This Week in History
Hearne Builds Cumberland House
For the week of Monday May 24, 1999
On May 29, 1775, Samuel Hearne left Cumberland House, the Hudson's Bay Company's (HBC) earliest inland trading post, with its first shipment of fur-trade goods. Hearne established the post on the Saskatchewan and Churchill river systems to tap into the furs available in the region. Cumberland House remains the oldest settlement in Saskatchewan.
The HBC had chosen British-born Hearne to head a challenging survey of the Bay's interior in order to advertise the Company to distant trading people. More important, the HBC sought a North West passage to Asia, as well as rich copper mines. On Hearne's first two expeditions, his First Nations guides robbed and deserted him. On his third attempt, Hearne took the respected First Nation leader, Matonabbee, as a guide. They traveled endless barren lands, and survived snowstorms, food shortages and an Inuit massacre. Hearne lost his toenails from frostbite. Although no North West passage nor mines were found, Hearne became the first European to reach the Arctic Ocean overland.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recognized Cumberland House as the HBC's first inland trading post, and Samuel Hearne was designated as its founder. Hearne's discovery of the Coppermine River, and his later governorship of the HBC Fort Prince of Wales are also recognized.
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