Fort St. James National Historic Site of Canada

Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures

Gardens, Fields and Fences


© Parks Canada

As early as May 22, 1811, fur trader Daniel Harmon reported, “[W]e have planted our potatoes, and sowed barley, turnips, &c which are the first that we ever sowed, on this west side of the mountain.” A few years later the Daniel again described the state of agricultural operations at the post:
A few days since, we cut down and threshed our barley. The five quarts, which I sowed on the first of May, have yielded as many bushels. One acre of ground, producing in the same proportion that this has done, would yield eighty-four bushels. This is sufficient proof that the soil, in many places in this quarter, is favourable to agriculture. It will probably be long, however, before it will exhibit the fruits of cultivation.
He was correct, and it was indeed many years of frustration, experimentation and determination before the Fort garden may have resembled its present appearance.


© Parks Canada

The present appearance of the fort itself is largely to the credit of one person -- Roderick MacFarlane. Charging bull-like into the district in 1888, he set about the much-needed construction of a “new post” during a time of economic restraint, and without approval from his superiors. With A.C. Murray as his foreman, MacFarlane started on the fish cache, fur warehouse and interpreter's house only months after his arrival. This involved dismantling and reusing much of the building materials from the previous post. We have MacFarlane's determination and outright disobedience to thank for Fort St James continued existence, its present layout, its buildings and boardwalks, as well as its approximate mile long of fencing, made up of six types, each suited for its particular purpose.