Last Mountain House Provincial Park
Archaeological Site EeNf-1
Links and documents
1869/01/01 to 1869/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Last Mountain House Provincial Park is located approximately 50 kilometres north of Regina on the east side of Last Mountain Lake. The 59.8 hectare park, which encompasses prairie uplands above the lake and a deep ravine, is the site of a late-nineteenth century Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. The park features a reconstruction of the post that was based on information obtained from archival sources and a near-total archaeological excavation of the site.
The heritage value of Last Mountain House Provincial Park resides in its association with the Hudson’s Bay Company and its operations during the latter days of the fur trade. In the last half of the nineteenth century, the posts that supplied the bison meat and pemmican essential to the Company’s fur trade were being built progressively farther west to follow the diminishing herds. Additional posts were also needed to compete with increasing numbers of independent traders entering the region. As a result, a permanent post was established at the site of present-day Fort Qu’Appelle in 1864. In 1869, Last Mountain House was built as a satellite post to Fort Qu’Appelle to capture trade in the Last Mountain Lake and upper Qu’Appelle River areas.
Following a successful first season, the continued decline of the bison, inter-tribal warfare and turmoil engendered by the Red River Rebellion resulted in a disastrous second year of trading for Last Mountain House. The last documentary reference to the post is for the 1872-73 season. Facing further declines in bison and fur resources, and rapidly encroaching settlement following the 1870 transfer of Rupert’s Land to the Dominion of Canada, it is unlikely that Last Mountain House persisted much beyond 1873, if at all. Similar to many short-lived seasonal posts, Last Mountain House was burned shortly after its abandonment and not rebuilt.
Heritage value is also found in the park’s representation of features typical of a Hudson’s Bay Company frontier outpost. Common to most Company posts, Last Mountain House’s buildings were arranged around three sides of a square, and were built using the “Red River Frame” construction technique. A number of features, however, show expedient building methods frequently employed for outposts that were often occupied seasonally and usually had brief life spans. For example, the plank floor of the Master’s house was only roughly finished, while the Men’s house lacked a wooden floor. There was no cribbing in the store’s cellar and the post had no palisade. The builders of Last Mountain house also relied to a large extent on post-in-ground construction, more easily and quickly built than the post-on-sill method, but not as long-lasting. Last Mountain House’s relative lack of status is further demonstrated by the fact that an apprentice clerk, 21-year-old Isaac Cowie, was made Master of the post.
Last Mountain House Provincial Park also illustrates some of the factors that were considered when selecting a site for a post. Situated near the south end of Last Mountain Lake, the post overlooked a wooded, spring-fed ravine that supplied drinking water, firewood, and timber for building. Fieldstones for chimney and hearth construction were abundant, and local clay was used for chinking material. Pasture for the post’s livestock was available on the surrounding grasslands, and fish from the lake were an important food source.
Further heritage value lies in the park’s association with the development of public archaeology in Saskatchewan, and in its long-standing educational role. In response to threats posed by a highway upgrading project and gravel quarrying, an archaeological salvage program relying entirely on volunteer labour was initiated under the auspices of the provincial Department of Natural Resources in 1965. Nearly 200 volunteers spent five seasons excavating the site for reconstruction and interpretive purposes. The Regina Archaeological Society, expressly formed to coordinate the volunteer effort, continues to be an important organization promoting archaeology in Saskatchewan. Based on the Society’s archaeological work, the post’s buildings were reconstructed on their original locations and have been used to interpret the fur trade since the 1970s.
Province of Saskatchewan, The Parks Act, May 26, 1986.
The heritage value of Last Mountain House Provincial Park resides in the following character-defining elements:
-elements that speak to the park’s educational role and association with public archaeology, such as public access to the park for interpretive purposes;
-elements that interpret the activities, layout, architecture and construction methods of the post, including the reconstructed buildings and other replica structures such as the ice-house, fur press and flag pole;
-elements that illustrate factors influencing the selection of a building site for a trading post, including the post’s location on the rim of the ravine near the lake, the park’s largely unaltered landforms and its remaining natural vegetation;
-original elements deriving from the Hudson’s Bay Company occupation of the site, including any remaining in situ artifacts; features such as cellars, foundations and refuse areas; and the spatial relationships and environmental context of the remains.
Government of Saskatchewan
Parks Act, s. 4
1869/01/01 to 1873/12/31
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Historic or Interpretive Site
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Trading Post
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department of Culture Youth and Recreation
Heritage Resources Branch
1919 Saskatchewan Drive Regina, SK
File: GR 2255
Cross-Reference to Collection