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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 6

The Excavation and Historical Identification of Rocky Mountain House

by William C. Noble

Artifact Descriptions (continued)


The following table represents a synthesis of the artifacts from Rocky Mountain House ascribable to personal or house hold use. As a unit, 14 different commodities are represented despite the fact that they constitute only 1.8 per cent of the total artifact sample. The clay pipes are included as personal items rather than trade articles because of their low frequency and restricted proveniences.


The fragments of clay pipes recovered during excavation include bowl and stem portions, some of which were possible to mend and reconstruct. In the following the author's analysis is complemented by comments from a report made by the late Mr. H. Gieger Omwake (1964) who examined some of the typical specimens from Rocky Mountain House through a series of photographs.

Table 1: Personal and Household Items

Clay pipe bowls and fragments25

Clay pipe stem fragments104



Lead cross1


Watch winder1

Hawk bells2

Copper arm band or bracelet1




Glass vials2

Glass bottles5

Glass bottle fragments17

Ceramic fragments9


42 Banglers and pipe fragments, a, two large nested brass banglers from building III; b, two smaller brass banglers; c, clay pipe bowl with TD spur and TD scroll on back; d, complete bowl from pit 8 with TD on spur; e, bowl portion with TD on spur; f-g, flat-based and unlettered pipe bowls.
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Pipe Bowls

A total of 25 pipe bowl fragments was recovered during excavation, five of which represent intact or semi-intact specimens suitable for detailed examination. Classification of these five bowls reveals three distinct types, two of which are variations of the TD pipe.

Type 1. Flat-Based and Unlettered. This bowl type is represented by two excava ted specimens (Fig. 42, f-g). The base of the bowl has no projecting spur, and the bowl as a whole is devoid of any distinguishing maker's mark or lettering. On one of the specimens, mottled blue transfer paint appears on the lower portion of the bowl and adjoining stem segment; the other specimen is completely plain. Both bowls project obtusely from the stem at an angle of about 105 degrees; they also have a bowl height of 4 cm. and measure 2.1 cm. in diameter. The provenience of the two excavated specimens, recovered close to one another, was south of the double-hearth fireplace in the central area of building II, a building attributable to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort (1821-34).

Type 2. Spurred and Scroll TD. Two specimens of this type of TD pipe are represented in the Rocky Mountain House bowl sample (Fig. 42, c). The type is characterized by a projecting basal spur on which the letters T and D are impressed in relief on opposite sides. When the pipe bowl is held in vertical smoking position the letter T appears on the left side of the spur and the letter D on the right. In addition, this bowl type has a hand-impressed stamp on the back of the bowl facing the smoker. The design of this stamp includes a circle within which are the two letters T and D accompanied by scroll-like floral ornamentation both above and below the letters. The bowl projects from the stem at an angle of 110 degrees, measures 2 cm. in diameter and has a height of 2.4 cm. This height is noticeably less than that of bowl type 1, described above.

One of the specimens of this type of TD pipe was found within the south central area of building II, while the other was recovered in the open area between building II and the north corner bastion.

Type 3. Spurred TD. One complete specimen of this variety of TD pipe concludes the analyzable sample of pipe bowls (Fig. 42, d). This type is characterized by having a completely plain bowl. This spur is identical to that described above for bowl type 2, and similarly has the impressed letters T and D in relief on opposite sides. The bowl protrudes from the stem at an angle of 110 degrees, measures 2.1 cm. in diameter, and has a height of 3.4 cm. The provenience of this specimen in pit 8 just outside the south gateway of the extended fort indicates that this pipe was in use and discarded during the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort.

Table 2: Concentration of Clay Pipe Bowl Portions

Building II7

Building II (pit 4)2

Building II (pit 15)1

Building V1

North corner bastion1

South gateway1

North corner of fort1

Open centre of fort1

Pit 23

Pit 81

Pit 101

Pit 11 (ash fill)5


In addition to the 5 analyzable bowl portions, 20 other fragments were found at Rocky Mountain House. None could be joined together, but their distribution proves useful. Considered together with the five analyzable specimens, the distribution of pipe bowl fragments shows a close association with the buildings and refuse pits situated around the north, east and southeast perimeters of the fort. This evidence supports the inference that these were the main areas of habitation within the fort where pipes were smoked, broken and discarded. The following tabulation lists the distributive concentrations of pipe bowls and fragments at Rocky Mountain House.

Pipe Stems

Much more numerous in number than the pipe bowl fragments are the 104 recovered portions of pipe stems from Rocky Mountain House. Of these fragments, 86 represent mid-stem sections, 15 are mouth pieces and 3 are badly fragmented stem-bowl junctures.

As with the bowl fragments, a plotting of the distribution of stem pieces from the fort is of interest. A similar close association of the stem fragments to pits and buildings is noted (see Table 3).

Without exception, all the stem fragments are devoid of any maker's mark or moulded stamp. Two specimens, however, both found along the east wall of the north corner bastion, display the mottled deep blue transfer painted pattern described previously on one of the type 1 pipe bowls. These two painted stem fragments do not fit together, but have a consistent stem bore diameter of 4/64 in.

One other stem fragment, a mouth piece section, has a red paint or enamel coating over it. This red-tipped stem fragment, 3.6 cm. long by 9 mm. wide, has a bore diameter of 5/64 in. It was recovered loose in the northwest corner of the fort. Omwake (1964: 16) notes that,

The "red paint or enamel" which appears on one stem fragment is probably the residue from some substance into which the stems were dipped to prevent the lips of the smoker from clinging to the clay. Usually the preparation was a secret known only to a few masters of the shop. Analysis of one such concretion used in a French pipe factory about 1775 indicated that protection to the lips was provided by a kind of wax emulsified in a solution of extremely fine pulverized pipe clay, soap, gum arabic and water. Probably, all sorts of solutions were devised for this purpose.


