Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 6
by William C. Noble
Description of Features
Architectural and constructional features are among the most prominent and significant features at Rocky Mountain House. Wooden posts and the outlines of former buildings are well preserved, thus yielding much structural information. Changes have been made in the fort's structural details throughout its history. These are useful in determining the historical period represented by each modification of the fort and in formulating an interpretation of historical identification.
In addition to architecture, other types of features are present at Rocky Mountain House. Pits of all sizes and inferred functions are describable, being stratified and containing artifacts. The contents of the pits aid in assessing relative dates for the time period the pits were in use. Something also can be learned about the habits and activities of the fort's occupants from the study of pit features.
The base of a large fur press represents yet another type of feature encountered at the fort. This feature contributes significantly to the existing meagre knowledge of how stationary fur presses were built during the fur trade era. In general, furs were pressed into standard 90-pound bales or "pieces" for compact transportation in canoes or boats.
The soil features within the fort also provide useful information. Different types of soil configurations are present which, although they are seemingly small details, yield important inferences about various types and centres of activities that took place within the fort.
Palisade walls surrounded the entire fort and were easily recognizable. They constituted important structural features in delimiting the extent of the fort.
The wall pickets of the exterior palisade were found well preserved below the plough zone. The term pickets is used because the average diameter of most of the palisade posts was amazingly slender, 3.5 in. to 4 in. Such slender pickets particularly characterized the north, west and east walls of the fort; they could hardly have afforded much defensive strength.
Construction of the exterior palisades followed a definite pattern. A trench 18 in. to 24 in. wide by 24 in. to 30 in. deep was dug around the perimeter of the fort in a rectangular pattern. The corners of this pattern were not entirely square, being 7 degrees off normal. After the trench had been dug the pickets were set upright within it side by side. Many of the pickets are of spruce and cottonwood, and some represent longitudinally split half-posts. From a number of excavated cross-sections through the exterior palisades, it is apparent that very few of the pickets were trimmed or sharpened prior to their erection. Once set, the pickets were held upright by grey clay-sand soil backfilled into the trench.
There is substantial evidence to indicate that the southern wall of the fort was once torn down and re-erected 16 ft. south of its original position. The primary evidence for this observation is clearly defined in a trench feature running east-west across the interior southern end of the fort. This trench was similar to those for the other exterior palisade walls except that it had few preserved in pickets. The occasional preserved pickets all bore evidence of having been chopped or sawn off at ground level; they formed a definite line of palisade wall in the trench feature. There were also moulds of former palisade posts left after removal and now filled in with mixed sandy fill. These also represented positions of former posts in a line of pickets bounding the original southern wall of the fort. Fill throughout the trench feature was mixed grey sandy clay with a few rocks and pieces of bone, similar to the fill of the exterior palisade trenches of the northern part of the fort.
Clearly, the trench feature represents a trench for the fort's original southern exterior wall. As such, the dimensions of the original fort measure 90 ft east-west by 100 ft. north-south (Fig. 3).
With the dismantling of the original southern wall of the fort, an extension was added. This is clearly defined by two sections of exterior palisade extending 16 ft. south of the trench feature along the east and west sides as well as by a new southern wall completing the rectangle. These new extension walls differed in two major respects from those of the original fort. First, the new walls were heavier and stronger than in the original fort. Posts 5 in. to 6 in. in diameter were present in a close double row (Fig. 3) as opposed to the normal single row of slender pickets in the exterior walls of the original fort. This new pattern in the exterior extension walls probably reflects a very different and definite concern for increased defensive measures.
The second major difference in the extension palisades lies within their trenches. These were reddened along their sides, a condition not present in the trenches of the original fort's dimensions. The reddening in the extension trenches is the result of fire burning within them and it is therefore inferred that the trenches for the exterior extension palisades were dug at a time of year when fire was required to thaw frozen ground. This is an important factor pertinent to the problems of historical identification at the fort.
Exterior Palisade Details
Picket Heights. In addition to the archaeological details discussed above, there are four other details pertaining to the exterior palisades which entail estimates of the height of the walls, the type of picket-top finishing, determining the presence or absence of interior ramparts, and a description of the drainage outlets through the walls. Estimates for the heights of the exterior pickets around Rocky Mountain House cannot be derived from the archaeology; they can, however, be evaluated from written historic accounts. Only one account is known directly concerning this feature of the fort. It comes from the dubious memory of Henry J. Moberly who, at the youthful age of 18, was in charge of the fort during the winter of 1854-55. He states in his memoirs (Moberly and Cameron 1929: 34) that, Mountain House was surrounded by the usual 28-foot pickets. To the author, this height seems too exaggerated and in view of other inaccuracies Moberly made about constructional details his memory was probably incorrect and not to be trusted. A more probable estimate of height is between 12 ft. and 15 ft. This was the height of the picketing surrounding Fort Gibraltar built and occupied by the North West Company from 1806-16 (Bryce 1885: 137).
Picket-Top Finishing. Details on how the tops of the exterior pickets were finished at Rocky Mountain House must come from an evaluation of old drawings and photographs of other western forts. In many of the late post-1850 period forts it was customary to saw the tops off the erected palisade walls and fasten a horizontal plate along the top. This style of picket capping is depicted in an 1871 photo of Fort Edmonton (Roe 1964: 10), and in a photo of Fort Whoop-up (Dempsey 1962: 29). In earlier forts, the practice appears to have been to simply leave the palisade picket tops jagged as hewn. A presumably early drawing of Fort Garry illustrates this style (Bryce 1926: 262). This meagre documentary evidence, the slender nature of the pickets surrounding Rocky Mountain House, and the fort's pre-1850 date of construction lead the author to infer that exterior picket walls were left jagged and had no horizontal plating.
Ramparts or Reinforcements. A problem exists in determining whether there were ramparts or "catwalks" encircling the inside of the exterior palisades at Rocky Mountain House. Henry J. Moberly states (Moberly and Cameron 1929:34) that there was "a gallery running all round inside" the fort "about four and a half feet from the top" of the palisade pickets. Archaeologically, there is little evidence to confirm this statement. No consistent pattern of well-spaced posts which could have supported ramparts is present along the interior of the palisades. This fact and the slender nature of most of the pickets cast strong doubt that rampart structures existed around the interior of this fort during any of its building stages. If such ramparts did exist, evidence of support posts would be expected.
Boards 6 in. to 9 in. wide were present along the interior of the fort's palisades. but were noticeably restricted in their distribution. They extended only along the north and east walls of the palisade for distances of 24 ft. and 54 ft. from the north corner junction. Often two boards lay horizontally side by side or overlapped one another along the interior base of the exterior palisades (Fig. 4).
Exterior Extension Walls
In view of the unsubstantiated evidence for rampart supports and the restricted distribution of the fallen boards flanking the north corner bastion walls, it may be that these boards represent fallen support slats originally nailed horizontally to the interior of the pickets for strengthening purposes. The concern for strengthening the walls around the southwest bastion as evidenced by the double row of thick palisade posts leads the author to believe that the few fallen boards along the north walls of the fort may well represent a different method of strengthening the walls around the north corner bastion. All in all, the archaeological evidence does not convincingly favour the presence of ramparts around the interior of the palisade surrounding Rocky Mountain House. Henry Moberly is probably relating a confused architectural description of another fort.
Drainage Outlets. The northwest corner of Rocky Mountain House lies in a low area not far from the marshy region immediately to the west. Evidence of intentional drainage exists in the form of three outlets through the northern portion of the western exterior palisade wall. Each of the three drainage outlets is small and channelled with rocks.
The first outlet, 14 ft. south of the northwest corner, is constructed of two flat rocks standing on end and flanking each other 6 in. apart. Outside the palisade, leaning up against these two flat drain rocks, is another large rock plugging the outlet. Refuse bones were found clogging this drainage opening. Drainage outlet 2 is located 20 ft. south of the northwest corner. Portions of ribs and a two-tined, straight-shanked fork were found around this open drain. Drainage outlet 3 is located 52 ft. from the northwest corner of the fort and has essentially the same construction as the other two outlets. As with outlet 2, it was not blocked or closed.
At least one major gateway has existed in the mid-section of the southern wall since the period of major rebuilding. This feature is well preserved and describable. On the other hand, evidence to prove the existence of other gateways is not so readily available from the archaeological record. Here the difficulties are compounded by written historic accounts.
The south gateway (Fig. 5) appears to have been the major entrance to the fort. It was large; it was present in both the original and final forms of the fort; and it offered access to the interior through the southern palisade wall. In addition, an overhead bastion guarded this entrance.
The construction details of this gateway are illustrated in Figure 5. Spanning the 6 ft. wide entrance is a 4.5 in. wide beam lying on the ground. This sill is morticed into two large 6 in. posts flanking either side of the gateway. Immediately south of each of these two large side posts is a 4 in. square post.
It seems reasonable to believe that a six foot wide entranceway such as this would have been split into double doors, each three feet wide. As evidence to corroborate this assumption, there are four conspicuous rocks located on either side of the entrance just inside the fort. These are paired two to a side, and range in diameter from 4 in. to 11 in. Their size and position suggests that they were used to back-prop two doors of the gateway to prevent them from swinging open into the fort. As such, it may be inferred that the doors normally opened outward to the south and, by so doing, they would each extend to the insides of the large exterior support posts of the overhead bastion (posts 21 and 22). This type of door arrangement would channel entry to the fort.
The same pattern of gateway construction described above is inferred to have existed in the south palisade prior to the fort's enlargement. Four large rectangular pits are spaced in a rectangular pattern on both sides of the trench feature, presumably to hold large support posts for an overhead bastion similar to that built over the south gateway.
Evidence of other gateways is not as definite as for the south gateway. However, there is meagre data indicating a small entrance through the north exterior palisade wall (Fig. 3). Two large rocks 14 in. long lie spaced 3.5 ft. apart along the base of the exterior side of the north palisade wall, 30 ft. from the western end of the north corner bastion. The arrangement of these rocks is similar to that of the rocks on either side of the south gateway. Nowhere else in the fort are rocks found in such a relationship with the exterior palisades.
