Hudson's Bay Company Research Trip
by Anita Mae Draper
This past weekend was the 3rd time I’ve attended the Saskatchewan Romance Writer’s (SRW) annual retreat at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan. It’s a 3.5 hr drive up to the Abbey and I usually plot while driving. This year however, I wanted to make a research trip and ended up stopping to take pics so often I never did get into plotting mode. I enjoyed my research so much I arrived 4 hrs later than I'd planned.
For my story, the characters take an adventurous journey together. I’ve taken the same road many times myself, enthralled with the scenery and history. It only seemed natural to write about it. The part of the story that crosses paths with mine happens on the 2nd day of my characters’ journey when they travel into a wide, deep valley to a place called Fort Qu’Appelle. Although there is a replica fort on site, my goal wasn't to visit it but to check out the old Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) store downtown. Good thing, too because when I was there, the overflowing Qu'Appelle River flooded the fort's southwest bastion and you couldn't get inside.
|1897 Hudson's Bay Company store, downtown Fort Qu'Appelle, SK|
Now my characters wouldn't have seen this HBC store since they went through the area in 1888 and the HBC store would've still been in use at the fort. But, it gives me the feel of the place. Currently, the building houses a coffee cafe.
What would have been around at that time was this church built in 1885 which is still in use today:
|1885 St. Andrews Anglican Church|
I saw this old stone building behind the HBC store. I don't know anything about it (yet) but it looks like it could've (or should've) been around back then.
After taking my photos, I headed north out of the valley following the Carlton Trail. About 7 miles out of town I passed a marker designating the Touchwood Hills cairn and old ox cart trails and took this photo:
|Carlton Trail Red River Ox Cart Tracks|
Although spring isn't the optimum time to view these tracks, you can see the faint outline left from the passing of hundreds of settlers and transporters with their Red River ox carts. For a better view and more info, check out the Wayfarer site for geocaching or Historic Places Canada.
Back in my van, I headed north and then west keeping an eye out for the Touchwood Hills Provincial Park. This park contains the remains of an HBC post in the Touchwood Hills. I walked up to the cairn, read it, and stood there a bit disappointed. Where were the remains of the buildings I'd read about? I tramped around the clearing and saw these iron frames - like H's, sticking out of the ground between 2 cornerstones. Depressions showed where the cellars had once been since every building had one for storage and escape from the Indians. Also, some have mounds where the walls once stood.
Here's what they looked like...
But here's what was actually there...
Here's another one...
Which used to have a building like this...
And one final photo...
Which actually looked something like this...
I made a 2 min video of the experience. If you take time to watch it, imagine yourself where I stood which was in the middle of one of these building remains. I filmed while turning in a circle. And as I did so, something struck me other than the sense of history - that I was standing on what was probably a cellar which could cave in at any moment. And I was all alone 1/4 mile off the highway and hidden by trees.
They're developing this park as a campground. There are supposedly more ox cart tracks. I didn't see any, but then the ground was covered by last year's toppled growth. I'd love to see it later in the year after the site's been cleaned up. And I'd really like to get my metal dectector out there and do some exploring. But of course I can't in a park.
The ox cart tracks reminded me of 2009 en route the ACFW conference in Denver when I stood between in the wheel ruts of the Oregon Trail. The visual reminder of the Carlton Trail is piddly compared to the magnificent depth into limestone of the Oregon Trail. But the proof of human perseverance to build a better life remains to this day in both cases.
Are there any historic places near your home which are ruins and crumbles? Have you explored them with or without a metal detector?