Because of the late occupation date of Rocky Mountain House (1799-1834), measurement of pipe stem bore diameters for dating purposes is of little use. The pipe stem dating technique, first devised by Harrington (1954) and later refined by Binford (1961), yields reasonably accurate results for the period 1620 to 1800; after this time it breaks down. Tests on the Rocky Mountain House pipe stem bore diameters gave obviously inaccurate results.

Table 3: Concentration of Clay Pipe Stem Portions

Building I10

Building II14

Building II (pit 4)9

Building II (pit 5)1

Building II (pit 6)5

Building III3

Building III (pit 6)13

Building IV6

Building VI3

North corner bastion4

North corner of fort5

Open centre of fort2

South gateway1

South corner bastion1

Pit 25

Pit 31

Pit 81

Pit 107

Pit 11 (ash fill)4

Pit 131

Pit 192

Outside fort6


Comparison of the Rocky Mountain House clay pipe bowl specimens with those recovered from other western forts must necessarily be limited, due to the fact that most of the historic western sites excavated and published to date lie south of the 49th parallel in the United States. Archaeological research on the western forts of Canada is in its infancy.

The pipe bowls from Rocky Mountain House are distinctly different from those recovered from American western forts of the 1799-1864 period. Different types of pipes and greater variety appear on the American sites. In westward progression from the Great Lakes the number of pipe type varieties decreases. Such differences in kind and degree are probably associated with differences between the separate trading companies involved, their sources of supply and the related distances of transport.

The specific differences and similarities between the Rocky Mountain House specimens and other western forts are significant. For instance, at Fort Mackinac (1781-1895) in Michigan, 25 different pipe bowl types have been identified (Petersen 1963; 7). Only one of these, plain heelless bowl, conforms to one of the types at Rocky Mountain House. Similarly, the pipes recovered from Kipp's Post (1826-30) in north central North Dakota and Fort Lookout II (1831-51) in South Dakota are quite different. Fort Lookout has three varieties of pipe bowls, primarily of the WD type (Miller 1960: 65). No such pipes were encountered at Rocky Mountain House. The Kipp's Post pipes include two varieties of fluted bowls, two varieties of combined TD wreath - WG spur bowls, and an ill-defined miscellaneous type. Again, none of these types appears at Rocky Mountain House, although there are general similarities in size and shape between the TD bowls from both sites.

Omwake (1964: 5, 9, 12, 13) notes that the varieties of TD pipes from Rocky Mountain House and Kipp's Post are shorter and squatter, although not noticeably of smaller diameter than TD pipes recovered from British campsites of American Revolutionary War provenience. These earlier TD pipes, he believes, were probably manufactured by Thomas Dormer of London. It is also evident that the Rocky Mountain House and Kipp's Post TD pipes are different from the 13-star TDs of the War of 1812, believed to be patriotic American products. Omwake thus concludes that the Kipp's Post and Rocky Mountain House TD pipes are of English manufacture.

The available evidence would certainly indicate that the Kipp's Post TD pipes are an English type. They carry the dual marking of TD and WG, a practice of probable sales significance, in which a craftsman simply added his own mark to an already well established mark (Omwake 1964: 8). The TD mark had acquired a significance unapproached by any other pipe mark, and eventually became a literal synonym for "white clay pipe." Omwake (1964: 12) considers William Giles of Liverpool (1802-? ) as the probable craftsman for the dually marked TD pipes from Kipp's Post. Of more remote possibility is the less well known Gain and Sons manufacturer of Hull (1826-? ).

But the Rocky Mountain House TD pipe bowls are neither dually marked nor as high as the 3.8 cm. (1.5 in.) bowls from Kipp's Post. Bowl diameters and bowl-stem angles, however, are approximately the same. The TD pipes from Rocky Mountain House appear from Hudson's Bay Company contexts while Kipp's Post was an outlet for the Columbia (Tilton) Fur Company. This latter company was organized by disgruntled employees let out during the 1821 merger of the Hudson's Bay and North West companies. Consequently, it is improbable that the Hudson's Bay Company would allow a competitive rival access to their supplies or that both companies drew from the same pipe manufacturing source. The question remains, from where and whom did the Hudson's Bay Company draw their TD pipes such as appear at Rocky Mountain House?

This question has by no means a certain answer. The Rocky Mountain House TD pipes date after 1800 and before 1850 when pipe bowl sizes grew steadily larger and shapes became increasingly more like those of modern briar pipes (Omwake 1964:13). The pipe proveniences are attributable to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort, thereby bracketing a time period between 1821 and 1834. During this period, there is only one English manufacturer of TD pipes recorded, Cain and Sons of Hull who set up shop in 1826 (Omwake 1964:4). But the TD mark was also in use in Holland where it was controlled by the pipe-makers' guild. The guild assigned the mark in 1779 to Cornelis Prince, who presumably held it until 1822 when the mark was reassigned to Johannes de Loos. How long De Loos used the mark is as yet unknown. Thus there are three possible makers for the Rocky Mountain House TD pipes from two centres — England or Holland.