If these rocks along the north palisade indicate the location of a second entranceway, the nature of the gate deserves further comment. The line of palisade pickets in this region is uninterrupted. This suggests that either the gateway was a step-through opening sawn out of the palisade after the pickets were erected, or the gateway was abandoned and simply walled up. There was no observable disturbance of the picket trench in this region which tends to support the presence of a small 3.5 ft. wide step-through doorway: however, the interpretation must remain conjectural.
No iron hinges, lintels or pintles were found around any of the fort's gateways, nor was there any evidence for gateways in any other areas but the cases mentioned above.
When we turn to the written historic records, the accounts are either unspecific or conflicting. Alexander Henry the Younger (Henry 1897: II, 658) relates an incident in which he "got the fort clear and the gates shut." On another occasion he indicates that planks were sawn for gates and "Pickette finished the fort gates" (Henry 1897: II, 665-6). In none of these brief comments does he make it clear that the gates are for more than one entranceway; they may in fact refer to doors on a single gateway. Henry also remarked on 1 November 1810 that "We have mild clear weather; no snow is to be seen, except on the Rocky mountains, which are in full view from the W. gate (Henry 1897: II, 660). This reference to a western gate cannot be corroborated by the archaeological evidence; however, the mountains are in full view from the southern gateway. Perhaps compass readings on the position of magnetic north have changed sufficiently in 150 years to account for this discrepancy. Or, again, perhaps Henry's fort and Rocky Mountain House are two different posts.
The only other account referring to the gateways at Rocky Mountain House comes from the memory of Henry J. Moberly. He states (Moberly and Cameron 1929: 34) that "There were two gates, the main gate on the north and a smaller one on the south side leading through a narrow passage the height of the stockade." The description of this latter gate and the interior palisade accords amazingly well with the archaeological findings at the site, but the reference to the northern gate being the larger of the two and the main entrance is much less credible. Indeed, his description of this northern gate cannot be verified from the excavated data.
Interior Palisade Walls
Within the Rocky Mountain House stockade there are two short sections of palisade-like pickets. They appear to have been erected for purposes of fencing off specified areas, either for protective or divisional reasons.
Wall Behind Building II
A short eight-foot long single row of pickets extended eastward from the western exterior palisade wall to within four feet of the northwest corner of building II marked by post 2 (Fig. 3). The pickets averaged 3 in. in diameter and were set in a trench 16 in. wide by 31 in. deep. This trench, filled with grey ashy sand and many flecks of charcoal, ran the full 12 ft. 9 in. length between the western palisade and post 2, but no remains of pickets were found for a space of 4 ft. 9 in. immediately west of the building. This suggests some type of opening or passageway through the picket wall, which clearly fences off the northwest corner of the fort behind buildings I and II.
Wall Flanking South Gateway
A second line of interior palisade flanked the western side of the entranceway inside the south gateway. This lay 6.5 ft. west of the western side of the entrance, and the pickets had been set in a closely spaced double line for a distance of 15.5 ft. north from the final wall of the southern exterior palisade. The posts averaged 3 in. to 4 in. in diameter and were mainly half-slat posts.
The trench into which the interior palisade posts were placed measured 16 in. wide. At its northern end the trench clearly cut into the trench feature of the former southern exterior palisade. Such an intrusion definitely implies that the interior wall was erected subsequent to the demolition of the old south wall of the exterior palisade.
The sides of the trench for this interior line of palisade flanking the south gateway were not fire-reddened as found in the trenches for the final southern wall of the exterior palisade. This evidence suggests that the interior wall was erected at a different, frost-free season of the year than the final southern exterior palisade.
It is evident that the southern interior palisade formed a security wall flanking the western side of the south gateway. It helped to confine and channel access to the interior of the fort and certainly reflects a concern for protection on the part of the fort latter-day inhabitants. No such interior palisade flanked the southern entrance of the original fort.
This line of interior palisade corresponds remarkably with part of the description of Rocky Mountain House of 1854 given by Moberly. He mentions (Moberly and Cameron 1929: 34) "a narrow passage the height of the stockade" leading into the fort and a long hall from the south gateway. The archaeological evidence confirms this description.
Flanking the eastern side of the south gateway of the final fort is another form of interior barrier offering confining protection. This is in the form of the west end wall of building V, erected after the enlargement of the original fort. The west wall of this building extended 22 ft. between large posts 20 and 46. Lying between post 20 and the southern line of the exterior palisade was a short, 4 ft. long, charred beam, all that remained of a probable wall of short horizontal beams filling the interstice between building V and the southern wall of the exterior palisade. In short, this interstice and the interior western palisade on the west side of the south gateway carefully protected and channelled entry into the fort. The width of this passageway between the southern interior line of palisade and the west end wall of building V measured 12.5 ft.
Three bastions of three different styles of construction were present at Rocky Mountain House. Two of the bastions appear to have dated from the original construction of the fort, while the third was a later addition of definite Hudson's Bay Company style of construction.
North Corner Bastion
The north corner bastion (Figs. 6, 7) was part of the original fort and, although probably repaired many times throughout its history, the original style and form had not been changed. This bastion sat at the corner junction of the north and east walls of the exterior palisade, and protruded 9 ft. north of the northern exterior palisade and 8 ft. east of the eastern wall of the exterior palisade. The bastion was rectangular in outline, 11 ft. by 13 ft. with the longer axis running east-west.
The construction of the north corner bastion differed from that of the other two bastions in the fort, and is a key to who built it and the period to which it belongs. The lower part of the bastion consisted of four walls of poorly preserved vertical pickets, averaging 3 in. to 4 in. in diameter, set in a trench. In essence, this is simply a continuation of the exterior palisade technique, but as a formal description of bastion construction it is referred to as "en pile" architecture (Jefferys 1939: 375). The slender nature of the vertical pickets does not suggest that this bastion was particularly strong.
Sitting above the lower picket walls of the north corner bastion was probably a gabled blockhouse. The evidence for this type of superstructure lies in the patterned position of four large posts within each of the four corners of the bastion. These large 9-in. posts, both square and round, are inferred to have supported some type of overhead superstructure; it can only be surmised that this was a roofed blockhouse with horizontal log walls.
The entranceway to the bastion was through the southwest corner from the interior of the fort. Here two large square posts were spaced 2.5 ft. apart in a manner and position indicating an entranceway. Flanking either side of the entranceway, the north and east walls of the exterior palisade directly abutted the south and west walls of the bastion.
Artifacts found in this bastion include four fragments of clay pipe stems; a portion of a clay pipe bowl; one hollow silver button; one misshapen spherical lead ball, and one nail of an early rosehead type.
The archaeological evidence does not indicate any major disturbance or rebuilding of the north corner bastion. This, in addition to the en pile style of architecture, suggests that the bastion dates from the original erection of the fort and was not torn down or replaced when the fort was enlarged. As increasing evidence will show, the enlargement of the fort was carried out by the Hudson's Bay Company, who invariably used a consistent style and pattern of architecture. The north corner bastion is not typical Hudson's Bay Company architecture. It may, therefore, be a representative of earlier North West Company style of construction.
South Gateway Overhead Bastion
An overhead or half-bastion appears to have stood over the south gateway (Figs. 5, 8) in both the original and the final extended versions of the fort. That of the final period is best preserved. Four large round piles, 12 in. in diameter and characteristically set in large rectangular pits, lay in a definite pattern inside and outside of the south wall of the extension palisade. These posts represent corner support posts for a superstructure over the south gateway. The dimensions between these corner piles indicate a rectangular structure 8 ft. from east to west, and 9 ft. from north to south. The structure protruded 3 ft. to the south outside the extended fort, creating an overhanging half-bastion. In all probability, the bastion was constructed of horizontally tenoned logs and had a roof.
This half-bastion was erected at a time when frost inhibited working the ground, as is indicated by the presence of fire-reddening along the sides of the large rectangular pits dug for the four corner support piles. It will be remembered that fire-reddening was also observed on the trench sides for the extension palisade walls. This leads the author to believe that the south gateway overhead bastion was erected at the same time as these walls.
This same style of bastion also overlooked a similar south wall entranceway in the fort prior to its extension. A similar pattern of four large rectangular corner post pits existed on either side of the trench feature immediately to the north of the extension gateway. These pits, however were devoid of wooden piles.
Measurements to the centres of each of these corner pits indicated that the second, earlier overhead bastion was 8 ft. square. It, too, protruded outside the original south wall of the fort for a distance of 2 ft. It seems reasonable to believe that the earlier version was simply moved and rebuilt with the revamping activities involved in the later extension of the fort.
It should also be noted that the sides of the four rectangular corner pits of the second, earlier overhead bastion were fire-reddened. This may have been caused by fires used to thaw the ground to facilitate removal of the support posts. The absence of posts in these pits clearly indicates that the bastion was torn down. I would venture to suggest that this demolition occurred at the same time the extension palisade trenches and the support post pits were dug for the final south gateway overhead bastion.
To further support this suggestion, there is evidence from the two large rectangular pits immediately south and outside of the trench feature. These are not only fire-reddened, but also cut into the southern edge of the trench feature. This intrusion clearly occurred after the trench had been dug for the original southern wall of the fort. A major question in interpretation rests in determining whether the intrusion occurred at the time the overhead bastion was dismantled, or at the time it was originally set up. From the evidence given above, I prefer to believe the intrusion occurred during the dismantling of the corner support posts.
The possibility of a third and even earlier overhead bastion existing over the mid-section of the south exterior palisade is a matter of interpretation. There existed in the trench feature, bordering and underlying the two intrusive rectangular pits mentioned above, the outlines of two rectangular pits. The sides of these pits were not fire-reddened and their fill was identical to that in the trench feature. Do these represent pits for corner support posts of a different bastion, or are they the original pits for the overhead bastion which was torn down? If they are associated with the latter, then it may be inferred that this bastion dates to the original construction of the fort. If the former alternative is correct, then the possibility of yet a third and even earlier structure must be considered. In either case, an overhead style of bastion did exist over a southern gateway in the original exterior southern wall of the fort.
