Fort St.

John (Rocky Mountain Fort) British Columbia
Fort St. John is a city in northeastern British Columbian located on the Peace River at Mile 47, on the Alaska Highway. Originally established in 1794, as a trading post, Fort St. John is the oldest established settlement in present-day British Columbia. Time line: • 1794 -1805 The first fort, called Rocky Mountain Fort, was established along the south side of the Peace River at the mouth of the Pine River. Rocky Mountain Fort was the earliest European settlement in mainland British Columbia. • 1806-1823 Fort d’Epinette, also called St. John, was established by the Northwest Company on the north side of the Peace River. The name changed to Fort St. John when the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with the Northwest Company in 1821 and took over management of the fort. The fort was closed following a massacre of Guy Hughes and four other employees in 1823. • 1858 - 1872 Fort St. John was reopened on the south side of the Peace River after a 40 year lapse due to the 1823 massacre. Louis Bourassa was in charge in 1869. • 1873 - 1923 Fort St. John was moved directly across the Peace River to the north side onto what is today referred to as ’Old Fort’ subdivision outside of the city of Fort St. John. • 1923 Frank Beatton moved Fort St. John to Fish Creek, located just outside of the town of Fort St. John. The present location is thought to be its sixth. The original trading post built in the area was named Rocky Mountain House, established one year after Alexander Mackenzie explored the area in 1793. One of a series of forts along the Peace River to service the fur trade, it was located southwest of the present site of Fort St. John. The Dunneza and Sikanni First Nations used it as a trading post. It was also used as a supply depot for further expeditions into the territory. The fort closed in 1805. Fort d’Epinette, the Pine Fort was built in 1806 by the North West Company. It was renamed Fort St. John in 1821 following the purchase of the North West Company by the HBC. This fort was located about 500 metres downstream from the mouth of the Beatton River, which at that time was known as the North Pine River (d'epinette in French). It was shut down in 1823. After a lapse of nearly forty years, Fort St. John was reopened in 1860 on the south side of the Peace River, directly south of the present community. It was moved in 1872 by Francis Work Beatton directly across the river. This community lasted until 1925 when the river ceased to be the main avenue of transportation and the fort was moved closer to where settlers were establishing homesteads. The new town was constructed at Fish Creek, northwest of the present community, on the new trail to Fort Nelson.


Traders waiting at the Hudson Bay fort of Fort St John at the turn of the 20th century (Provincial Archives of Manitoba/N12892).

Edited and Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute