Fort Alexandria National Historic Site of Canada
Alexandria, British Columbia
(© British Columbia Archives | Archives de la Colombie Britannique, #F-05775, n.d.)
Cariboo Road, Highway 97, Alexandria, British Columbia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1821 to 1821
1821 to 1881
Event, Person, Organization:
North West Company
Hudson’s Bay Company
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: Cariboo Road, Highway 97, Alexandria, British Columbia
In 1821 the North West Company built a post here as the northern terminus of their Pacific brigade trail. Goods which had been brought up the Columbia to Fort Okanagan were sent overland by pack train to this point, then distributed by water to the post of New Caledonia. The post was named for Sir Alexander Mackenzie who had explored the upper Fraser in 1793. After the union of the companies in 1821, Fort Alexandria was retained by the Hudson's Bay Company and played a key role in the logistics of the trade until road transportation supplanted the brigade in the 1860s.
Description of Historic Place
Fort Alexandria National Historic Site of Canada is located on the west side of the Fraser River near the community of Alexandria in the Cariboo District of British Columbia. There are no known above ground remains of the fort, which was established as a trading post by the North West Company in 1821. Official recognition refers to the site, measuring 100 metres in radius, identified by archaeological survey in the late 1990s.
Fort Alexandria was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1925. It is recognized because: it is connected with the economic development of the country; built in 1821, it was the last post established by the North West Company west of the Rocky Mountains; after 1826, it was the point of transfer of goods from the land to the water brigade to be distributed to the posts of New Caledonia until road transportation supplanted the brigade in the 1860’s; Indigenous Peoples, their territories, and labour were foundational to the fur trade in North America. Posts were often built near existing Indigenous settlements, trading routes and/or meeting places and became important sites of economic, social and cultural exchange.
Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to visit present-day Alexandria during his explorations. After arriving in 1793, he found a First Nation village on the Fraser River whose inhabitants, likely Secwepemc (Shushwap), discouraged him from going further north, citing hostile Indigenous groups. Mackenzie reversed his course, and European explorers did not visit this area again for 30 years. In 1821, the North West Company established a post on the Fraser River, naming it after Alexander Mackenzie in recognition of his earlier visit to the area. Fort Alexandria was the last post created before the North West Company’s merger with the Hudson’s Bay Company later that year. The fort was built as the northern terminus for the company’s Pacific brigade trail. After 1826, goods brought up the Columbia to Fort Okanagan were sent overland by pack train to Fort Alexandria, before being distributed by water to the post of New Caledonia. This process continued until road transportation supplanted the brigade in the 1860’s.
In the middle of the 19th century, gold was discovered in the Cariboo district of British Colombia where Fort Alexandria was located. A trail known as the Cariboo Road, or Cariboo Wagon Road, serving the prospectors was completed to Alexandria in 1863. The modern descendant of this road is the Cariboo Highway that runs close to the former site of Fort Alexandria. By 1867, the fort had become a farm, which supplied produce to the nearby community of Quesnel, as well as to miners heading north to Barkerville. The Hudson’s Bay Company relinquished the property in 1881 and in 1915 the buildings were demolished.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1925 and December 2020; Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Plaque Text, 1977.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include: its location on the west side of the Fraser River in the Cariboo District of British Columbia; its sitting adjacent to the former Cariboo Road, currently known as the Cariboo Highway; the undisturbed pastureland where the fort formerly stood; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent; the viewscapes from the site across the Fraser River to open pastureland.