A third style of bastion was erected at the southwest corner of the extended fort (Fig. 9). Many of its salient construction features are well preserved. This bastion was of blockhouse style with horizontal beams laid upon one another and tenoned into mortised vertical corner posts. One of the original horizontal beams lay charred in situ on the ground between the northwest and southwest corner piles.
Each of the four corner posts measured 10 in. square, and they were set into large rectangular pits, the sides of which were fire-reddened. The southeast corner post preserved a definite mortise on its north side. Measurements between these four corner piles indicate that the bastion was 10 ft. square. Furthermore, it extended 8 ft. outside the south wall and 7 ft. beyond the west wall of the extension palisade. Thus it would have offered a full view of the outside faces of the fort's western and southern exterior palisades. Certainly this heavily constructed bastion was a strengthening feature to the fort.
Again reddening of the corner post pits suggests the use of fire to thaw frozen ground, a feature which has been noted for other construction features associated with the extension of the fort. There can be no doubt from the style and position of the southwest bastion that it was erected as part of the extension plans: however, one piece of evidence indicates that it was begun prior to the erection of the new south palisade wall. This evidence is in the form of a superimposed feature associated with the bastion's northeast corner posts. The trench for the south wall of the exterior extension palisade clearly cuts into the rectangular pit dug for this post, indicating that the bastion was begun prior to the digging of the trench for the southern palisade wall; yet both features were constructed during a ground-frozen season of the year.
One small box or chest latch was the only portable artifact recovered from this feature.
The blockhouse style of the southwest bastion is typical of Hudson's Bay Company fort construction (Garth 1947: 221). Roe (1958: 6) also suspects that the method of sinking pairs of huge posts or piles at intervals and dropping short lengths of logs between them "originated as the result of ignorance and inexperience which crystallized into a custom and then into a rigid convention." Certainly the practice of erecting large vertical posts with mortises for short log tenon insertions is a distinctive feature of Hudson's Bay Company construction, and is amply displayed in much of the later period architecture at Rocky Mountain House.
There was no further archaeological evidence of any other bastions at this site. The original fort had two bastions, one at the north corner and one over the southern entrance. The later extended version of the fort had three bastions including both of the above-mentioned structures as well as an additional bastion at the southwest corner. This information is of importance in confirming or denying the extant historical accounts of the fort.
By and large, most of the accounts appear to be inaccurate or very sketchy. For instance, Henry Moberly recalls from memory "a block bastion at each corner" of "Mountain House" in 1854 (Moberly and Cameron 1929: 34). This cannot be confirmed. Similarly, the picture drawn by Paul Kane during his stay at the fort between 21 April and 1 May 1848 appears to be inaccurate (Kane 1925: 287-91). This picture (cover) centres primarily upon scenery and native peoples, with the fort depicted in the background. No bastion is shown over the south entrance, nor is there one at the north corner. The artist also included a blockhouse bastion positioned either at the southeast corner of the fort or just out from this corner similar to some type of watch house. The possibility exists that such a watch house did stand outside the southeast corner of the fort for this area was not tested during the excavations. However, the archaeological data do not substantiate the general impressions given in Kane's picture.
Earlier accounts of the fort consistently mention more than one bastion. The Hudson's Bay Company records (Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Rocky Mountain House, Post Journals, B.184/a) for 20-21 October 1828 mention "the Men erect two bastions," and later on 15 November 1830, "two choping Logs to make a Bastion." Also, on 2 April 1831, mention is made of "two men working build a wach house." Yet earlier, in 1809-10, Alexander Henry the Younger states (Henry 1897: II, 666), "the bastions were put in order, but they are wretched buildings for defense." He later states (Henry 1897: II, 701) that the situation for the fort "is well adapted for defense, as the blockhouses command the fort for some distance."
Attempts to correlate these early accounts with interpretation and historical identification of the fort's history will be made in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here that the archaeological evidence does indicate multiple bastions throughout the fort's history, including a definite Hudson's Bay Company structure in later times. The north corner bastion remains most probably a representative of earlier North West Company architecture.
Remains of seven buildings are recognizable within the stockade of Rocky Mountain House, all but one constructed in typical Hudson's Bay Company style of architecture. This method seems invariably to have utilized the section plank-wall type of construction in which vertical posts were placed 8 ft. to 10 ft. apart, with short horizontal wall logs tenoned into these uprights (Garth 1947: 221-2). Sills, heavy horizontal timbers supporting a wall, were also used, but frequently omitted in rough structures such as barns, stables and worksheds (Garth 1947: 222).
It is very apparent that major renovations and rebuilding took place at the fort during the period it was enlarged. All available architectural evidence indicates that this enlargement was carried out by the Hudson's Bay Company. As such, the ground plan (Fig. 3) mapped of the preserved buildings is primarily a replica of the final fort operated by the Hudson's Bay Company. Pre-extension building details are exceedingly rare and difficult to reconstruct.
This single-roomed building located at the north end of the fort adjoining the northern wall of building II appears to represent an original piece of architecture (Fig. 10). It is definitely not of Hudson's Bay Company style. The building measured 18 ft. long north-south by 12 ft. wide east-west. It was constructed by laying down large 6 in. to 9 in. wide joists directly on the ground and then building up the walls from these. Four such joists were preserved lying in a north-south direction, and were spaced unevenly 2 ft., 3 ft., and 4 ft. apart from one another. They were also charred. Overlying and nailed to the joists were preserved sections of charred plank flooring. The planks averaged 6 in. in width and were oriented east-west. Presumably the walls of the building rested upon the floor.
This style of architecture, in which the building rests directly on the ground, is considered by Garth (1947: 219) to be probably typical of North West Company construction. He cites the firsthand description given by W.H. Gray, a Protestant missionary, who visited the old North West Company fort of Nez PercÚ in 1836, a fort which was built in 1818. In his description Gray states:
The houses and quarters were built by laying down sills, placing posts (studs) at from eight to twelve feet apart, with tenons on the top, and the bottom grooved in the sides, . . . The roofs were of split cedar, flattened and placed upon the ridge pole and plate-like rafters, close together;. . . . The roofs were less than one fourth pitch, and of course subject to leakage when it rained. For floors, split puncheons or planks were used. . . . The room was lighted with six panes of glass seven inches by nine, set in strips of wood . . . shaped so as to hold the glass in place of a sash.
This excellent eyewitness account offers a considerable amount of information on North West Company architecture, much of which could be directly pertinent to the construction of building I. By building directly on the ground, a building is allowed to rise and fall with frost action. The Hudson's Bay Company style of architecture overcame the frost problem in a different manner: the large foundation piles were sunk deep into the ground below frost level.
The four large posts erected in pits along the south end of building I were probably set up by the Hudson's Bay Company carpenters in an attempt to firmly attach building I to building II. This clearly is the case for posts 62 and 65, and posts 63 and 64 may represent posts for some type of doorway or added foundation supports.
The base of a single-hearth stone fireplace lay along the western back wall of building. The interior portion of this hearth projected 3 ft. into the room and had a width of 5 ft. The northern edge of the hearth lay 7 ft. distant from the building's north wall.
The exterior portion of the hearth projected in a semi-circle outside the back wall for a distance of 3 ft. Its maximum width of 6 ft. occurred at the wall junction. The basal joists of the western wall abutted two shallow 6-in. right-angled recesses formed at the juncture of the 6-ft. wide exterior and 5-ft. wide interior portions of the hearth. This juncture also marked the interior face of the firebox.
The firebox began flush with the inside western wall of building I. Its orifice measured 2 ft. wide and was 1.5 ft. deep. The sidewalls curved gently inward to an interior width of 15 in. As only two tiers of basal rocks remained, no measurements of the height of the firebox could be made.
All rocks used in the construction of this fireplace were sandstone except for one piece of petrified wood. Notably, most of the rocks were round in contrast to the split flat rocks used in the larger double-hearth fireplace in building II. Also, a dry-stone technique appeared to have been used for no traces of mud or mortar were found between the tightly positioned rocks.
Artifacts recovered from building I are considered in detail in a later section of the report. Recovered were 141 subcylindrical beads; 104 seed beads; 6 barrel beads; 4 tubular beads; 1 globular bead; 10 fragments of clay pipe stems; 5 early nails; 2 pieces of 1.5 mm. thick clear window glass from near the northeast corner of the east wall; 3 cut metal projectile points; 1 spherical lead ball; 1 carved antler-tine powder horn plug; 1 iron needle; 1 offset awl; 1 three-sided iron file; 1 severely corroded iron clasp knife blade, and 1 copper kettle bail fastener.
The nature of these artifacts as well as the size of the room and the presence of a fireplace suggest that building I was the private quarters used by the chief trader or chief factor. The building appears to have been in existence throughout the fort's history and was probably originally built by the North West Company. The charring of the joists and floorboards and the paucity of nails further suggest that the building was dismantled and burned at the end of the fort's life. Possibly the floorboards were burned in an effort to salvage nails.
Building II (Figs. 3, 11, 12, 13) is the largest structure in the fort; it is also characteristic of Hudson's Bay Company style of architecture. Eleven large piles set in typical rectangular pits demarcated the perimeter of this long building, which measured 49 ft. long east-west by 22 ft. wide north-south. The building lay 12 ft. 9 in. east of the western wall of the exterior palisade and 30 ft. south of the northern palisade wall. As such, building II dominated most of the north end of the fort and looked out upon an open square immediately to the south.
The large foundation piles set upright around the border of building II ranged in diameter from 8 in. to 14 in. Three such posts, 1, 2 and 4, were found to extend 30 in. to 36 in. deep within large rectangular pits. All of these vertical posts had been sawn off at ground level and appear from their wood grain to have been spruce.
As an example of how these foundation piles were erected, post 4 is classic. This 14 in. diameter pile was set in an open rectangular pit measuring 28 in. north-south by 26 in. east-west and 32 in. deep. Mixed sand, gravel, clay and charcoal was then backfilled into the pit to within 8 in. of the ground surface. Then a horizontal log 28 in. long by 8 in. wide with sawn ends was wedged into the pit against the east side of the pile. This wedge, or deadman, appears to have been pine. Further fill and packing completed the fixing of the pile (Fig. 14). Large piles with wedging deadmen were also encountered at posts 1 and 2 of building II.
