The Extraordinary Journey
of Jasper Haws
Jasper Haws descendants
Jasper Haws was another colourful Métis who is notable in history. Born in 1770, Jasper was uprooted from his Maryland home during the American Revolution. His parents, United Empire Loyalists, joined a migration of people leaving the United States in order to maintain their loyalty to the British
Jasper remained with his parents in Sorel, Quebec until, at the age of 25, he travelled to Montreal and entered the service of Mr. Canavan and Mr. Cazelet, affiliates of the North West Company.Hired as a middleman, Jasper's first job with the NWC was to sit anywhere between the bow and stern of the boat (hence the name middleman) and paddle from Montreal to FortWilliam and then on to Red River for the winter. There, he learned the fur trade business and delivered goods to outlying trading posts.
From 1797 to 1802, Jasper remained in the service
of the NWC plying the waters of the Missouri. By
1804 he had worked his way west into the
Athabasca River District (now Alberta). In 1815,
after 20 years of service, Jasper was appointed
manager of a post. His name became associated
with the post and with the town and park that
Gateway to the West
In 1813, the NWC built Rocky Mountain Portage
House on Brûlé Lake as a provision depot for
brigades crossing the Athabasca Pass to the
Pacific. When Jasper Haws took command of the
post in 1815 it became known as “Jasper's House,”
to avoid confusion with Rocky Mountain House
on the North Saskatchewan River. Under the
trained eye of Jasper Haws, the post became the
centre of a modest and diverse community
responsible for meeting transportation and
supply needs, caring for horses grazing in the
valley, and trading goods for meat and furs with
Aboriginal groups, including Iroquois and Métis
Jasper married an Iroquois woman and fathered
no less than five children - three boys and at least
two girls. Heremained at Jasper House until 1821.
When the NWC was forced to amalgamate with
the Hudson's Bay Company, he was suddenly
without work. Leaving his wife and daughters
with family, Jasper returned with his sons to
Quebec. They homesteaded in Hinchinbrooke,
Quebec until his death in 1855. Haws Creek in the
Chateauguay Valley still bears his name today.
In 1830, under the control of the Hudson's Bay
Company, Jasper House was relocated to the west
bank of the Athabasca River, 1.4 kmnorth of Jasper
Lake. By that time, the site was a strategic point on
two trans-mountain routes: one through the
Athabasca Pass to the southwest and the second via
Yellowhead Pass to the northwest. In addition, the
post was optimally located for the movement of
Aboriginal peoples travelling the historic route
through the Snake Indian Pass into the upper
Smoky River drainage area and into the Fraser
River watershed and the interior of British
For the next 20 years, the new Jasper House
supported HBC brigade traffic over the mountains
to the Columbia district and facilitated the transfer
of trade goods and furs fromeast to west.
The post only operated sporadically after 1853, and
fell into decline following trade reorganization.
Trader Henry John Moberly ran the post seasonally
from 1858 until 1861. Jasper House was closed
officially by the HBC in 1884, although by that date
the post had been abandoned for many years.
The World Stage
In 1492, the economies of Europe, Asia and Africa
were forced to recognize a new player, the
Americas. In the 1600s, the global market had
discovered a commodity worth its weight in gold
in the North American interior - furs. By the late
1700s, the world fur market had largely been
captured by two companies, the London-based
Hudson's Bay Company and the North West
Company with its headquarters in Montreal.
th At the turn of the 19 century, commercial rivalry
between the two giants was anything but friendly
and the drive to profit led to unprecedented
economic expansion in North America. Competition drove the two companies through fur-rich landscapes to the edge of the Rockies. David Thompson, in the employ of the NWC, pushed through the Rockies via Athabasca Pass in 1811.
To entrench their position as stakeholders, the NWC and the HBC worked rapidly to build forts and trading posts that gave them a physical presence on the land and created loyalties amongst their Aboriginal trading partners. The establishment of the fur-trade, from sea to sea to sea, across what is now Canada, served to protect against expansion by an aggressive United States of America and laid the foundation for Confederation.
The Name Lives On
In 1907, Jasper Forest Park was created and the
name Jasper was chosen because of its historic
association with the area. In 1913, when the name
Fitzhugh fell out of favour, the name Jasper was also
adopted by the townsite within the park boundaries.
Jasper House was designated a national historic
site in 1924. The reason for national significance
is that for half a century it was a main support of
the trade route across the mountains and an important point for all persons journeying through the Yellowhead and Athabasca passes.
It is a wonder that a simple fur trader in a time and
place of great flux can have his name immortalized
and renowned throughout the world.
This information was made possible by a 25 year intergenerational project undertaken by descendants of Jasper Haws - the Hanly's, the L'Hirondelle's, and the Loyer's with assistance from the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives and the Chateauguay Valley Historical Society.