The two heelless pipes from the fort might at first glance be inferred to be early versions of clay pipes because basal spurs are missing. However, there are three factors suggesting that they date between 1821 and 1850. First, their provenience is within building II of Hudson's Bay Company construction; second, these bowls are larger in height than the TD bowls and more closely resemble modern pipes; third, one of the specimens exhibits a mottled deep blue transfer paint pattern characteristic of later pipes. Thus, a date of 1821-50 does not seem unreasonable for these specimens.


The buttons from Rocky Mountain House are among the more sensitive indicators useful for dating and identifying feature associations, particularly the Hudson's Bay Company buttons. Unfortunately there is no standard classification of button types which includes all the varieties from this site. The general classification by Olsen (1963) is useful as far as it goes, and to a more limited extent South's (1964) classification of button types is also applicable. Both sources are considered in the following button descriptions for the 27 analyzable specimens excavated.

Sixteen decorated buttons and 11 plain specimens were recovered from the site. Of the decorated buttons, 10 are silver or silver plate, 2 are gilded, 1 is of copper, 1 of copper and silver, 1 of copper and mother of pearl, and 1 of ceramics. Of the plain buttons, six were iron and five were brass. None of these specimens, either decorated or plain, has sewing perforations through the disc. In all cases the buttons are circular.

43 Decorated and plain buttons. a, Hudson's Bay Company; b, gilt; c, double gilt; d, plated; e, decorated copper; f, copper and pearl; h, plain brass, type D; i, plain brass type G; j, plain iron, drilled eye; k, plain iron with cast boss; l, plain iron with wire eye.
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Hudson's Bay Company Dress Buttons.

A total of eight Hudson's Bay Company buttons is represented in the sample, three of which are of the large coat variety (21 mm. diameter) and the remainder of cuff or sleeve size (15 mm. diameter). Both button forms are silver or silver plated, bear the Company insignia on the outer face, and have the same type of eye attachment.

The Hudson's Bay Company button eye attachments are quite distinctive and different from any others in the collection. Moulded in one piece with flat disc back, the foot of the eye attachment is round and rises in dome-like fashion until cleavage on two sides forms two parallel flat shelves. These shelves are separated by an upraised dividing portion into which an iron wire loop eye is inserted.

On the convex outer face of the silver disc is moulded the distinctive Hudson's Bay Company insignia. A fox seated on his hind quarters facing the viewer's left sits atop the main crest. This crest, bounded by two rings of small upraised beads, carries the words PRO PELLE CUTEM and an elaborately interlaced monogram of the three letters HBC.

The presence and distribution of the Hudson's Bay Company buttons concisely establishes a Hudson's Bay Company occupancy at the fort. Two of the large coat-size specimens come from building II, one from pit 4 and the other from just west of the double-hearth fireplace. A third large specimen was found five feet outside the south end of the extended fort. Of the five smaller versions of Hudson's Bay Company buttons, two also came from building II. Here one was found in pit 4 while the other was lying in the central part of the building. The other small Company buttons turned up between the west end of building II and the north end of building III. The final specimen was found in the area between building II and pit 11. Clearly the button associations are direct proof of the Hudson's Bay Company's occupancy of the fort and residence in building II.

Gilt Button

A single specimen of a gilt button occurs in the sample (Fig. 43, b). The disc is small with a diameter of 13 mm. and has a plain, flat exterior face. Although the disc is of iron, it was once covered with a thin layer of gold or gold-like substance, hence the occurrence of the stamped word GILT in capital letters on the flat back of the button. Below this word further decoration is present on the button's reverse side. Flanking each of the two side margins is a wreath of laurel leaves branching in four directions from a central stem. Underlying these side wreaths in turn are three six-pointed stars, spaced equidistant from one another, and bordering the bottom of the button in a position directly opposite the word GILT at the top. These designs are also stamped within shallow concavities. The well-soldered iron loop eye is brazed to the disc without any accompanying foot. The provenience of this gilded button is from pit 5 within building II, definitely within a Hudson's Bay Company context. As such, it should date between 1821 and 1834. Ford (1943: 206) remarks that,

The popularity of the gilt buttons lasted from the time of George III until electrogilding, discovered in 1840, so cheapened the quality that all demand for them ceased. Electrogilding was not so durable as the older methods of plating and tarnished more easily, and there is no wonder these buttons lost their appeal — they were an altogether inferior product.

Double Gilt Button

This single button is very much like that described above except that its base is brass (Fig. 43, c). Both the obverse and reverse faces are flat and the disc diameter measures 14 mm. While the obverse face is devoid of any decoration, the reverse side carries the stamped signet DOUBLE GILT in capital letters. These words are within two shallow encircling bands, one separating the words from the outer rim of the button and the other between them and the wire eye shank. The word DOUBLE overlies and is separated from the word GILT by an eight-pointed star at each end of the word. No foot is present on an otherwise well-soldered eye. This gilded specimen is from the 35 in. depth of pit 10 within building VI.

Plated Button

Another brass button bearing decoration and insignia is represented in the sample (Fig. 43, d). This small specimen of 14 mm. diameter has a slightly convex exterior face in the middle of which is a finely etched star design composed of eight intersecting thin lines. The lines of this star do not extend to the button's margin. On the reverse side of the button, seated within shallow curved depressions, are two other stamped designs in relief. The uppermost insignia bears the word PLATED in capital letters and is flanked at either end by an arrow pointing inward toward the word. At the bottom of this same side of the button in another shallow, curved depression is a decoration composed of two arrows pointing centrally toward an intermediate plus sign. Although no evidence remains of a plating substance over this button, it seems reasonable to believe it was silver plated as opposed to being gilded. The soldered eye attachment has no foot.

The provenience of this plated button is from the east end of building V, known to date to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort.