The large foundation piles set around the perimeter of the building were spaced 10 ft. to 13 ft. apart at the building's west end, and some were 6 ft. to 8 ft. apart at the east end. Charred, 8-in. wide sills lay mortised into these piles. Abutting the sills and running north-south across the width of the building was a series of 11 preserved parallel joists (Fig. 13). These lay charred on the ground regularly spaced 4 ft apart. Their widths ranged from 6 in. to 10 in.
Overlying and nailed to the joists was flooring. Charred planks of this flooring were preserved at four locations within building II. The planks averaged 6 in. in width and had been laid down in an east-west direction at right angles to the joists.
There is one piece of evidence to indicate the height of the walls in building II. This comes from corner post 2, which during dismantling activities was simply sawn off at ground level and left unmoved. This pile measured 12 in. in diameter by 6 ft. 3 in. long. It lay exposed where it fell west of building II over many of the small pickets in the short line of interior wall behind the building. The above-ground length of post 2 indicated that the floor to plate height was slightly over 6 ft. in building II.
Within building II were several notable features, primarily at the western end. Large pit 17 and the three smaller rectangular pits 4, 5 and 15, however, will be discussed separately in a later section.
Positioned off-centre in the interior of building II was the base of a large doublehearth stone fireplace (Fig. 11). This lay 5 ft. from the north wall of the building, 10 ft. from the south wall and 17 ft. east of the western end. The base consisted of two preserved courses of flat split sandstone rocks ordered in a 7-ft. square between four vertical corner posts. These posts measured 4 in. square and were driven into the ground to form a framework for the fireplace.
Two hearths were present in this fireplace one on the east side and another on the west. Presumably the fireboxes of each fed into a common central flue. The hearths were generally in poor condition, but appeared to have projected 2 ft. out from the 7-ft. square base. Measurements were not obtainable from the eastern hearth, but were from the western one; these measurements are considered valid for both hearths.
The width of the firebox in the western hearth measured 3.5 ft. The back of the fireplace curved inward to an interior width of 2 ft. from the front face. As with the fireplace in building I, no measurement of firebox height could be made.
This doublehearth fireplace was constructed of flat split sandstone rocks. Apparently a dry-stone technique was used for there were no traces of mud or mortar. The design of the fireplace was such that it would have cast heat to both the east and west ends of building II when in operation. Sufficient quantities of loose and waste building rocks were found around the chimney and in pits 11 and 18 to warrant belief that the upper portion of the chimney was also constructed of stone. Other techniques, however, could also have been used. Sod construction is a possibility as is the vertical polemud plaster technique which this author recorded at the remains of old Fort Reliance, established by Sir George Back at the east end of Great Slave Lake in 1833; however, no lumps of mud plaster occurred around the double hearth fireplace in building II.
In its over-all form and nature, building II resembles a barracks-like building. In this respect, Garth (1947: 221) states that:
The typical Hudson's Bay Company building was a barracks-like affair, sometimes as much as 170 feet long (as at Fort Vancouver) and 30 feet wide. The usual length was from 50 to 75 feet, the width from 20 to 25 feet, and the height from 12 to 14 feet.
Building II of Rocky Mountain House conforms admirably to this description and may reasonably be considered as the main habitation during Hudson's Bay Company occupation.
A further perusal of the artifacts recovered loose or from pits within building II attests to the nature of its use as a habitation. Recovered were 210 large subcylindrical beads; 15 tubular beads; 6 barrel beads; 4 seed beads; 3 silver ear rings; 1 lead cross; 13 buttons, 4 of which are Hudson's Bay Company coat buttons; 10 pipe bowl portions; 29 pipe stem fragments; 1 fragment of white salt-glazed stoneware; 2 under-glazed pieces of creamware decorated with transfer printing; 1 complete glass vial; 1 square green bottle; 2 other bottle fragments; 1 iron needle; 2 fishhooks; 4 gunflints; 1 gun sear; 15 spherical lead balls; 56 pieces of lead shot; 1 steel file; 1 iron punch; 1 cold chisel; 2 iron axe wedges; 28 nails of which the early types cluster at the western end of the building; 1 brass kettle bail fastener; 5 fragments of sheet copper; 2 carved antler tines, and 3 small rolls of cut birchbark. A total of 421 items came from building II.
It is difficult to determine the duration of time that building II was in existence. Clearly it was built by the Hudson's Bay Company, but limited evidence suggests an earlier aspect at the western end of the building. This is reflected in the distribution pattern of specific artifacts such as early types of nails and gunflints. Also, pit 17 at the eastern end of building II lies superimposed over an earlier pit, 18. Perhaps the western end of building II simply rests on ground utilized by earlier occupants. Lack of stratigraphy in this area helps little to clarify this question. Certainly building II was dismantled and burned at the end of occupation of the fort.
This small building (Fig. 3) located along the western side of the fort is also typical of Hudson's Bay Company architecture. Six large foundation posts ranging in diameter from 9 in. to 11 in. were set in large rectangular pits about the perimeter of the building. Measurements from these posts indicated that building III was 21 ft. north-south, by 11 ft. east-west. The foundation piles lay 9 ft. and 10 ft. apart from one another.
The building was set out 2 ft. east of the western exterior palisade wall; it also lay 4 ft. south of the southeast corner of building II and 12 ft. north of building IV. The base of a large permanent fur press lay 8 ft. east of the front of building III.
In contrast to buildings I and II, there are no joists, sills or flooring in building III. Garth (1947: 222) states for Hudson's Bay Company architecture that, "in such crude structures as barns, stables and worksheds. . . . the upright posts might be set directly into the ground, which served as the floor, no sills being employed." This description fits building III, and in all probability it was a warehouse. The artifacts found loose within this building also attest to this inference, while those from pit 6 generally dated late enough to be associated with the Hudson's Bay Company occupation. Pit 6, therefore, is regarded as being some type of cellar pit within building III.
Artifacts recovered from building III, both loose and in pit 6, included: 1 fur bale tag; 1 brass spigot; 2 nested brass banglers; 3 pipe stem fragments; 2 large subcylindrical beads; 2 cut metal projectile points; 1 brass button; 2 iron buttons; 1 copper wrist band; 1 small hawk bell; a neck portion of a small glass vial; 1 lead ball; 1 piece of lead shot; 1 offset awl; 1 piece of sheet copper; 15 nails; 1 soapstone pipe bowl, and 1 core of yellow jasper. All but the bale tag, brass spigot, banglers, projectile points and the jasper core came from pit 6.
Building III was cut down and burned at the end of the fort's occupation. The tops of the large foundation posts were each hewn and sawn off at ground level, as well as charred. A heavy 3-in, thick ash layer covered most of the area encompassed by this building.
This building at the southwest end of the fort (Figs. 3, 16) was of typical Hudson's Bay Company architecture and was clearly erected after the fort was enlarged. Building IV straddled and was superimposed on the trench feature, thereby lying within the confines of the original fort and additional area provided by the extension.
Eight large posts 9 in. to 10 in. in diameter and characteristically set in rectangular pits demarcated the borders of this building. It covered a rectangular area 21 ft. east-west by 18 ft. north-south. In wider context, building IV lay 12 ft. east of the western wall of the exterior palisade, 8.5 ft. north of the final southern extension palisade, and a short 3 ft. west of the interior wall of security pickets flanking the west side of the south gateway.
Although no sills or joists were found preserved within this building, four of the large foundation posts had mortises for the insertion of tenoned sills. These were 16, 43, 44 and 45. Rotten portions of flooring were also encountered oriented north-south along the western end of the building. Thus it is reasonable to believe that joists once existed.
Artifacts from within building IV were not numerous. Recovered were 6 pipe stem fragments; 6 nails; 3 large subcylindrical beads; 2 brass banglers; 1 cut metal projectile point; 1 brass kettle bail fastener; 1 sawn antler tine; 1 rim of undecorated lead-glazed earthenware; 1 fragment of a green glass bottle, and 1 portion of a red sandstone pipe bowl. If anything, this artifact inventory reflects trade objects.
Building IV in all probability was a Hudson's Bay Company trading room or Indian room. Robinson (1879: 74), describing Lower Fort Garry, stated that "immediately at the left of the gateway is the trading-store, devoted solely to the sale of goods." This same positioning occurred at Rocky Mountain House. Further, it is not inconceivable that in the later 1800s Hudson's Bay Company designs and layouts of forts had crystallized into a custom, or even a rigid convention.
Whatever the function of building IV, it was in the end dismantled. The large foundation piles were chopped and sawn off at ground level and tenoned sills were missing. Also, a large 8-in. wide beam measuring 21 ft. long lay abandoned 9 ft. north of the building. It may represent a plate from either building IV or building III.
Building V (Figs. 3, 17) was also a Hudson's Bay Company structure erected after the fort was enlarged and revamped. It clearly superimposed the trench feature at the southeast corner of the fort and overlay space within the original fort and the extension.
The extent of building V was demarcated by 6 large foundation posts 7 in. to 13 in. in diameter, set in large rectangular pits around the structure's perimeter. An area 22 ft. north-south by 34 ft. east-west was thus delineated. In general, the large foundation piles were spaced 10 ft. apart and mortises were present for the insertion of tenoned sills. The remains of one 10-ft. sill portion lay along the western side of the building. Notably, no interior joist or flooring were encountered here.
In its wider context within the fort, building V lay 4 ft. west of and parallel to the east wall of the exterior palisade, and 3 ft. to 4 ft. north of the southern wall of the extension palisade. The western end of the building bordered the east side of the entrance through the south gateway. As such, it formed a continuous wall with the short 4-ft. interstice between its southwest corner and the southern wall of the extension palisade. It seems improbable that any windows or doors existed in building V's western wall in light of the security nature and protective measures made around the south gate.
Within building V were two pits definitely dating to the Hudson's Bay Company period of this building. Pit 9 appeared to represent a forge, and a cache of hoop iron was found buried and forgotten in pit 14. These features and the paucity of artifacts from building V suggested that it was some type of earthen-floored workshed.
