History and Attractions

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Roman Catholic Mission

Roman Catholic missionaries first arrived here in August 1858 and in 1894 a priest established a permanent residence.

The Parish Hall was built in 1911 within the Hudson’s Bay Company compound (near the Rock Monument) and relocated in 1921 to near the present day hospital.  It took six weeks, and ox-powered capstan and a lot of hard work to do the job.

The Mission expanded considerably during the years 1915 to 1923.  St. Margaret’s hospital was built in 1916 on a site across 100th Street where Deh Cho Hall used to stand (now an empty lot).  it burned to the ground in 1930 and was replaced the following year by a new St. Margaret’s Hospital, which served until 1972 when the Federal Government built today’s hospital.  A school, St. Margaret’s Hall, was built in 1917 and served until 1947 when a Federal Day School was built.  The Parish Hall was moved ot the area in 1921 and in 1923 Sacred Heart Church was built.

At the same time the Mission had considerable land under cultivation to provide potatoes and vegetables for its staff and hay for its horses and oxen.

There is a stone grotto on the lawn in front of the hospital erected in 1958 to mark 100 years of missionary activity in the community.

The old Roman Catholic cemetery is located behind the school, close to the steam plant.  In an unmarked grave lie the remains of the many local victims of the 1928 flu epidemic.

 

Information courtesy of the Fort Simpson Historical Society

Andy Whittington's Hotel and Dance Hall

Andy Whittington and his brother constructed this hotel from logs and local lumber around 1925.  The photo was taken in the early 1930′s.  At the time, this was the only hostelry on the MacKenzie River.  The single storey addition on the right was known as “the dance hall.”

Mr. Whittington operated a small restaurant on the ground floor and he is still remembered for the good bread he sold at 50 cents a loaf.  He left Fort Simpson in 1957.

Nearby, on present-day 101 Avenue stood a small store (the middle building in the photo), owned by the Roman Catholic Mission and rented by Mr. Bud Alley, a trader from Lebanon, who also operated two other stores and some barges on the Mackenzie River.  In 1930, he and his wife built a residence, now boarded up, which can be seen across 101 Avenue.  It too, was built of logs.

Education in the Dehcho

Fort Simpson’s first school dates back to 1874 and was run by Mrs. Bompas, the wife of the Anglican Bishop.  The Roman Catholic mission built St. Margaret’s hall in 1917.

By 1974 the Federal Government had assumed responsibility for education in the community and a Federal Day School was built near the river bank roughly between the two mission.  Both mission schools closed at this time.

The Thomas Simpson School was built in 1959-1960 close to the newly laid 100th Street and was designed to serve local children, as well as those from outlying communities.  It was named for Thomas Simpson, a cousin of the Hudson’s Bay Company Governor Sir George Simpson who, between 1836 and 1839 surveyed the Arctic coast on behalf of the Company, in search of the North West Passage.

Behind the school and contemporary with it are two hostel buildings for out-of-town children, Bompas Hall on the left for Anglicans and Lapointe Hall on the right for Roman Catholics.  Lying between them is the steam plant, which still provides heat and hot water for the whole complex.

Bompas Hall closed as a hostel in 1972 and was redesigned to serve as an elementary school.  Lapointe Hall continued as a hostel for all out-of-town students until 1987.  At that point, the Hall became occupied by the Board of Education, the Day Care, the Community Library and some government agencies.

 

Courtesy of Fort Simpson Historical Society

Heritage Park

Heritage Park overlooks the Flats, Drum Circle and Papal Grounds and is home to historic McPherson House and the original Fort of the Forks built by the Northwest Company in the early 1800s.

A short walk from the territorial campgrounds, Heritage Park has a picnic area and one of Fort Simpson's best views of the mighty Mackenzie and tranquil Liard rivers.

Albert Faille's Cabin

Albert Faille was a well known gold prospector who travelled and looked for gold in the Nahanni Mountains.  Each spring from the 1950s through to his death in 1973, Faille would embark from his home in Fort Simpson up the Liard and then the Nahanni rivers, portage around the great Virginia Falls and continue on into the Nahanni Mountains, a difficult and dangerous journey.  Preserved for history immediately after his death, Faille's Cabin is located along the Mackenzie river and can be visited between May 15th and September 15th each year.  Albert Faille's Cabin is a window into the past and a must see if you have time.