Hollow Silver Button

This button specimen has a very distinctive decoration and method of manufacture. It is made of a single piece of thin silver foil folded so as to create a hollow interior concavity between the exterior and reverse faces of the disc. The diameter of the disc is 17 mm. On the concave reverse side of the button are two small holes each spaced apart from one another near the outer margin of the disc. These holes are for fastening purposes and perhaps imply that the hollow silver disc was used as a cap or covering over a firmer button base.

The exterior face of the hollow silver disc is ornately embossed. Fifteen spoke-like segments radiate around the disc from an upraised central hub, the centre of which is depressed. Around the rim of the button the spokes separate 15 up raised bulges which complete the exterior moulded design. No recognizable maker's mark occurs on this artifact.

The provenience of this button or button covering is from within the north corner bastion; thus it may date to the early period of the fort's occupancy.

Ceramic Button

This specimen (Fig. 45, e) is more fully described in a later section on ceramics, under the heading dealing with the decorated underglazed creamware with transfer printing. Suffice it to state here that this particular specimen is from within building II near the double-hearth fireplace; it is, therefore, from a Hudson's Bay Company context in the fort.

Decorated Copper Button

This button type is represented by a single specimen whose disc is incomplete (Fig. 43, e). The button, a large one measuring 24 mm. in diameter, is of copper, cast and moulded in one piece. The reverse side of the button is flat and plain with a fixed shank square in section and having a drilled eye.

The exterior face of the button exhibits an ornately embossed design. Around the outside margin of the disc is a single chain of small adjacent beads. Within this outer beaded circle is another chain of beads forming continuous triangular loops 1.5 mm. wide. These beaded triangles not only touch the outer bead circle but touch each of the pointed tips of a central heavily raised solid star design. Nine points of this solid star are preserved, each radiating from a common ring which encircles the shallow depressed centre of the disc. The width of the solid star from its interior to the point tips is 6 mm., and it lies 3 mm. from the centre of the button. Within the depressed shallow centre of the button there is another star design of eight radiating lines. These lines are in low relief and radiate from the exact centre of the button.

This decorated copper button came from pit 8 just outside and to the east of the south gateway of the rebuilt fort. It is, therefore, in a context datable to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation.

Copper and Silver Button

A copper and silver button measures 17 mm. in diameter and has a flat disc of silver inlaid into the copper setting of the exterior face (Fig. 43, f). The silver disc is 15 mm. wide, and other than a few deep scratches bears no stamp or design. The copper setting has gently rounded exterior shoulders which continue around to meet the flat back of the button. Stamped on the reverse side and encircling the base of the eye shank is a design of continuously interlacing stylized laurel leaves. Other than this design, no other marks appear. The eye is formed of a well-soldered loop, the shank of which is directly brazed to the copper disc without any foot. This specimen was found in the open central area of the fort.

Copper and Pearl Button

The single copper and pearl button measures 14 mm. in diameter (Fig. 43, g). it is characterized by having a mother of pearl disc inset into a copper setting on the exterior face. The pearl disc is 11 mm. in diameter and has a design of 12 radiating loops or "fingers" out into its face. The copper setting, arising from a slightly convex reverse side, rounds at the margin shoulders and bevels upward to hold and fit flush with the pearl inset. A single row of small contiguous copper beads encircles the front of the copper setting on the bevelled margin. The eye attachment on the back of the button is simply a soldered loop brazed to the disc without any foot.

The provenience of this composite button is from within building II near pit 15. It is thus in a Hudson's Bay Company context.

Plain Brass Buttons

A total of five plain brass buttons are represented in the sample from Rocky Mountain House. Within this series there are five different sizes and two different types of eye attachments. The following descriptions are considered according to Olsen's (1963) and South's (1964) classification of plain buttons and their eye form.

Type D (Olsen) or Type 7 (South). Four of the brass buttons are of this type (Fig. 43, h). The discs are flat and range in diameters through 13 mm., 14 mm., 15 mm. and 21 mm. Each has a brass wire eye whose foot is inserted within and hidden by a cast boss on the back of the button. Also present on the disc's back are a series of concentric rings or striations left by a cutting tool.

Both Olsen and South consider brass buttons of this type to date between 1720 and 1785. However, the proveniences of the above specimens suggest a later date. The 21 mm. specimen is from building II near the double-hearth fireplace, and the 14 mm. specimen is also from this building. The 15 mm. brass button came from the area west of building II, while the smallest (13 mm.) button comes from pit 6 within building III. The proveniences within buildings II and III are datable to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort.

Type G (Olsen) or Type 9 (South). The single specimen of this type of plain brass button is also characterized by having a flat coin shape (Fig. 43, i). This specimen has a diameter of 23 mm. The brass wire eye is simply brazed to the back of the disc without any accompanying foot or cast boss.

Olsen dates this plain brass button type between 1785 and 1800, a date which again appears too early for the context in which the button was found. It comes from the area encompassed by the northeastern end of building V which was erected after the fort was extended. There remains the possibility, however, that the button dates to the original dimensions of the fort within which area it was recovered. It may simply be a matter of chance that the button's position was later the site of the Hudson's Bay Company erection of a new building. The precise contextual dating of this specimen remains uncertain; it could be of either North West Company or Hudson's Bay Company times.

Plain Iron Buttons

Other than the one GILT button with an iron base, all other iron buttons recovered from the site are plain. The plain iron specimens total six and display three types of eye attachments, two of which are similar to those described for the plain brass buttons. Since neither the Olsen nor South classifications are helpful for these plain iron buttons, the specimens are simply described below according to form and eye attachment.