Artifacts from this building included 6 iron hoops; 2 nails; 1 rough machine-made copper rivet; 1 cut metal projectile point; 1 brass kettle bail fastener; 1 lead sinker; 1 spherical lead ball; 1 white seed bead; 1 large subcylindrical bead; 1 plated button; 1 plain brass button; 1 pipe bowl fragment, and 1 portion of a round clear glass bottle.
The chopped and sawn off nature of the large foundation piles indicate that building V was dismantled at the end of the fort's occupation.
This building along the eastern side of the fort (Figs. 3, 18) was not well defined. Five large foundation piles, 34, 37, 38, 39 and 40, delineated three of the walls and were set in typical Hudson's Bay Company fashion. The piles measured 8 in. to 10 in. in diameter and were set 9 ft. apart in large rectangular pits. Measurements from these posts indicated that the building was 21 ft. east-west by 10 ft. north-south. It is undecided whether post 41 was associated with this building, for like many other posts in the southeast corner of the fort it did not complete any part of a recognizable pattern. Building VI, therefore, appeared to be a long rectangular structure spaced 4 ft. west of the eastern wall of the exterior palisade. No floorboards, joists or sills were found in this building.
Pit 10 lay partially within building VI, but probably represented a basement structure for a former building in this area. Artifacts from the pit appear to date between 1810 and 1830. The artifacts from pit 10 and its adjoining extension included 787 large subcylindrical beads; 35 seed beads; 2 tubular beads; 2 globular beads; 2 barrel beads; 7 clay pipe stem fragments; 1 clay pipe bowl fragment; 10 nails; 52 pieces of lead shot; 2 pieces of melted lead; 2 sheet copper fragments; 1 cut silver strip; 1 slate pencil; 1 brass pin; 1 silver hawk bell; 1 double-gilt button; 1 portion of black basalt stoneware; portions of one round green bottle; 2 pieces of antler tine, and 1 freshwater bivalve shell.
Building VI had the general shape and style of architecture reminiscent of a stable-like barn. Its location was within an area displaying random signs of former construction features. In the end, building VI was also dismantled.
Building VII (Figs. 19; 30) was a unique rectangular subterranean log structure in pit 11 along the east side of the fort. It measured 9 ft. north-south by 8 ft. east-west, and was 4.5 ft. deep. The structure lay 9 ft. west of the east wall of the exterior palisade, 35 ft. south of its north wall, and 9 ft. east of the west wall of building II.
Building VII was floored with 15 logs averaging 3 in. in diameter, lying close together in a north-south orientation. The upper surfaces of these floor logs had been hewn flat. Ascending up the sides from the flat bottom were walls of heavier 4 in. to 6 in. diameter round logs. Most of these were found caved in and charred on the inner faces. Boards and poles of a ground-surface roof also lay depressed in the building and were charred on both upper and lower surfaces. Clearly a fire had burned in the building.
Overlying and depressing the structure was a grey ash layer filled with split sandstone building rocks. These, in addition to the evidence of fire and the artifacts recovered from the pit, all suggest that building VII was utilized and filled in during the late period of the fort's occupation. The rocks most probably were dismantled from the double hearth fireplace in building II.
Artifacts from building VII were recovered in the lowest levels of the structure and in the top 6 in. of surface fill. Those from the bottom were bone pieces found lying on top of the log floor and included severed but articulated portions of a young horse. The mandible, 16 articulated vertebrae including 5 cervicals, ribs, a scapula, several limb bones and a small, unshod hoof represented portions of at least one horse. Also, there was a femur that appeared to be from a bear. These specimens were covered during the burning and filling of the pit.
Artifacts from the ash fill at the top of building VII included 5 clay pipe bowl fragments; 4 clay pipe stem fragments; 6 nails; 1 piece of lead shot; 1 brass bangler; 1 sharpening file; 1 steel clasp knife blade; 1 barrel bead; 2 seed beads, and 3 tubular beads.
The nature of the bone artifacts from building VII and its subterranean construction suggest that it was a cold storage repository. Obviously it was burned and filled in at the end of the fort's occupation.
Pits of all sizes and different functions were a distinctive feature of Rocky Mountain House. They were also a prominent feature at other western forts observed by the author, such as at Rocky Mountain House (FcPr-2), Fort Forks on the Peace River, and the old forts Rae and Reliance on Great Slave Lake. At the site under discussion, the pits produced a greater variety of artifacts than any of the other features.
This oval shaped refuse pit (Fig. 20) lay in the northwest corner of the Fort behind buildings I and II. From its centre the north wall of the exterior palisade was 4 ft. distant and the west wall 8 ft. away. A very distinct 20-ft. long drainage depression led into this pit from the east. The pit measured 6 ft. 3 in. north-south by 3.5 ft. east-west.
Stratigraphy in pit 1 indicated a sequence of burning and filling from its maximum 28-in, depth to ground surface. The overlapping nature of the deposits may have been the result of daily, weekly or yearly dumping. At the very bottom, fire-reddened sands indicated fire in the pit. These sands were overlain by grey ash and then a layer of mixed white sandy clay. This was possibly heaped into the pit to extinguish the underlying fire. Over the sandy clay layer was more fire-reddened sand and ash. This second layer of grey ash, more than one foot deep, included an occasional sandstone rock in the upper levels. Capping the pit was an 8-in. depth of mixed charcoal, ash, humus and artifacts.
None of the 21 artifacts from pit 1 have been dated. Recovered were 11 large subcylindrical beads; 1 seed bead; 1 globular bead; 1 watch winder; 1 steel clasp-knife blade bearing the stamp REAGLE; 1 copper upholstery nail with poured umbrella head; 1 iron needle; 4 pieces of lead shot, and some fragmented bone. In addition, a folding sheath fork with one brass foil side-cover was found in the drainage depression leading into this pit.
Clearly the main function of this pit was for the burning of refuse or debris. Only in its upper, later level were cultural items found.
A circular pit (Fig. 21) also lay in the northwest corner of the fort immediately south of pit 1 and west of building. Its diameter measured slightly over 8 ft., the centre of which is 8 ft. from the west wall of the exterior palisade and 12 ft. south of the north wall of the exterior palisade. Maximum depth of the pit was 44 in.
The sequence of layered debris in pit 2 indicated successive burning and dumping. Fire-reddened sand reflected actual burning within the pit, while mixed grey ash in other levels attests the burning of rubbish or wood elsewhere prior to its deposition in the pit.
The lowest layer of debris was mixed sandy-clay and grey ash. This was overlain by a layer of charcoal and partially burned wood chips. Above this was more white ash, mixed sandy-clay and a thin lens of fire-reddened sand at the east side of the pit. The heavy white ash level above this again contained a large quantity of small fire-blackened rocks. The uppermost 6 in. to 8 in. level of the pit was composed of grey ash, charcoal, bone, artifacts and black humus.
The few artifacts from pit 2 are not very diagnostic for dating purposes. Recovered were 3 pipe bowl portions; 5 pipe stem fragments; 8 pieces of lead shot; 1 spherical lead ball; 2 rosehead nails, 1 wrought and the other cut; 1 large subcylindrical bead; 1 globular bead; a few pieces of broken bottle glass; 2 scrap iron hoop pieces; 1 dolomitic chert flake; 1 freshwater bivalve half; quantities of minutely fragmented bone, and several segments of butchered horse limbs.
The utilitarian nature of pit 2 is similar to pit 1. The pit appears to have been used primarily as a general burning dump and ash repository. Cultural items only occurred in the upper humic level.
Pit 3 (Fig. 22) was a small circular depression with a 45 in. diameter, lying in the northwest corner of the fort behind buildings I and II. Its centre was 15 ft. east of the west wall of the exterior palisade and 16 ft. south of the north wall of exterior pickets. Maximum depth of this round-bottomed pit was 30 in.
The stratigraphy in pit 3 gave few clues as to its function. A basal layer of light yellow sand was overlain by a pocket of mixed sandy-ash. This in turn was succeeded by a layer of mixed charcoal wood chips and black humic soil which possibly represents a former ground surface. It was overlain by a layer of sterile sandy clay. Above this sandy clay was a highly compacted grey ash 2.5 in. thick which lay under the present surface sod.
Three unidentifiable nails and a piece of sheet copper were recovered from the grey ash layer overlying pit 3. These are the only artifacts from the pit.
This rectangular pit (Fig. 23) was sunk 22 in. below the floor of the northwest corner of building II. It measured 24 in. eats-west by 22 in. north-south. Notably, the side walls and pit were straight and met at right angles at the bottom of the basal corners, giving the pit a box-like appearance.
The first seven inches of upper fill were composed of hard compacted clay, grey ash and flecks of charcoal. At the 7-in. depth a burned joist from the interior of building II lay parallel and superimposed over the east side of the pit. Below the first layer of grey ash and clay there was a softer layer of grey sand. This was underlain by a thin 2 in. lens of black humic soil below which the first artifacts were encountered. More grey sand followed and was in turn underlain by a second layer of thin black humic soil. This was underlain by another layer of grey sand and a final third layer of black humic soil lining the bottom of the pit.
The 51 artifacts from pit 4 date both early and late, and include many items of a personal nature. Two Hudson's Bay Company buttons from the middle levels of the pit attest to the post-1821 use of the upper portions of the pit and, indeed, to the wider context of building II itself. From the bottom 21 in. depth of the pit, a tan spall gunflint of French style was uncovered. This may date to an earlier North West Company occupation, or it could be contemporaneous with the Hudson's Bay Company specimens.
Total artifacts recovered from pit 4 included 9 clay pipe stem fragments; 2 clay pipe bowl portions; 2 Hudson's Bay Company buttons; 3 plain iron buttons; 1 gun sear; 10 spherical lead balls; 16 pieces of lead shot; 1 tan spall gunflint; 2 nails of early variety; 4 large subcylindrical beads, and the tip of an antler tine. The nature of these artifacts and the provenience of the pit strongly support the inference that pit 4 was a personal cache in building II. Pits 5 and 15 are of this nature also.
This rectangular pit (Fig. 24) also lay within the western end of building II, 10 ft. south of pit 4. Its surface measurements were 32 in. east-west by 21 in. north-south, with the maximum depth being 17 in. below the present ground surface. The sides of this pit sloped inward to meet a flat bottom 18 in. east-west, and were lined with thin 0.5 in. wooden slats. A thin layer of rotten wood also covered the pit bottom, indicating that pit 5 held some type of rectangular box.
