Monday, January 25, 2016

HGB Podcast Ep. 99 - Fort Edmonton

Moment in Oddity - Legos Washing Up on British Beach

Something peculiar has been happening at a beach in Cornwall, England. Pieces of Legos have been washing up on shore. And as if that were not strange enough, it has been happening for 17 years. While children might be praising God that fish have learned to poop out Legos, the cause for this is rather mundane. On Feb. 13, 1997 a shipping container from a New York-bound Tokio Express freighter was hit by a huge wave. The container contained 5 million Lego pieces and it tumbled into the ocean. Ever since that happened, anytime there is a harsh storm, Lego pieces wash up on the beach. Oddly, the Lego pieces all have a nautical theme, like seaweed, spear guns, octopuses and scuba gear. Plastic dragons and daises have also been known to wash up on the beach occasionally. British writer Tracey Williams created a Facebook page called Lego Lost at Sea and any recovered Lego pieces are documented there. Williams has said, “These days the holy grail is an octopus or a dragon. I only know of three octopuses being found — and one was by me — in a cave in Challaborough, Devon. It’s quite competitive. If you heard that your neighbor had found a green dragon, you’d want to go out and find one yourself.” While the explanation is clear, Legos washing up on a beach certainly is odd! And we would like to add that since we are featuring a haunted site in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, we should mention the website that features oddities and curiosities in Edmonton.

This Day in History - Nellie Bly Ends Round the World Trip
 by: Jade Lewis

On this day, January 25th in 1890, Nellie Bly arrives in New Jersey after her 72 day trip around the world. Nellie Bly was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman. She was also a writer, industrialist, inventor, and a charity worker who was widely known for this record-breaking trip in emulation of Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.
In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, she boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line and began her 24,899-mile journey. She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money in a bag tied around her neck. The New York newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat the time of both Phileas Fogg and Bly. Bisland would travel the opposite way around the world. To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of a free trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip. On her travels around the world, Bly went through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo(Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. The development of efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph allowed Bly to send short progress reports though longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and were thus often delayed by several weeks. Bly traveled using steamships and the existing railroad systems which caused occasional setbacks, particularly on the Asian leg of her race. During these stops, she visited a leper colony in China and she bought a monkey in Singapore. As a result of rough weather on her Pacific crossing, she arrived in San Francisco on the White Star liner Oceanic on January 21, two days behind schedule. However, World owner Pulitzer chartered a private train to bring her home, and she arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51PM.

Fort Edmonton (Research Assistant Jade Lewis and listener Tania Turner, who also suggested it)

Fort Edmonton is a settlement that dates back to the true beginnings of Canada becoming an official country and to Alberta becoming a province. It moved many times and witnessed much history. It played a key role in history with both European settlers and the natives that lived on the land. Is this why its current location at Fort Edmonton Park seems to have unexplained activity? Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Fort Edmonton.

The area that is now known as Alberta, Canada was first settled by the indian tribes: the Cree, Blackfoot and Blood. These tribes were semi-nomadic and traveled following the buffalo herds. These native people traveled in groups of lodges, which was a term used to identify a group that shared a teepee as a family unit. The Blackfoot traveled as 10 to 30 lodges, which could equal up to 240 members. In 1670, King Charles II of England granted trading rights to the Hudson Bay Company for Alberta, which was called Rupert's Land. The land was named for the King's cousin Rupert. He was the one who got the Royal Charter and land grants for “the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson Bay.”

The Hudson Bay is considered the great inland sea. The Hudson Bay Company named itself for this sea and they made it a practice early on to build their forts near the water. They would trade with the native people there. Exchanging metal goods like knives and kettles and special items like beads and blankets for fur pelts. In the late 18th century, the company was forced to move operations more inland.

It is believed that Anthony Henday was the first European to explore Alberta for the Hudson Bay Company, but that was not until 1754. Before him, French fur traders more than likely had come and many had intermingled with the Indian tribes creating a new race known as the Metis. The Metis tribe would go on to establish itself in present day Manitoba. Today, there are approximately 400,000 Metis in Canada. The word Metis is French for "mixed."

A rivalry began with another company called the North West Company when they built a fort in the region in 1778. They fought over territories and trading for years. Finally in 1821, the Hudson Bay Company absorbed the North West Company. The early history of Alberta is tied heavily to this fur trading. Alberta eventually became a province in 1905. The town of Edmonton was selected as her capital.

The city of Edmonton was an area bought by the Canadian government from the Hudson Bay Company in 1870. In 1892, Edmonton would formally be incorporated as a town. Not many called the place home until the Klondike Gold Rush started in 1896 and Edmonton became a hub for supplies. In 1930, Edmonton became the "Gateway to the North" and when oil was discovered there in 1947, its economy changed forever. But before Alberta was a province and before Edmonton was a city, the Hudson Bay Company founded Fort Edmonton.

