PEND OREILLE COUNTY TRIVIA
By Faith McClenny
Pend Oreille County Historical Society
An old faded clipping and an undated photo opened a glimpse of fur traders tramping through the woods and along the creeks of the Pend Oreille area in the early 1800s.
Construction workers unearthed a very old human skeleton which they surmised was that of a Hudson Bay Company trapper. There are remnants of the fur trade all around the Pacific Northwest including our area. The Kalispel Indians and other tribes were involved in trapping beavers to fuel the insatiable demand for the fashionable black felt hats in Europe and the rest of the world. Famous David Thompson, Canadian fur trader, explorer and cartographer established Kullyspell House trading post along Lake Pend Oreille.
The world wide fur trading business started in 1700s with early French traders, later the British and followed by American fur trading companies. Big Companies like the Hudson Bay, Northwest Fur Trading companies and others had various layers of management. They included those who were in charge of large districts, the clerks in charge of individual trading posts down to the voyageurs who paddled the large canoes and the Indians who trapped the animals. There was fierce rivalry, wars, and political maneuvering between the various companies and nations. It was big business.
Once or twice a year Indians brought raw pelts to trading posts where pelts were placed into a wooden press and formed into bundles of 100 pounds each. The bundles were loaded onto large boats or canoes and eventually onto clipper ships to Europe. The business didn’t end there because it fueled the manufacturing of the trade goods- fabrics, blankets, colorful beads, pots, pans, axe heads, arrows,guns ,and many other items both good and bad.
The business changed forever the culture of the Indians and almost destroyed fur- bearing animals.