Successive layers of fill were present in this pit. Above the basal wooden floor was a layer of mixed grey sand and ash. This was overlain by another thin layer of rotten wooden slats which in turn were covered by a thick layer of black humus, ash and flecks of charcoal. All artifacts recovered from pit 5 came from within and below this layer. The remains of wooden flooring from building II overlay the black humic layer, and from this layer upward 9 in. to present ground surface, the fill was composed of mixed white clay and ash.
As with pit 4, the 32 artifacts recovered from pit 5 included many items of a personal nature. Recovered were 16 large subcylindrical beads; 2 tubular beads; 3 nails only one of which can be identified as an early machine product; 3 pieces of lead shot; 1 spherical lead ball; a tan spall gunflint; 1 incomplete steel file; 1 gilded button; 1 conical silver earring; 1 complete small glass vial; a portion of a square green bottle, and 1 clay pipe stem fragment.
Pit 6 (Fig. 25) was a large oval feature within the south end of building III. It measured 6.5 ft. north-south by 5 ft. 2 in. east-west, with a maximum depth of 5 ft. The bottom of the pit was flat and the sides were essentially vertical except for one region of slumpage in the lower western wall.
A 5 in. to 6 in. layer of sterile mixed sandy clay lined the bottom. This was overlain by a layer of grey ashy-clay containing flecks of charcoal. Intruding from the west wall into this layer was a pocket of slumped sand. The next succeeding layer was a deep bed of grey ash, charcoal, pieces of wood and an occasional nail. One of the nails from the 26 in. depth in this layer was an early machine product. Overlying grey sandy ash and charcoal included part of a large unburned stump. No fire-reddening occurred in any of the ash deposits in this pit, thereby indicating that all of the ash was formed elsewhere prior to dumping in the pit. Above the ash and stump layer was a layer of sand, some fire-cracked rock, much finely broken bone and the major concentration of cultural material. This level was overlain by a pocket of black charcoal which was in turn succeeded by a layer of black humus, charcoal, ash and sandy clay. A top layer of white ash completed the sequence of fill in pit 6.
The 40 artifacts from pit 6 all date late enough to be associated with the surrounding Hudson's Bay Company building III. Recovered were 13 clay pipe stem fragments; 15 nails; 1 small offset awl; 1 spherical lead ball; 1 piece of lead shot; 2 cut metal projectile points; 1 sheet copper fragment; 1 large subcylindrical bead; 1 rim of a small glass vial; 1 copper wrist band; 1 plain brass button; 1 plain iron button, and the bowl of a soapstone pipe.
The diffuse and general late date of these artifacts, together with the extensive deposits of grey ash in pit 6, suggest that most of the debris was dumped in the pit at the end of the fort's occupation. Prior to this filling pit 6 probably served as a large flat-bottomed cellar pit in building III.
Pit 7 (Fig. 3) was a small oval pit lying directly in front (east) of post 6 of building III. Its measurements were 24 in. east-west by 16 in. north-south with a depth of 13 in. No artifacts were found in this pit.
Pit 7 has some similarities to pits 4, 5 and 15 of building II in that it has straight sides and a decidedly flat bottom. The lowest level of fill was composed of 3 in. of sandy clay containing wood chips and charcoal. This was overlain by a deposit of more wood chips and charcoal and, finally, by a top layer of massed wood chips and rotten wood. Perhaps this pit represents an intial trial hole dug for a foundation pile for building III. Clearly it was later filled in with wood debris.
Pit 8 (Fig. 3) was a shallow 16-in. depression filled with debris. It was located outside the extended fort immediately southeast of support pile 21 at the southeast corner of the south gateway. This pit was oval, measuring 45 in. east-west by 36 in. north-south, and had a round basin-like bottom. Filling the pit was a homogeneous mixture of white ash and charcoal with no signs of fire-reddening.
Twelve artifacts come from this pit, all dating after 1830. Recovered were 3 nails of late dating varieties; 2 large subcylindrical beads; 2 pieces of clear bottle glass; 1 small iron needle; 1 decorated copper button; 1 clay pipe stem fragment; 1 complete clay pipe bowl of the spurred TD type, and the blade of a crooked knife. The variety of artifacts from this pit, located outside the fort proper is truly impressive. The pit dates to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation at the fort.
Pit 9 (Figs. 3; 17; 26) was a large irregular oval pit located within the east end of building V. It measured 11 ft. 3 in. north-south by 9 ft. 7 in. east-west, and had a maximum depth of 57 in. below the present sod surface. A major concentration of sandstone rocks occurred in the upper levels of this pit.
Lining the bottom of the pit and continuing for a short distance up the sides was a layer of brown sand, charcoal and flat sandstone rocks. This was overlain by a layer of rotten wooden boards, many of which were burned and sloped down the sides of the pit at about a 45-degree angle. Above this board layer was a solid grey clay layer with a few sandstone rock inclusions. This clay layer did not extend to the edges of the pit. Rather, considerable fire-reddened soil ringed the edges of the pit at this level and extended from the 20 in. to 32 in. depths where it merged with the beginning of the buried wooden boards. Overlying the grey clay was a deep layer of black humic soil and charcoal. This extended to the surface of the pit where a heavy concentration of uncut sandstone rocks occurred. These rocks extended to a depth of 24 in. below surface and were arranged in a general circular pattern 7 ft. to 8 ft. in diameter. Seventy-four of these rocks were plotted on the ground plan.
Only one large subcylindrical bead and small bone fragments were recovered from pit 9; they came from the upper level of black soil and sandstone rock.
Definite burning occurred in pit 9, but only along the buried wooden board level. What was the function of the pit? The general pattern of the rock concentration in the upper level suggests some type of forge, but the lack of fire-reddening in the underlying clay layer is unaccountable. The rocks at the bottom of the pit are also clearly separated from those in the upper level and pose yet other problems.
If pit 9 was a forge in its later years, was it formerly just a cellar pit? The answers to these questions remain conjectural.
Clearly pit 9 dates to the period of Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort. The pit cut through the trench feature marking the fort's original southern exterior palisade, and overlapped area within the extension and the original fort. This superimposition indicates that pit 9 was dug after the extension was made to the fort by the Hudson's Bay Company. It seems reasonable to believe that pit 9 was contemporary with building V, the Hudson's Bay Company structure which encompassed the pit.
Pit 10 (Figs. 3; 18; 27; 28) was a large oval pit along the east side of the fort, 5.5 ft. west of the east wall of the exterior palisade. It lay within the bounds of the original fort and had a complex sequence of stratigraphy. Six inches below the present sod surface, pit 10 measured 15 ft. east-west by 13 ft. north-south with an extension to its south edge measuring 7 ft. north-south by 5 ft. east-west. This extension is here referred to as the "dump adjoining pit 10."
At the 8 in. to 10 in. depth of excavation, certain particulars become more clearly defined. First, the southern extension to pit 10 took on a clearly patterned "beaver-tail" appearance with measurements of 3 ft. north-south by 3 ft. east-west. Second, the western half of the pit proved to be a shallow depression extending eastward 7 ft. from marker pin I at the west side of the feature. This depression was stratified and merged with pit 10 proper. Third, the limits of pit 10 proper were established and revealed a square pit with a diameter of 6.5 ft. The side walls of pit 10 sloped gently inward. All of these features are well illustrated in Figure 28.
By means of further cross-sectioning through the centre of the pit, both east-west and north-south, we found pit 10 to be a circular pit 6.5 ft. wide with a flat bottom 4.5 ft. below the present ground surface. Adjoining its southern end was a shallow 2 ft. deep pit shaped like a beaver tail, which possibly represented a step-down type of entrance to the main pit. West of pit 10 proper, debris filled the hollows of a natural depression ranging from 11 in. to 16 in. deep.
The stratigraphy of pit 10 continued into both the beaver tail extension and the western depression. Progressing from the bottom upward, the first type of fill lining the flat bottom of the pit was a layer of mixed white sand and clay. This layer ranged from 4 in. to 6 in. in depth. Above this layer was a deep 6 in. to 18 in. layer of black sandy humic soil mixed with grey ash and charcoal. Many artifacts were recovered from this zone. Of note is the continuity of this layer into the beaver-tail extension adjoining the south end of the pit. Capping this layer was a solid lens of black humus 1.5 in. to 2 in. thick which possibly represents an old sod line. This layer extended from pit 10 over the beaver-tail extension and westward over the depression. Above this in pit 10 proper was a pocket of white sand and clay localized in the lower central and eastern sectors of the pit. This pocket was not found outside this area. Above the pocket was a 2 in. to 4 in. thick layer of grey-brown silty sand, which continued outside pit 10 proper to directly overlie the lower black humus lens in both the depression and the beaver-tail extension. This level was overlain by a second solid black humus line 1 in. to 4 in. thick which also covered all features associated with pit 10. In the main pit, the second upper black humus line was covered by a deep 30 in. layer of mixed sandy grey ash, charcoal, sandstone rocks, rotton wood and artifacts. This layer extended to the present ground surface and covered the surrounding area with a thin 3-in. veneer.
The interpretation and dating of pit 10 remains relative in terms of the artifacts recovered from it. Pit 10 proper produced 1 slate pencil in the lowest level; 28 seed beads from below the lower humus lens; 643 large subcylindrical beads; 1 tubular bead; 2 globular beads; 5 nails; 1 cut silver strip; 2 sheet copper fragments; 2 antler tines; 2 melted lead pieces; 41 pieces of lead shot; 1 brass pin; 1 silver hawk bell; 7 clay pipe stem fragments; 1 clay pipe bowl portion; 1 double-gilt button at the 35 in. depth; portions of a round green bottle in the upper 6 in. plough zone; 1 portion of black basalt stoneware from the same zone, and a half portion of a freshwater bivalve shell at a similar depth. Dates for all of these artifacts fall within the 1800 to 1825 period.
The artifacts from the beaver-tail extension adjoining pit 10 are of a similar nature. Recovered were 144 large subcylindrical beads; 2 barrel beads; 1 tubular bead; 7 seed beads, and 11 pieces of lead shot.
