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Fort St. James National Historic Site of Canada

Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures

Men's House (1884)

© Parks Canada

In February of 1884 two men from Fort St James, Long Joe and Vital le Fort, were sent across the frozen Stuart Lake to commence squaring timber for a house, 32 feet by 22 feet. The building served first as a clerk's house, then as a men's house, and later as a guesthouse, a school, and finally, in the mid-1900s, as a private residence.

As the men's house the building provided accommodation for temporary and permanent fort employees, as well as occasional visitors. The pack train hands, who transported goods between posts, used it as their bunk house between trips or while they were waiting for the arrival of the schooner. The “expressmen,” who carried the mail to Fort St. James, also rested in the men's house before making their return journeys.

© Parcs Canada

The workforce living and working at Fort St James changed dramatically over the years. While during most of the first century of its operation the post was run by men from the British Isles and from Eastern Canada, by the early 20th century many of the people who stayed in the men's house were local Carrier people working for the Hudson's Bay Company. This represented a clear change in the roles taken on by the Carrier -- from providing mostly goods (salmon and furs) to providing services, such as day labour at the post, or expertise in boat building and transportation of goods.