Plain Iron Button with Drilled Eye. The single small specimen of this button type measures 14 mm. in diameter (Fig. 43, j). Its exterior face is flat while the reverse side is slightly concave. The squarish eye attachment is moulded in one piece with the button disc and has simply been drilled to produce the eye.

This specimen is from pit 4 within building II, thereby establishing its temporal provenience to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation.

Plain Iron Buttons with Cast Boss. Two buttons of this type are represented in the sample (Fig. 43, k). Each has a flat coin-like shape with diameters measuring 14 mm. and 16 mm. The distinctive eye attachment is similar to that on Olsen's (1964) Type D brass button. An iron wire eye, whose foot is inserted into and hidden by a cast boss, is the attachment. Concentric spun rigs on the back of the button disc are not visible on these iron specimens.

The 16 mm. button is from pit 15 within building II, and thus is assignable to the Hudson's Bay Company occupation of the fort. Similarly, the 14 mm. specimen recovered from pit 6 within building III is of late date.

Plain Iron Buttons with Wire Eye. Three specimens of this button type complete the button descriptions (Fig. 43, l). These specimens also are flat on both faces and have a simple well-soldered wire eye brazed to the disc without any accompanying foot or insertion bracket.

The single specimen of 15 mm. diameter is from the central area of building II. The remaining two buttons, each 17 mm. wide, were found in pit 4 within building II, and in pit 6 of building III. Clearly all of these specimens are of late provenience dating to Hudson's Bay Company times.

Table 4: Button Distribution

Building II7

Building II (pit 4)5

Building II (pit 5)1

Building II (pit 15)1

Building III (pit 6)2

Building V (east end)2

North corner bastion1

Pit 81

Pit 101

Fort area west of building II3

Between building land pit 111

Open centre of fort1

Outside south end of fort1



It is apparent that almost all the buttons from the site, either decorated or plain, have proveniences indicative of being used and lost during Hudson's Bay Company occupation. As the single most distinctive button type, the silver Hudson's Bay Company coat and sleeve buttons firmly establish that Company's occupancy of the fort and residence in building II. Some of the plain brass buttons considered to be of early date (1720-85) by Olsen and South have provenience at Rocky Mountain House indicative of a much later period of use. This temporal discrepancy is probably another direct reflection of the isolated nature of the fort, away from the more advanced, style-concious eastern centres, and the necessity to salvage and retain buttons for personal use. Unfortunately, there is no one button from the site which may be separated and conclusively stated to represent a relic of North West Company occupation.

The distribution of buttons over the site shows an expected close association with buildings. Specifically, 23 of the 27 buttons in the sample are from building structures, particularly building II which alone yielded 13 specimens. Four other structures, buildings III, V, VI and the north corner bastion together yielded an additional 10 buttons. This evidence strongly suggests that these were areas within the fort where personnel resided or worked. While some buttons were evidently lost in refuse pits, at least seven were cached within personal pits in building II. Yet others appear to have been lost inadvertently during normal activities inside and outside the buildings.

44 Personal items, a, handmade lead cross from building II; b, conical silver earring from pit 5 in building II; c, watch winder from pit 1; d, silver loop earring from building II; e, copper cufflink from near pit 2; f, copper band from pit 6 in building III; g, brass pin with copper knob from pit 10; h, three round iron needles.
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A single set of copper cufflinks (Fig. 44, e) is included in the inventory of personal and household items from Rocky Mountain House. This set is composed of two thin oval discs, each 17 mm. by 13 mm. The copper discs are mould-made with an accompanying shank and drilled eye attachment on the reverse side of each. Passing through these eyes to join the discs together is a soldered copper wire loop 15 mm. in total length.

The central back portion of each disc is moulded into a depression. Encircling this well, however, there is an outer rim in low relief 2 mm. wide. Other than this moulding form, no other decoration or marks appear on the reverse side of the discs.

The exterior face of each disc has the reverse form of the backs. Around the outer margins each disc is depressed in a 2 mm. wide band which rises in relief over the central body of each disc. These central convex faces are plain. Moulded decoration occurs around the depressed margins. Here the marginal rims are bordered by a single line of contiguous, small upraised beads. Within this outer bead ring and radiating centrally at right angles from it is an additional series of parallel, elongated bead-like projections. These cross and continue around the depressed margins of each disc.

This specimen was found just below the sod in the vicinity of pit 2 in the northwest corner of the fort. Undoubtedly it was once worn as a sleeve link.

Lead Cross

Unique within the sample of personal artifacts is a homemade pendant lead cross (Fig. 44, a). This specimen measures 4.5 cm. long by 5 mm. wide, and has been cut from a sheet of lead 2.5 mm. thick. Distinctive of this cross is the fact that it has three horizontal bars, each 14 mm. in length, spaced parallel to one another 9 mm. apart. A small 0.5 mm. hole for suspension is located 3 mm. from the top of the vertical shaft. No insignia or identifying marks occur on this specimen, which was found loose in the south-central area of building II.


Two styles of earrings are present among the three earrings recovered from the site (Fig. 44, b, d). The first style, represented by a single specimen, is made from a hollow cone of tarnished silver or silver alloy. It measures 2.6 cm. long and tapers from a top diameter of 2.5 mm. to 7 mm. wide at the base. Closing off the base is a folded circular flap joined in one piece to the side of the cone. The fold seam running down the side of the cone is tightly annealed. Projecting from the top of the cone is an iron wire loop for suspension. This particular specimen came from pit 5 within building II.

