Local History of Commerce and Trade

With Christmas just around the corner, people are making shopping lists and some are checking them twice. Commerce and trade have always been an important part of our economy and history in southwestern Alberta.

The Head Trader played a vital role in the economy at Fort Whoop-up (often referred to as Fort Hamilton as well). Head Traders needed several skills to do the job. They were bookkeepers tending the accounts for the company, diplomats who juggled relationships with hired labourers and First Nations customers, and entrepreneurs who wanted to make their fortunes in the buffalo trade.
The first Head Traders, John Healy and Alfred Hamilton, loaded wagons with $25,000 in trade goods. They built Fort Hamilton and made a profit of $50,000 over the first winter (approximately $875,000 US in 2016 dollars).

Donald W Davis was hired in the early 1870s as the next Head Trader and was paid $150 a month plus his board and accommodation to run Fort Hamilton. Davis was over 6 feet in height which was tall for the times. Siksikaitsitapi called him Spita (Tall One). After selling the Fort to Dave Akers, Davis remained in Canada and later was elected to Parliament as a representative of the people of the North-West Territories.

In 1876, Dave Akers managed the Fort and then purchased it. He continued trading legitimate products until trade was no longer economically productive. He lived in the Fort raising cattle and vegetables until his death in 1893. Commerce continues to be a vital part of our local economy to this day.

Thursday, December 1 is the A Night at the Museum Shopping Event from 5 to 9 pm at the Galt Museum & Archives. This event is open to the public. Discounts apply from 10 am to 9 pm. Free admission to the Discovery Hall 5–9 pm. Check www.galtmuseum.com for more information.

ArticleDana InksterComment