

1853 - Operations become sporadic following a decision which had all fur territories west of the Rocky Mountains report directly to London via Fort Victoria.

1857 - Post closes as per orders from George Simpson of Hudson's Bay Company.

1858 - Henry John Moberly rebuilds Jasper House and runs it on a seasonal basis until 1861.

1869 - Hudson's Bay Company disposes of its lands to the government of Canada.

1884 - Hudson's Bay Company officially closes Jasper House.

1891 - Lewis Swift and family live in the remaining structure of the post while looking for a place to homestead in the area.

1909 - The remaining structures of Jasper House are found destroyed. Surveyors for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway had used the materials to build rafts.

1924 - Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada designate Jasper House (the second) as a national historic site, with plaque mounted in 1927.

Finding Jasper House, Alberta:

There is no road access to the actual site of Jasper House, but a stop at the commemorative plaque is worth your while. The plaque is 35 km east of Jasper on the Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway 16. If you travel through Alberta from the west, be careful of the blind corner while turning into the vehicle pullout. Hiking to the Jasper House site is an option favored by many.

Long since collapsed, the remains of Jasper House post are located upstream of the plaque on the far shore of the river. As you stand at the plaque, try looking at the landscape through the eyes of the fur traders and explorers that travelled through here over 150 years ago. They travelled without the benefit of a highway and saw the same towering mountains on either side of the Athabasca River. Managing the winds that constantly blow across the gravel beds and through the forest must have made Jasper House a welcoming shelter.

Take Care:

The vehicle rest-stop is in a wildlife speed zone. There are often big-horned sheep on the road, so please drive with caution. Keep Jasper's wild animals healthy and wild by not feeding or harassing them.

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