1700's AD to 1897

Developed for and copyrighted to the Heritage Resource Management Branch of Alberta Community Development
by David W. Leonard
30 November, 2003


1700's AD. The entire upper Peace River Country is occupied by people of the Beaver First Nation. The Beaver are an Athapaskan (Dene) people, closely related to the Chipewyan to the northeast and the Sikani to the west.

1760's. By this time, bands of westward moving Cree have also entered the Peace River region.

1805. A fur trade post is opened at Dunvegan by the North West Company. It is deliberately situated on the north side of the southernmost bend of the Peace River. People from the Grande Prairie soon begin to travel to Dunvegan to trade fur and meat for guns, ammunition, knives, axes, blankets, wire and other European materials.

1810's. Horses are soon brought to the Grande Prairie. They soon become the standard means of transportation over long distances.

1821. After five years of trade war, the North West Company is amalgamated with the Hudson's Bay Company under the single name Hudson's Bay Company. The HBC supplies practically all of the imported materials used by people on the Grande Prairie.

1824. After the murder of Guy Hughes and four of his men at Fort St. John the year before, Dunvegan is closed down, and people on the Grande Prairie are left without a trading outlet.

1824. On a visit to Dunvegan that year, Samuel Black writes about the "Grand Prairie," in reference to the prairie districts both north and south of Dunvegan.

1828. Dunvegan is reopened, and people from the Grande Prairie resume trading there. It is noted that these people no longer live in tribal social structures, but in small, independent bands. One of the leaders is identified as Tranquille. Others are named La Glace, Pouce Coupe, Pied de Caribou and Grande Orielles. By this time, the bison have all but disappeared from the Grande Prairie, with the people coming to rely on woodland animals for food, moose and deer in particular.

1838. The Chief Trader at Dunvegan notes that Tranquille from the Grande Prairie is employed as a "Fort Hunter" at Dunvegan.

1842. The Chief Trader at Dunvegan makes reference to "the Grand Prairie," in reference to the vast plain south of the Saddle Hills.

1842-42. There is considerable famine on the Grande Prairie this winter, with many of the Beaver First Nation perishing. Tranquille and his family manage to survive only by consuming their horses.

1850's. A number of people of mixed Iroquois-Cree ancestry begin to move onto the Grande Prairie, most from around Jasper House and Lac Ste. Anne.

1867. Father Christophe Tissier, the first resident Roman Catholic priest at Dunvegan, visits the Grande Prairie, and baptizes 67 people of the Beaver First Nation. The largest family is that of Tranquille.

1867. Father Tissier also notes a number of what he describes as "Iroquois Metis" (mixed Iroquois and Cree) living on the Grande Prairie. Their leader is named "Paulette."

1872. Charles Horetzky and John Macoun travel west from Spirit River through the Rocky Mountains on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway. They disclose that they were told of a very large fertile prairie to the south of Spirit River called "The Great Prairie."

1875. Sanford Fleming seriously considers extending the Canadian Pacific Railway northwest from Brandon, Manitoba through the Pine Pass, on a route that would proceed through the Grande Prairie.

1879. George Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada makes the first scientific investigation of the Grande Prairie and concludes that the rich soil of this prairie would be ideal for large-scale farming.

1880's. A new influx of people of Cree-Iroquois descent arrive on the Grande Prairie, with many of them occupying land around Flyingshot Lake.

1880. George Kennedy erects the first fur trade post on the Grande Prairie just southeast of La Glace Lake. It is an outpost of Dunvegan and is called "Grand Prairie." Kennedy becomes the first trader.

1881. George Kennedy grows the first garden on the Grande Prairie.

1883. Father Emile Grouard, who recently replaced Father Tissier at Dunvegan, makes the first of two visits to the Grande Prairie, and is accommodated by trader John Halpyn.

1893. The oldest resident from the Grande Prairie, Tranquille, dies at Dunvegan at age 100.

1896. The Hudson's Bay Company outpost near La Glace Lake is reconstructed by Frank Beatton. This 1896 building has recently been restored and now stands near the Grande Prairie Museum.

1896. Frank Oliver of Edmonton is elected the Member of Parliament for Alberta. Oliver will go on to be a staunch promoter of the Peace River Country.

1897. Several independent traders begin doing business at Lake Saskatoon, and a settler named Pierre Neass takes up land along the south shore.