Conical silver earrings such as this appear on many historic fur trading sites dating between 1780 and 1870. Petersen (1964: 46) illustrates one from Fort Mackinac (1781-1895); one is known from Fort St. Joseph of 1796-1825 (Helen Devereux: personal communication); Woolworth and Wood (1960: Pl. 60, f) illustrate three from Kipp's Post (1826-30): and Smith (1960a: Pl. 28, j) illustrates an identical specimen from Fort Pierre II (1858-63). It will be noted that although the distribution of this type of earring is widespread through time and geographic area, it never appears in quantity.

The second style of earring found at Rocky Mountain House is represented by two specimens, both of silver. Each is composed of a 0.2 mm. thin circular band, 2.5 mm. wide, with an over-all ring diameter of 20 mm. Hanging from each ring is a silver strap-like pendant, also 2.5 mm. wide. This is attached by means of a bent loop around a slight constriction in the main circular band. No identifying marks occur on either of the two specimens found loose within building II.

Watch Winder

A brass winding key and pendant for an old-style pocket watch was found (Fig. 44, c) The fob ring is missing. Total length of the specimen is 3.1 cm. with the circular key-winding tube measuring 1.0 cm. long by 3 mm. in diameter. The open socket at the end of this tube is square. A circular brass disc 1.5 cm. wide by 1.5 mm. in thickness immediately adjoins the key-winding tube and holds a 1 cm. wide bluish-violet amethyst. This amethyst is cut in an octagonal pattern and is visible on both sides of the pendant disc. A short circular 0.6 mm. long projection extends from the brass disc in line with the main key-winding tube. This specimen is from pit 1.

Copper Band

This copper band represents an attempt to fashion a homemade bracelet (Fig. 44, f). Cut from a piece of sheet copper 0.5 mm. thick, the band measures 1.0 cm. wide by 12.6 cm. long. It is folded to fit the wrist of a child or a person with a small wrist diameter of 4.0 cm. This specimen was recovered from pit 6 within building III.

Hawk Bells

Two small, severely crumpled bells occur in the artifact inventory. The small copper specimen recovered from pit 6 within building III is damaged, but is of hawk-bell size and was probably silver plated. Another small specimen of 5 mm. diameter is of silver. This bell, too, is of hawk size and comes from pit 10.


Four iron needles are present in the sample of artifacts (Fig. 44, h). All but one are complete and all have a tapered sharpened point. The needles are manufactured from round iron wire, but display different methods of eye piercing.

The smallest needle, 4 cm. long by 1 mm. thick, is complete and approaches modern needles in appearance. It has a distinctive fluting or slot running parallel to the shank on two sides of the eye end, and through these flutings a 0.5 mm. wide eye is perforated. This specimen from pit 8 just outside the south gateway of the enlarged fort probably is of late date.

The remaining three iron needles are all from the northwest corner of the fort in and around buildings I and II. From building I is a needle 5 cm. long and 2 mm. thick. The 1 mm. wide eye is simply perforated through a very slight flattening of the shank. This specimen is heavily corroded.

A third specimen, 5.2 cm. long by 2 mm. thick, comes from the central area of building II. This needle has the same style of eye perforation as the specimen recovered from building I; the eye width is 1 mm.

The fourth and longest iron needle, 6 cm. long by 2 mm. thick, has the eye portion broken off. This specimen was found in pit 1 behind building I.


Only one pin occurs in the artifact sample (Fig. 44, g). This is a brass straight pin with copper knob and broken tip. This broken pin measures 15 mm. long by 1 mm. thick. The round copper knob at the butt end of the pin has a diameter of 2 mm. and has been attached to the shaft. This technique is indicative of a hand-made specimen, and thus may pre-date 1824, for in that year, Mr. Lemuel Wright of Massachusetts patented the first pin-making machine in England (Moore 1933: 123).

This specimen was recovered from pit 10 within building VI.


Two forks, each of a different style, were recovered from the northwest corner of the fort and give a glimpse of the cutlery used at the fort.

Folding Sheath Fork

This unique specimen of fine workmanship is an article which must have been a prized pocket possession of its former owner. It is a folding two-tinned steel fork originally covered by two decorated brass foil side covers. One of the side covers is presently missing.

The slightly curved sheath of 10.2 cm. length measures 1.3 cm. wide at its narrowest end and 1.5 cm. at the widest (hinge) end. The casing is composed of an inner steel shank with depressed slots for spur fittings of the two foil side covers. The preserved brass foil side cover is very thin, 1 mm. and is elaborately embossed with a sinuous floral and vine sign, terminating in a five-pointed flower or star. At either end of the foil sheath in a 1.3 cm. square area, the design is composed of five lines of contiguous upraised beads. A brass rivet through these square areas at either end of the sheath holds the whole assemblage together.

The 1.5 mm. thick rivet through the widest end of the sheath also serves as a hinge for the fork blade. This rivet was removed during the analysis to examine the fork blade in detail. In the photograph (Fig. 51, j), the fork blade is improperly inserted; its position should be reversed.

The fork blade is flat, being 1 mm. thick, 8.2 cm. long, and 1 cm. wide. The two tines extend for 4.6 cm. and taper to points 1.5 mm. wide. Unfortunately, no identifying mark or letters appear on this specimen. It was recovered in the drainage area running into pit 1.

Table Fork

The second style of fork is a straight shanked, two-tinned steel table fork (Fig. 50, j). This well-preserved specimen is 19.1 cm. long and is fitted with a two-piece antler handle. The handle measures 7.8 cm. long by 2.1 cm. in maximum width, and is composed of two antler side pieces fixed to the central shank by two rivets. The butt end of the shank is flattened to cap the antler handle.

