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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Local historian explains importance of local fur trade

by Adam Gault

Local historian and author, Chris Carter, brought his passion of our region’s history to life last weekend as he hosted a special presentation entitled, “How the Fur Trade built Essex County and their influence and involvement in the War of 1812,” at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village on Saturday.

Beginning in the time of the area’s first European settlement, Fort Detroit in 1701, the area’s abundance in natural resources and furs allowed the region to prosper and develop as part of a strategic network of early fur trading in North America.


“Cadillac [the explorer] came and started Fort Detroit for the fur trade and military, to get fur trade headquarters closer to where they were getting the furs,” Carter explained of the early European settlement. “When the Americans took over Michigan, [Loyalists] moved to this side. When we did, we built Amherstburg as a fort.


Carter explained the river’s natural geography at Amherstburg made it the perfect strategic location from a defensive military perspective.


“That’s a perfect spot. You couldn’t go behind Boblo if you were a big ship, because it was all rapids,” Carter said. “You had to go in between Boblo Island and the fort to go upstream. That was very important, you could actually shoot from both sides and get the enemy ship.”


This led to the proliferation in communities on the Ontario side that were built around farming and the fur trade, including the growth of Amherstburg as a defensive position, and Sandwich Town as an administrative centre.


“We forget, where did these people that started and built all this get their money,” Carter explained. “They got their money from the fur trade, and they’re here because of the fur trade, and that’s what people forget.”


Carter added the fur trade was critical to British North America when it came to funding the war effort of 1812.


“The fur trade paid for the War of 1812 in Upper Canada,” Carter explained. “All these mansions in Sandwich Town would not have been built if it wasn’t for the fur trade and its money. Down here, a lot of [the War of 1812] was to do with the fur trade, the closer you got to the Atlantic, it had more to do with the trade rules between America and Britain.”


More information on Chris Carter’s works and tours can be found at

His works are available for purchase at HEIRS in Harrow, and at Biblioasis and Juniper Books in Windsor.

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