Signing the Land

Posted by Daniel on Oct 24, 2010

The most famous signature in BC history has long belonged to the explorer Alexander Mackenzie. After pioneering a land route across Canada in 1793, Mackenzie and his party reached the mouth of the Bella Coola River and not far away, in Elcho Harbour in Dean Channel, he left a message on a rock: "Alex Mackenzie, from Canada by land, 22 July 1793". (The scene is depicted in the painting above, by John Innes.)

Now it turns out that another fur-trade explorer left his mark on the land. Parks Canada archaeologists have confirmed that a scrawl on a rock on the shores of Stuart Lake, north of Vanderhoof, is a signature belonging to Simon Fraser. The message, made using red ochre and stating simply "Simon F. 1806", was discovered 35 years ago by an RCMP patrol but it has taken this long to confirm its authenticity.

Fraser was at Stuart Lake in 1806 establishing Fort St. James on behalf of his employer, the North West Company. Two years later he left the fort to begin his famous descent of the Fraser River to the Pacific in search of a navigable trading route to the sea.

If you are interested in Fraser, a good place to start is Stephen Hume's award-winning biograpy, Simon Fraser: In Search of Modern British Columbia (here from Harbour Publishing). Parks Canada has a website devoted to the historic Fort St. James here.