The nails and seed beads from pit 10 would indicate that it dates early in the history of the fort. The nails are all early varieties dating from 1800 to 1825. In a similar manner, seed beads appear to be early. Aside from the 104 specimens from building I, which is considered to predate the Hudson's Bay Company occupation, pit 10 produces the next highest total. The 35 seed beads from pit 10 and the extension adjoining its south end all came from the second lowest layer of black humus, ash and charcoal in the pit. This layer also underlay a lens of solid humus which conceivably represents a former sod line.
The following is presented as a plausible reconstruction explaining the various stratigraphic layers of this pit. Pit 10 was originally dug as a flat-bottomed cellar pit with a step-down extension entrance, a type of entrance which was not present in any of the other known Hudson's Bay Company pits in the fort. At some later date the pit was partially filled in and a sod horizon became established. This soil horizon was depressed in the centre of the pit. An attempt to level this depression involved further filling with white sand and clay in the pit over the sod horizon. Then a layer of grey-brown silty sand washed over the whole area. A second, thin humus sod horizon subsequently became established and continued in existence until eventual dismantling activities provided a heavy concentration of ash, rock, wood and charcoal debris, which helped fill and level the pit to the present ground surface.
It seems reasonable to assign pit 10 to North West Company authorship on the basis of its shape and the artifacts recovered from its lowest levels. In all probability the lowest solid humus stratum represents a sod line formed at the end of this company's occupation. Subsequent filling of the pit probably rests with the Hudson's Bay Company, which continued to fill the pit until some period of dismantling. The period of renovation of the original southern end of the fort for an extension, or the final tearing down process of 1864 are two possible periods during which debris would be available such as is found in the upper levels of pit 10. The nature of the few datable artifacts from the upper levels of pit 10 argues in favour of an immediately post-1825 period for such dismantling activities.
This reconstruction of events seems highly plausible and as such yields a little more data on the early nature of the fort. It does not seem reasonable that pit 10 had any association with building VI other than simply underlying it.
This large pit (Figs. 3; 19; 29; 30) along the northeast side of the fort has been partially described with reference to building VII. Before the present sod layer was broken, a very profuse growth of clover was growing in this area and also over pit 10. Six inches below ground surface, pit 11 appeared as a large black circular feature 14 ft. north-south by 12 ft. 9 in. east-west. At the 9 in. depth many of the diagnostic features of pit 11 appeared.
Pit 11 was essentially a rectangular pit 9 ft. long by 7 ft. wide oriented north-south. It had generally straight sides extending 4.5 ft. deep to a flat floor. As mentioned previously, it housed the subterranean log building VII, filled in during the Hudson's Bay Company period of occupation.
Fifteen logs with upper hewn surfaces lined the bottom of the pit forming a wooden floor. Filled above this floor was a layer of mixed grey-brown ashy sand. Overlying this layer was a thin 3 in. layer of black humus, boards, grey ash and charcoal. Many of the boards in this upper layer were charred only on the underside and thus it is not improbable that this layer represents part of the building's fallen roof. Above this was another layer of mixed grey-brown ashy sand sterile of artifacts. This level was succeeded by a thin layer of brown sandy clay. Grey sandy fill mixed with many wood fragments formed a deep layer above the clay lens. The next level contained dark brown sandy soil with charcoal flecks and many pieces of punk wood and small 2-in. diameter sticks. This was overlain by a grey ash-clay concentrate with large sandstone rock inclusions. Dark black humus with pieces of charcoal completed the sequence to ground level.
Artifacts from pit 11 occurred either directly on the wood floor in the lowest levels or in the grey ashy concentrate and black humus at the top of the pit. As mentioned earlier, the fragmentary horse bones found at the bottom suggest that pit 11 and its subterranean building possibly functioned as a cold storage repository. The 25 artifacts from the upper levels include 6 nails; 5 clay pipe bowl portions; 4 clay pipe stem fragments; 1 brass bangler; 3 tubular beads; 2 seed beads; 1 barrel bead; 1 piece of lead shot; 1 sharpening file, and 1 steel clasp-knife blade. The nails from this pit date between 1810 and 1825, but probably represent stray items dumped into the pit from another area along with the ash and sand stone rocks.
This oblong pit (Figs. 3; 31) was located in the northeastern end of the fort, 5 ft. south of the north wall of the exterior palisade and 5 ft. west of the eastern exterior palisade. At ground surface it measured 12.5 ft. north-south by 5 ft. east-west. Maximum depth of the pit was 3 ft.
Pit 12 contained many thin strata and exhibited the same two former humus lenses as recorded in pit 10. Lining the pit's irregular flat bottom, but primarily located in the centre of the pit, were traces of bark. Above this was an 18 in. layer of sand with flecks of wood and bark scattered throughout. A small iron keg hoop, a single nail and a dolomitic cobble whetstone appeared in this level. Overlying this stratum was another composed of dark brown sand and charcoal. This was followed by a 2 in. layer of solid black humus which probably represents a former sod line as in pit 10. Also similar to pit 10 is the occurrence of an overlying layer of brown silty sand and clay underlying yet another solid black humus lens. This section of the stratigraphy in pit 12 duplicates that found in pit 10. Above the second humus lens was a layer of brown sand and charcoal filled with animal bone. The unfragmented nature of this bone stands in direct contrast to the extremely fine fragments recorded from pits 1, 2 and 6 along the western side of the fort. A large board 12 in. wide also lay in this stratum oriented north-south along the east side of the pit. The final upper stratum of fill was composed of mixed sand, clay and ash.
The duplication of two buried humus lenses in pits 10 and 12 is of note. If, in fact, these lenses do represent former sod lines, then it is reasonable to infer that the lower levels of pit 12 date from pre-Hudson's Bay Company occupation. As a meagre indication corroborating this inference, the one nail recovered from the pit is an early pre-1800 wrought clinch rosehead type. It comes from below the first buried humus lens as does the small keg hoop.
By the same method of reasoning, everything above the second and higher humus lens would date to the Hudson's Bay Company period. This would include all the discarded bone recovered from the pit, one of which was a buffalo scapula. Pit 12 appears to have been a genuine refuse pit throughout its history.
This circular pit (Figs. 3; 32), 3 ft. in diameter, also lay within the northeast corner of the fort. Its position was 9 ft. south of the north wall of the exterior palisade and 28.5 ft. west of the east wall. Maximum depth of the pit was 22 in.
Stratigraphy in pit 13 was not complex and few artifacts were found in it. The bottom of the pit was lined with rotten bark or disintegrated wooden boards. A 5 in. long complete clay pipe stem was found at this level. Overlying the basal lining was a fill of dark brown and black sandy humus with small pieces of wood. This level produced an iron strap hinge. Above this was a definite but thin layer of short wooden boards. These were overlaid by brown sandy soil which continued to the present ground surface. Some burned animal bone came from this upper layer of fill.
The artifacts from pit 13 are of little help in dating the feature. Obviously it simply represents a refuse deposit. Side wall slumps of sand occurred in the lower levels.
This oval, flat-bottomed pit (Figs. 3; 33; 34) lay within the centre of building V, just south of the trench feature marking the original southern palisade of the fort. It measured 4.5 ft. east-west by 3.5 ft north-south, and had a maximum depth of 34 in. The side-walls of the pit were essentially straight.
At the very bottom of pit 14 were three wooden logs 3.5 in. in diameter which were spaced 7 in. apart and lay horizontally over the length of the pit. These logs were covered by a 6 in. to 12 in. deep layer of brown sand containing charcoal flecks. Six iron hoops nested inside one another lay horizontally in this layer at a depth of 28 in. below ground surface. Above the iron hoops was a thick 4 in. layer of wooden boards which in turn was covered by a thin layer of black charcoal. Clay, silty sand and more charcoal followed. This was then covered by a mixture of brown sand, clay, charcoal and portions of roots and short sticks. A layer of grey clay covered the pit top and was followed by the humus and sod of the present ground surface.
The six iron hoops were the only artifacts recovered in pit 14. Their neatly folded and horizontally nested position inside one another precludes the possibility that they ringed a barrel sunk in the pit. A more random dispersal would be expected if such were the case. Also, flat boards extended almost directly on top of this hoop nest. In a later section of the report Dr. Dove discusses early nail-making procedures and states that iron for nails was commonly purchased in hoops. A reasonable interpretation here is that the hoops in pit 14 represent a buried and forgotten iron cache intended for making nails.
Pit 14 clearly lay within the extended area of the fort; it also lay within building V erected by the Hudson's Bay Company. It seems reasonable to assume that pit 14 was associated with this building and that the iron hoops were buried by Company employees.
Pit 15 (Figs. 3; 35) was a 2-ft. square feature sunk 19 in. below the floor of building II. It lay 8 ft. south of the double-hearth fireplace and 26 ft. east of the west end wall of building II. The sides and bottom of this pit were flat.
Fill in Pit 15 was essentially homogeneous. A 3 in. bed of sterile mixed grey sand and clay lined the bottom. This was overlain by a one inch layer of wood and charcoal, perhaps representing a false bottom. More mixed grey sand and clay continued to the pit top where a small pocket of wood chips rested. This sand and clay fill above the thin wooden floor produced 40 artifacts.
The artifacts from pit 15 include many items of a personal nature. Recovered were 13 pieces of lead shot; 5 clay pipe stem fragments; 1 clay pipe bowl portion; 4 nails; 2 steel fishhooks; 1 iron axe wedge; 2 black blade gunflints; 1 plain iron button; 1 antler tine tip; 9 large sub-cylindrical beads, and 1 tubular bead.
Pit 15 has many affinities with pit 4 and 5 also in building II. As speculation, it seems possible that these three features represent personal cache pits near, if not under, individual sleeping quarters.
This pit first appeared as a circular feature 20 in. in diameter, but upon subsequent cross-section a large 10 in. square post was revealed. This was post 42 in the northern sector of building IV which may have been associated with interior divisions in that building, or a relic of a former time period. The circular nature of the pit was different from the usual rectangular shape exhibited in Hudson's Bay Company style of architecture.
