Bear Hills Trading Post

Pipestone Flyer

Editor’s note: This picture is not the Bear Hills Trading Post but merely a representation of an early trading post of the era.

    From the 1600s to the 1800s trading posts were built and spread west searching for beaver pelts. In Europe beaver top hats were made from the shiny undercoat of the beaver, because of “its waterproof qualities and ability to be shaped into many styles”. Items in trading posts were traded according to the value of a beaver pelt. “Therefore a beaver pelt was the standard currency and all goods for sale or trade were given their value in MBs or made beavers”. A made beaver was simply a prime beaver skin in good condition. First Nations trade centered on made beavers. “A pound of English rolling tobacco would cost one MB, and a 4’ gun would cost 14 MBs”.

    Trading Posts were some of the earliest land marks we have in Canadian history. Kind of like the water towers and train stations of later on. The Bear Hills Trading Post established in 1888 was one such marker. It was located on the old Edmonton to Calgary Trail on the outskirts of present day south side Wetaskiwin. The post was operated by Mr. Ramsey and later joined by Mr. MacDonald. The building itself was made of rough cut logs. After a few years a barn, hen house, buggy shed, and living quarters were added on. In the early days the trading post “was a dark and dingy place, and was a habitual hangout for half breeds and Indians. During the winter months, halfbreeds from long distances would come on snowshoes for supplies and mail”. The owners married Indian woman. The most popular day would be when mail carriers arrived. Settlers from far and near would arrive at the post to trade furs and produce for groceries and supplies.

    “The post smelled of hides and skins of animals that were piled high in the corner. The owners did a wholesale business in bartering for furs. A large wooden open barrel of crackers and ginger snaps, open jars of dill pickles, cheese, tinned goods, salt pork, boxes of dried fruit, gaudy bolts of calico a colored cloth that usually has patterns on one side, trays of beads, and cans of coal oil made up the stores supplies”. In the center of the main room was a large pot bellied stove used for heat in the winter months. Coal oil lamps with reflectors were attached to the walls “to give light, and a dim eerie light it was”. Bear Hills Trading Post included a post office and was the only one between Edmonton and Red Deer for quite some time.

The Hudsons Bay Company operated an outpost at Pigeon Lake for a few years in the early 1800s. 

        However many of the Cree traders travelled to the larger HBC post in Fort Edmonton to trade their valuable furs. “Famous Hudson Bay blankets were graded according to quality and featured black stripes on the side which designated how many MBs they were worth. First Nations people favored the blanket “because of their warmth and ease to carry, and the status that came along with owning them”. 

        At the height of the fur trade 184,000 animal pelts a year were shipped to Europe to satisfy the insatiable need for fur. Obviously this demand dangerously taxed the beaver population of Canada. The beaver became the national animal of Canada and is obvious why. The old trading posts are long gone and are preserved only in history and the opening up of the west.

References: The City of Wetaskiwin Archives, and the Wetaskiwin and 

District Heritage Museum.

Just Posted

file photo
UPDATE — Breton RCMP investigate fatal house fire

A one-year-old male and four-year-old female died in the house fire.

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist denied parole, Paul Bernardo, had plans to relocate to Kelowna

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

Most Read