The exposed portion of the shank is circular and has a length of 5.3 cm. It then bifurcates into two tines, each 4 mm. thick and extending an additional 6 cm. These tapering tines are spaced 9 mm. apart.

No identifying letters or manufacturer's symbols occur on this specimen. The presence of two tines, however, indicates that it is earlier than the later three-tined fork found on other western forts of post-1860 vintage (Smith 1960a: 134; 1960b: 221; Mills 1960: 40). Straight-shanked, two-tinned forks are known from Fort Michilimackinac of 1720-80 (Maxwell and Binford 1961 Pl. 14, k). The Rocky Mountain House specimen is from the trench of the west exterior palisade near drainage outlet 2.

Glass Vials

Two glass vials are represented, both of blown glass, one being incomplete and the other undamaged.

The complete vial (Fig. 45, f) of clear blown glass is cylindrical and measures 5.6 cm. long. The main body of the vial is 1.4 cm. in diameter by 4.7 cm. long. It rounds to a thick, flat bottom displaying a pontil mark in the centre. The vial bottom is 5 mm. thick.

The upper portion of this vial has a constricted neck and outflaring rim. The neck measures 7 mm. high and has a diameter of 9 mm. Topping the neck is a flared rim of 1.5 cm. diameter. This rim is not uniform in width across the top of the neck and projects noticeably on one side. The thickness of the glass rim is 2 mm., while the small bore measures 4 mm. in width. This fine specimen from pit 5 within building II probably represents a small medicine, perfume or condiment vial.

The second glass vial, (Fig. 45, g) is represented only by the neck and rim section. Its dimensions indicate that it is a larger vial than the specimen previously discussed, but again it is circular, of clear blown glass and has an irregular rim.

The neck measures 1 cm. high by 1.5 cm. in diameter with the glass being 1.5 mm. thick. The adjoining rim flares outwardly for an average diameter of 2.1 cm. The orifice in this 2 mm. thick rim measures 1.1 cm. in diameter.

The specimen comes from the 30 in. depth of pit 6 within building III.

45 Ceramics and glass. a, black basalt stone-ware sherd from pit 10 (1767-1810): b, rim sherd of grey salt-glazed stoneware from ash deposit underlying building IV (1800-50); c, rim sherd of undecorated lead-glazed earthenware; d, sherd of white unglazed stoneware; e, ceramic button of underglazed creamware decorated with blue transfer printing from building II: f, complete glass vial from pit 5 in building II; g, portion of glass vial from pit 6 in building III; h, bottom of lettered bottle; i, portion of squared green bottle from pit 5 in building II; j, clear window glass from building I; k, portion of round clear glass bottle bottom; l, portion of round purple glass bottle.
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Glass Bottles

A total of five distinct bottles occur in the Rocky Mountain House glassware sample. Four of these may be stated definitely to date to the Hudson's Bay Company period of occupancy, and it is very probable that the fifth, a lettered bottle, also dates to this period. Seventeen additional fragments of bottle glass cannot be ascribed to specific bottles.

Lettered Bottle

This moulded glass bottle (Fig. 45, h) is represented by a broken basal portion, misshapen from heating. The bottle is square with each opaque side measuring 1.8 cm. wide by 2 mm. thick. The remaining height of the bottle is 2.6 cm.

Appearing on all four sides of the bottle are capital letters moulded in relief, presumably identifying a manufacturer's name or the nature of the contents. None of these lettered words is complete. In the illustration cited above, the capital letters ATH appear on the uppermost side. Proceeding clockwise from this,the letters EI are visible: clockwise again from this face are the letters HN; and, finally, the fourth side carries the letters BY. Attempts to trace the identity and meaning of these letters have been unrewarding.

This bottle is from the area between the north corner bastion and the northeast end of building II. It probably represents a container for some type of patent medicine.

Squared Green Bottle

This bottle specimen (Fig. 45, i) is represented by only one piece, a side fragment of dark olive green coloured glass exhibiting many interior oval bubbles. The glass is 2.5 mm. thick and the recovered portion displays two vertically bevelled corners giving the bottle a squared form. The intact side measures 3.5 cm. high by 2.0 cm. wide between its two bevelled corners.

This bottle, recovered from pit 5 within building II, may have held liquor.

Round Green Bottle

This bottle is represented by nine fragmented pieces, none of which fit together. The glass is a light green colour filled with many air bubbles, and ranges from 3 mm. to 4.5 mm. in thickness. From these measurements and the curvature of some of the fragments, this bottle was a heavy, round container. One of the glass fragments (specimen 671) has been worked along one edge.

The fragments of this bottle came from the upper level of pit 10 underlying building VI.

Round Clear Glass Bottle

Half of the bottom and 11 fragments are all that remain of this circular bottle of clear glass with a light greenish tint (Fig. 45, k). The glass bottom is a very thick 7 mm., and has a basally concave indentation of 7 mm. The diameter of the bottle is 6.7 cm. across the bottom. Appearing on opposite sides of the bottle are two vertical lines indicating that the bottle was manufactured in a two-section mould.

This bottle is from the southeast end of building V, dating to the Hudson's Bay Company rebuilding of the fort.

Purple Glass Bottle

This bottle is represented by a basal portion and 14 fragments, many of which are highly distorted through melting (Fig. 45, l). Purpling of glass apparently occurs as a result of a heating reaction by sunlight or fire on the manganese oxide in the glass (Fontana et al. 1962: 100). Thus the purple colour of this bottle is not its original colour.

