MNHS’ North West Company Fur Post Now Called Snake River Fur Post

For immediate release

Release dated: 
February 1, 2018
Media contacts: 

 Lauren Peck, 651-259-3137, lauren.peck@mnhs.org
Jessica Kohen, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org

MNHS’ North West Company Fur Post Now Called Snake River Fur Post

New name better reflects the diverse range of history shared at the Pine City historic site

Since the 1970s, visitors to Pine City have been able to experience the early 1800s history of the fur trade along the Snake River. Now after nearly 50 years of operation, the Minnesota Historical Society has renamed the site the Snake River Fur Post.

MNHS made this name change for several reasons:

  • Historical precedent: Research now shows that voyageurs and Native Americans identified the more than 100 fur posts operated by the North West Company by their geographical locations (e.g. Grand Portage). When it was built in 1804, MNHS' fur post was likely identified by its location on the Snake River.
  • Better representation of the site experience: The Snake River Fur Post name better encompasses the wide range of stories explored at this location. The site experience explores not only the history of the North West Company, but also stories of Ojibwe, French voyageurs and British fur traders in North America during the early 19th century.
  • A simplified name: Snake River Fur Post is a shorter, more memorable name for visitors and staff.

MNHS has also created a new logo for the historic site with a stylized beaver meant to reference the fur trade—which relied on beaver pelts used in European fashions—and a river formed from the beaver’s tail.

The Snake River Fur Post reopens for its season on May 25, and the daily site experience will continue to explore the intersections of diverse Minnesota stories through the lens of the 1800s fur trade. Visitors can look forward to favorite annual events, including War of 1812 Family Day in June and Festival of the Voyageur in September. Explore the MNHS web calendar for more upcoming events at the fur post.

Brief History of the Snake River Fur Post
In September 1804, John Sayer, a trader for the North West Company—the Montreal-based British company that controlled much of the North American fur trade—and a crew of eight voyageurs set out to establish a new fur post in present-day Minnesota. After consulting with local Ojibwe leaders, the crew built at a site near the Snake River. Throughout the winter, the group traded with the Ojibwe for food and furs, and Sayer’s work involved keeping a journal detailing the daily activities of the fur post.

The traders stayed at the Snake River post for 223 days before returning to Fort St. Louis, near Superior, Wisconsin, a center of the North West Company’s Lake Superior fur trade. Furs collected at the Snake River post went on to become luxury European goods, such as men’s felted beaver fur hats.

The fur post was eventually abandoned and destroyed by fire. The site was forgotten until the 1930s when a nine-year-old Pine City boy began discovering artifacts along the Snake River. He eventually came across a book containing Sayer’s journal and noticed the journal pointed to the area he’d been exploring.

He reported his findings to the Minnesota Historical Society, which began field testing and excavations in the 1960s. After purchasing the property, MNHS reconstructed the fur post and opened the historic site to the public in 1970.

About the Snake River Fur Post
Located in Pine City along County Hwy 7, the Snake River Fur Post is a reconstructed fur post, originally built by the North West Company in fall 1804. Visitors can explore the history of the North American fur trade through stories of traders, voyageurs and Ojibwe people who lived and worked along the Snake River in the early 1800s. For more information, visit http://www.mnhs.org/furpost.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.