Fort Edmonton was established on the northern Saskatchewan river in 1795 by the Hudson Bay Company as a fortified trading post next to its rival North West Company. We mentioned earlier that the North West Company had built a fort in 1778. That was Fort Augustus. Due to the competitive nature of both trading companies, it was said that the two fort were built a “musket-shot” apart in distance. It was John Peter Prudent, a clerk for the Hudson Bay Company, who named the fort after Edmonton, Middlesex, England. Both trading posts, Edmonton and Augustus were moved several times, but they retained their names. Fort Edmonton was home to several Canadian historical figures such as the first woman from European descent to live in the region, French Canadian, Marie-Anne Gaboury, grandmother to Louise Riel, the founder of the province of Manitoba.  Also, from 1826 to 1853 the fort thrived under the management of the colorful John Rowand, a fur trader who was from Montreal, who remained at the fort until his death in 1854 once he was appointed to the fort. He was called “one of the most pushing bustling men in the service…warm hearted and friendly in an extraordinary degree”.  He was known as Iron Shirt by the Native Americans and was considered one of the most influential white men on the Saskatchewan plains.

As mentioned, Fort Edmonton was moved several times. Each time that it was moved was coined as a Mark. There are five Marks for the Fort. The first was built in 1795 and lasted until 1801. Several years of declining and increasingly scarce fire wood caused the fort to be moved upstream to what is now the  Rossdale area in Downtown Edmonton. The second Mark was built in 1801 and lasted until 1810 when it was moved to the mouth of White Earth Creek 100 km north east form the modern city of Edmonton to Smoky Lake Alberta and the third Mark was built. This one stood from 1810 to 1812. The Indians would not trade at this location and so it was moved again. The fourth Mark stood from 1813 to 1830. At that time the two forts returned to an original site, and then in 1821, the Hudson Bay Company merged with the rival North West Company, and the Fort Augustus name was dropped. Finally in the 1830s, the fifth and final Mark of Fort Edmonton was completed.  The fort had to be moved to higher ground after a severe flood, and it is this site where the Alberta legislature building now sits.

Through the years, several noteworthy explorers came through or stayed at the fort. James Sinclair, son of the Hudson’s Bay Company president, twice led large parties of settler’s half-way across Canada, from the Red Valley to the Columbia valley. In 1859, the 9th Earl of Southesk visited on his way to the Rocky Mountains, hoping that the fresh mountain air would improve his health. From 1870 to 1885, the fort was under threat of Indian warfare quite regularly.  The Cree Chief Maskipiton was killed during a battle with the Blackfoot.  Fifteen years later, the fort was in the middle of the North West Rebellion, the Edmonton telegraph wire was cut, and settlers went behind the old wooden palisade, but luckily they were not attacked.

In 1915 the fort was demolished.  The fort was  reconstructed in 1966 as a way for families to enjoy the history and named Fort Edmonton Park. Tania shared that the fort has streets named after historical dates in time that represent the different periods of 1885, 1905 and 1920. People can take a train or the old street car for a ride. People can stroll leisurely or stop to have a bite to eat. They have delicious ice cream and treats and there is a visitor center when you first walk up to the park. The fort was built from material spanning all the Marks. Buildings from the other periods were found and moved to the park as well. For this reason, people believe this has caused spirits to be attached to Fort Edmonton Park.

In 2003 a group was visiting the Fort Edmonton Park and they were touring the Firkins House. Dr. Firkins and his family built the home in 1912. It is Edwardian in style.  As the group took a picture near the Firkins’ children's bedrooms, the picture revealed the image of a purple eyed figure sitting on the bed after it was developed.  Also, the group saw a small boy playing with a red ball. There were no children in the group, but no one felt it was a threat. This boy has also sometimes been described as a teenager. Haunting experiences started with the Firkins House back when it was first moved. Rumors were already being whispered that the home was haunted. When construction crews moved it and restored it, they claimed that their tools were moved around or went missing and that windowpanes would go up and down unassisted. What is responsible for the hauntings is unknown. The Firkins had daughters and no one died in the home.

In the study/library the group witnessed a female entity form in the middle of the bookcase. Another picture caught an orb with the face of a male inside. There are reports throughout the park of people feeling eerie energy coming from the windows of the buildings. The staff report unexplained thumps, footsteps and feeling that someone is standing behind them. This location was featured on Creepy Canada due to its haunted reputation. Employees claim that several items on the show were fabricated including a haunted ventriloquist doll and a book of magic. And most employees say that nothing haunted is going on anywhere in the park.

Are the spirits of the explorers from the past still clinging to the fort? Could spirits have followed their moved homes to this new location? Is there something about the land in connection to the indigenous people who once lived here causing the weird feelings people have at this location? Is Fort Edmonton haunted? That is for you to decide!

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