Fort Connah

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Fort Connah: Building the Last Hudson’s Bay Company Trading Outpost in the US.

Fort Connah, located in the Mission Valley of Western Montana, was the last Hudson’s Bay trading post built in what is now the United States. The post, which as previously known as the Salish House and started by David Thompson, was constructed by Angus McDonald in 1847 at its current location. Fort Connah is thought to be the oldest still-standing building in Montana. Fort Connah was closed by Angus’ son Duncan in 1872, marking the end of the fur trade in the United States.

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It must have been about fall, in 1847, when fur-trader Angus McDonald and his family traveled north to Fort Flathead (Saleesh House) near present-day Thompson Falls. There they found Neil McArthur in charge of a well-kept Hudson Bay Co. (HBC) post, and at some point, perhaps over a bottle of cognac, the plan to move the outpost emerged.

Fort Connah Spring Rendezvous - Fort Connah Spring Open House Rendezvous - Fort Connah - Fort Connah Restoration Society - Fort Connah Fall Rendezvous

There had been skirmishes, and perhaps the two men were considering safer circumstances, or, perhaps, they simply sought better trading ground for their native clients. Likely the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes helped to decide the matter, placing the new site roughly 20 miles east in what would one day be called the Mission Valley, a lush vale of glacial moraine and stunning views.

MacArthur set forth quickly, leaving Fort Flathead in the reliable hands of McDonald, and began work right away. The following spring, with snow still in the mountains, McDonald and his family arrived at the partly constructed post and Angus took up his pen, “Here there was begun by MacArthur, and finished by me, the last post established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the territories of the United States.” Initially the post was named Connen, after the Scottish River, but local dialects quickly softened the word to Fort Connah.

This photo gallery is worth seeing: 2013 Fort Connah Rendezvous Photo Gallery

Fort Connah was a trading outpost established in 1846 by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Despite the name, it was never a military station. Fort Connah, a few miles north of St. Ignatius, MT, offers a beautiful opportunity for travelers to get a brief glimpse of early history in Montana. It is the oldest wooden building still standing in Montana – a hand-hewn, 375 square-foot log building that is the only survive structure of a once bustling fur trading post build in 1846 & operated until 1871.

Massive 10-inch-square, hand-hewn timber posts support the corners. Timber beams run horizontally to form the walls. Each beam is cut at its ends to fit into a notch carved out of the post – a type of construction used often by Hudson’s Bay Co. for its trading posts, called “post on the sill” construction.

Restoring Fort Connah

In 1975, volunteers of the Fort Connah Restoration Society took the structure apart log by log and poured a new foundation. Then they reconstructed the building just as it stood in the 1850s.

Fort Connah is significant for a variety of reasons. It is an example of the fur trade, one of the earliest industries in western Montana. It preserves the heritage of two cultures, white settlers and Indians, who came together in good faith for commerce & interacted with goodwill. The Indians would bring in their buffalo robes and their beaver pelts and trade for goods like weapons, pots, pans and blankets.

The Hudson’s Bay Company sent Scotsman fur trader Angus McDonald to Fort Connah with his wife of Nez Perce/Mohawk/French descent and their family. In 1847, McDonald completed construction of Fort Connah, which has the distinction of being the last Hudson’s Bay Company post to be constructed in what is now the United States.

In 1871, Fort Connah was closed by Duncan McDonald, son of old Angus who had opened it 25 years before. A family cemetery near Post Creek is a few hundred yards away from Fort Connah. It contains the graves of Angus McDonald and his wife, Catherine.

View Fort Connah Spring Rendezvous Details

View Fort Connah Fall Rendezvous Details