The bottle's base measures 7 mm. thick by 6.4 cm. wide. It is flat and displays a thin encircling mould ring 3.3 cm. in diameter. Two vertical mould lines up opposite sides indicate that the bottle was made in a two-section mould.

The pieces of this bottle were found loose in the area between building IV and the interior security wall flanking the west side of the south gateway.

Other Bottle Fragments

In addition to the identifiable bottles, there are 17 loose fragments. Briefly these may be subdivided into clear and green bottle glass. Two pieces of the clear glass are from pit 8; one from the ash fill of pit 11; one from building II; one from the open centre of the fort; one from the vicinity of the surface ash deposit north of building V, and five others are loose splinters of uncertain provenience.

Of the loose green bottle glass fragments, one is from building II; one from north of the south gateway; two from the vicinity of the surface ash deposit north of building V; one from the surface ash deposit in building IV, and one from near the surface ash deposit by the fur press base. Noticeably, many of the green glass fragments have a close association with surface ash deposits.


Only nine ceramic sherds were recovered from Rocky Mountain House. This small sample is in part probably a reflection of the 1,000-mile distance between the fort and the headwaters of the Great Lakes. The numerous breakage possibilities during transit over this long canoe route no doubt made ceramics a very select and valued commodity. Its limited occurrence at Rocky Mountain House suggests that ceramics were personal luxury items.

The small ceramics sample yields additional inferences reflecting the nature of the fort itself. Too, one would not expect to find large quantities of china in a rude seasonal outpost for handling furs or an interior depot for transmountain exploration. Such would be expected to characterize the more sedentary and permanent forts (e.g., Fort Edmonton, Fort Garry).

Black Basalt Stoneware

One sherd of this ware was recovered in the plough zone covering pit 10 under building VI (Fig. 45, a). The sherd is very thin, measuring 2 mm. in thickness. Mrs. Vanderburgh states that this ware, sometimes called "Egyptian Black," was made by many 18th-century Staffordshire potteries, and that its manufacture continued into the 19th century. Its shape indicates that it may have been from a tea-pot, sugar bowl or cream jug.

Table 5: Ceramics from Rocky Mountain House

Ware TypeDate

8831 Black basalt stoneware1767-1810

4031 Grey salt-glaze stoneware1800-1850

8361 White salt-glaze ware1850-1900

6271 White unglazed stoneware?

3 Undecorated lead-glaze earthenware

2 Decorated underglazed creamware with blue transfer printingprior to 1850

Grey Salt-Glazed Stoneware

The single sherd of this ware was found in the ash deposit adjoining post 43 of building IV (Fig. 45, b). The sherd represents a rim fragment, the body of which is 3 mm. thick, and the rim lip 3.5 mm. thick. The rim lip has been fashioned by folding the clay over the lip and down the exterior of the sherd for a distance of 5 mm. Commencing 1 cm. below the folded rim on the exterior is a series of finely etched parallel bands spaced approximately 2 mm. apart and encircling the bowl.

This type of stoneware was made throughout the 18th century. The folded rim is associated with early stoneware, and may be from a small bowl or cup.

White Salt-Glazed Stoneware

One very small fragment of this type of stoneware was found in the plough zone within the eastern end of building II. It measures 3 mm. in thickness.

Much white salt-glazed stoneware was made in the 18th century for table use, and in the 19th century, for more utilitarian purposes.

White Unglazed Stoneware

The single sherd of this ware was recovered in the plough zone within the vicinity of the south gateway (Fig. 45, d). it is quite thick, 4 mm., and massive. The sherd is from a flat plate or platter, and may have a thin wash of lead glaze, but this is difficult to determine.

Undecorated Lead-Glazed Earthenware

Three sherds of this ware were recovered over different sections of the fort (Fig. 45, c). The rim sherd illustrated came from building IV, and the two body fragments from the northern end of the fort northeast of building II. The rim sherd measures 3 mm. in body thickness, as does one of the body fragments; the other body sherd measures 3.5 mm. thick. The two body sherds are too small to identify with any particular shape, but the rim sherd again has the interesting folded rim that occurs on the grey salt-glazed stoneware. This rim sherd is also probably from a bowl or cup.

This earthenware was developed in the second half of the 19th century by many English potters, and became the most common earthenware of the period 1765 to 1820.

Decorated Underglazed Creamware with Transfer Printing

Two pieces of this ware were recovered from the plough zone within the northwest corner of the barracks-like building II (Fig. 45, e). Each sherd measures 3 mm. in thickness. The sherd illustrated has been ground down into a circular form, 12 mm. in diameter, presumably for use as a button or bead. The centre of the white glazed interior face of the disc has been partially drilled through. The hole represented is 1.5 mm. wide and quite shallow. These sherds may date from before 1850 because of the thickness of the pottery and the colour of the blue transfer printing.


It is apparent from this analysis that all of the ceramics found at Rocky Mountain House are of English origin and manufacture. The temporal range falls between 1765 and 1850, well within the known life span of the fort. Of particular interest is the black basalt stoneware which was manufactured between 1765 and 1810. Its occurrence within the upper levels of pit 10 underlying building VI tends to support the belief that this pit dates to the North West Company occupation in the fort. On the other hand, a late appearance of this ware and others on the site may be due to temporal lag between the time of manufacture and the time at which ceramics reached Rocky Mountain House.

The suggested forms are also interesting. The few identifiable forms include bowls or cups, a plate and either a teapot or sugar bowl. These items are rather finer than one would expect to be in the personal retinue of a voyageur. The excavated ceramic material is noticeably associated with buildings II and IV.

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