This large 12-ft. diameter pit (Figs. 3; 36; 37) lay within the northeastern end of building II. It reached a maximum depth of 7 ft. below present ground surface in an unusual funnel shape. The lower 2.5 ft. of the pit was a 2.5 ft. wide shaft. At the 4.5 ft. depth, a definite shelf-like feature extended into the north wall of the pit. These features are intelligible with the realization that pit 17 was a latrine pit.
Few artifacts were found in this pit, but there was a stratigraphic sequence of fill. The bottom 2 ft. to 2.5 ft. was filled with decomposed matter, grey sandy clay and flecks of wood and charcoal. The extension above and to the north side of the lower levels had a wooden board lining and was covered with mixed white sand, wood and charcoal flecks. In all probability this extension represents a digging platform used to reach and dig the lower shaft part of pit 17. Slumped into the pit at a higher level in V-shaped fashion was yet another layer of wood, charcoal and fire-reddened sand. This was overlain by a layer of brown sand with more charcoal and flecks of wood. Filling the upper depression of the pit was a heavy layer of grey ash, charcoal and numerous sandstone rocks. Many of these rocks were round and irregular while others were purposely split. They probably represent debris from the double hearth fireplace in building II. Eleven large subcylindrical beads came from this level of the pit.
Pit 17 lay within building II and appears to have functioned as an indoor latrine for Hudson's Bay Company employees. Intruding into the southern edge of the pit was a large 9 in. square post set up in typical Hudson's Bay Company fashion. It seems probable that this post (61) was part of some type of internal division around pit 17 inside building II.
There is an additional feature to pit 17 which is of note. Its northern edge clearly cut through and superimposed the southern extension of pit 18 immediately to the north. This overlapping of pit 17 conclusively indicates that it dates later than pit 18. The full significance of this sequence of pits will become more apparent with the following discussion of pit 18.
This pit (Fig. 38) was located in the north portion of the fort, 18 ft. south of the north wall of the exterior palisade, and immediately adjacent to and underlying the northeastern end of building II. Significantly, pit 18 had a beaver-tail extension to the south side as did pit 10.
Pit 18 measured 9 ft. square with the beaver-tail extension to the south being 4 ft. east-west by 2 ft. north-south. Depth of this extension was 2 ft. and that of the main pit 4 ft. The bottom of pit 18 was flat, and the north wall vertical.
Fill within pit 18 was relatively homogeneous. Wooden boards lined the bottom and were covered by a very mixed layer of brown sand, ash, wood and charcoal. This continued to the upper levels of the pit. No artifacts were found in pit 18 except some broken bone from near the surface.
The superposition of pit 17 over the south end of the extension to pit 18 clearly indicated the temporal priority of the latter pit. As noted, pit 18 had many structural similarities to pit 10, believed to be of North West Company authorship. The occurrence of a step-down beaver tail entrance in both pits is a feature not found in any of the known Hudson's Bay Company pits in the fort. It is, therefore, considered to be characteristic of the North West Company.
It seems reasonable to believe that pit 18 was a cellar pit. As such, it may be queried whether building I is the structure which originally sat over pit 18. Building I is not of typical Hudson's Bay Company architecture and may have been shifted to its present position from the vicinity of pit 18. This inference and that of pit 18 and building I being of North West Company authorship seem plausible.
This oval pit (Figs. 3; 39) lay in the north sector of the fort adjacent to pit 13 and north of pit 18. It measured 5.5 ft. north-south by 3.5 ft. east-west, with depth of only one foot. The bottom the pit was basin-shaped.
Pit 19 had three layers of fill. Covering the north bottom half of the pit was a brown sandy clay level. This was overlain by a layer of mixed sand, wood and clay, with bone inclusions. The top layer was composed of more brown sandy clay that produced two portions of clay pipe stem.
Nothing can be inferred about the temporal provenience of this pit
A 24 ft. long by 5 ft. wide feature lay in the northeast corner of the fort between pits 12 and 13 (Fig. 3). The south end gradually tapered to a rounded point while the north end was more square. The feature first appeared 7 in. below the present ground surface and only extended another 3 in. deep. No artifacts were found.
In cross-section, this feature appeared only as a soil stain of grey brown colour in contrast to the surrounding sterile white sand. Little can be said of this stain feature except that it had the general shape of a boat. Perhaps a boat did rest over this area with some type of preservative dripping into the underlying sand. Interpretation of the stain feature must remain inconclusive.
A very rich cache of glass trade beads (Fig. 3) was found along the east side of the fort, 2.5 ft. west of the east wall of the exterior palisade and 42 ft. south of the north corner bastion. This cache appeared in a circular feature 7 in. in diameter, buried 15 in. to 21 in. below the present ground surface. The feature appeared as a black ring bordering the sides and bottom of the cache, with grey sand and the beads filling the centre. This suggests that the beads were contained in some type of bag or small sack.
A total of 7,094 large subcylindrical beads came from the bead cache, 4,643 of which are white and the remainder blue. This enormous quantity constitutes 65.5 per cent of the total of 10,832 beads recovered from the site.
Dump Against East Palisade
Located 4.5 ft. north of the bead cache and against the east wall of the exterior palisade was another type of refuse area producing a large number of glass trade beads (Fig. 3). This area was a dump measuring 4 ft. 3 in. north-south by 4 ft. east-west. It had a maximum depth of 13 in. and a large round 9 in. post, 55, lay at its northwest corner.
A total of 2,309 glass trade beads came from this dump feature. Practically all beads came from under fallen boards lying 7 in. deep along the inside of the east wall of the exterior palisade. The fill beneath these boards containing the beads was a mixture of grey-brown sand and clay.
In view of the large concentration of glass beads found in this dump and the nearby bead cache, it seems plausible to believe that some type of barter window may have existed in the eastern palisade in this vicinity. No other explanation seems suitable to explain the localized provenience of these bead concentrations.
The base for a large stationary fur press (Figs. 3; 40) represents one of the most interesting features in Rocky Mountain House. This well-preserved fur press lay 8 ft. east of building III and 10 ft. north of building IV in the central western side of the fort.
The press was constructed of two large 15 in. diameter posts set vertically in rectangular pits opposite one another, 45 in. apart centre to centre. One post sat on the north side and the other on the south. Tightly wedged between these upright posts was a heavy flat wooden block 28 in. long north-south by 20 in. wide and 5 in. thick. This block had been sawn to length from a spruce log with both the top and underside surfaces hewn flat. No doubt this block formed the basal mount against which furs were pressed flat.
The block also rested on two short 4 in. thick sawn planks oriented east-west parallel to one another. The southern most plank measured 4 ft. 10 in. long by 10 in. wide and was pointed at both ends. The other plank measured 11 in. wide by 4 ft. 5 in. long and had slightly rounded ends. Both planks had been set in a shallow rectangular pit 58 in. long east-west by 30 in. wide. Unmistakably they would offer greater rigidity to the mounting block and prevent it from sinking into the ground under pressure of a press.
Both of the large vertical side posts had been chopped and sawn off level with the top of the mounting block. This indicated that the superstructure of the press was dismantled. W.H. Dall sketched a similar style of fur press in 1867 at Fort Yukon, operated by the Hudson's Bay Company (Leechman 1948: 15). In this sketch the two vertical side posts rise about 5 ft. to 6 ft. high with a crossbar between them just below the top. The sides of the vertical posts are also slotted for a distance of about 3 ft. up from the ground. Four smaller round logs are shown inserted horizontally through the side-slots, and ride down upon a thick wooden block which rests on top of a basal mounting block. In all probability this same style of construction characterized the fur press at Rocky Mountain House.
From the above description and the presence of the large rectangular pits dug for the erection of the two side posts, the Rocky Mountain House fur press is attributed to the Hudson's Bay Company. Its location between buildings III and IV also makes sense with the inferences that these structures represent a storehouse and a trading room. Furs and hides traded could be baled on the nearby press and stored in building III to await shipment downriver to Edmonton.
Something may also be learned about the size of the bales pressed. Harmon (1957: 48) and Back (1836: 32) record that fur bales were pressed into compact 90-pound pieces easily portaged by one man. The width of the mounting block at Rocky Mountain House indicates that the bales pressed here were no wider than 28 in. Their lengths cannot be calculated with certainty.
Surface Ash Deposits
Four major deposits of grey burned ash (Fig. 3) lay exposed within the fort. These probably represent areas where rotten timbers and debris were burned during renovation or dismantling activities.
The first concentration of burned ash lay north of building II behind building I, covering the top of pit 3 and much of the surrounding area. Ash in this area was 5 in. to 6 in. deep beneath the present ground surface. It seems reasonable to infer that this ash was formed when buildings I and II were dismantled and burned at the end of the fort's occupation.
A second ash deposit lay 2 ft. east of the fur press. This produced one wrought iron roseheaded nail of an early type. Conceivably this ash deposit was formed when the fort was renovated and enlarged.
The third major ash deposit lay along and under the north wall of building IV near large post 43. It is obvious from the superposition of post 43 that this ash deposit predates the erection of building IV. Two nails from the deposit post-date 1810 and an early rim of grey glazed stoneware, 1800-50, was also recovered. Thus it may be inferred that this ash deposit dates to the time of the fort's enlargement when former buildings were dismantled.
A fourth ash deposit lay 2 ft. north of the north wall of building V. This deposit also lay within the bounds of the original fort. One recovered fragment of clear bottle glass and two of green bottle glass do not aid in dating this ash deposit.
The paucity of nails in these ash deposits is noteworthy, and suggests salvage of the nails for future use.
Wood Chip Concentrations
Five areas of wood chip concentrations (Fig. 3) complete the description of features in Rocky Mountain House. These concentrations mark activity areas where axe hewing and chopping took place.
One extensive concentration of wood chips lay behind the single-hearth fireplace of building I. Another was under the floorboards in the south-central area of building II. Yet another lay 8 ft. south and in front of post 49 of building II. The fourth concentration rested in pit 7, and a fifth lay in the trench feature at the southeast end of the fort within building V.
It is apparent from the distribution of these wood chip concentrations that some were formed in the process of constructing buildings, cutting firewood and, ultimately, during the dismantling of the fort.