Fort Rupert is the site of a former Hudson's Bay Company fort which was built and first commanded by William Henry McNeill in 1849 and later by John Work. It is located near present-day Port Hardy, British Columbia on Vancouver Island.
The community was named after Prince Rupert, the first governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. The company attempted to exploit a local coal seam in 1851 but gave up the attempt the following year and moved its operation to Nanaimo. Robert Dunsmuir, later a coal baron and father of BC Premier James Dunsmuir, began his life in British Columbia as a labourer in Fort Rupert with the Hudson's Bay Company.
On June 6, 1889, the fort disappeared in flames. The charred remains of the fort were soon overgrown and all that remained was the huge stone chimney. The Nahwitti natives who lived nearby salvaged many metal objects from the ruins, including knives, nails, hammers and anything useful. They also took the iron and brass cannons. They even managed to take the eight pounders away from the fort. The native's village was called Ku-Kultz on the northern tip of Vancouver island. The natives kept the guns in the village. Visitors were surprised to see the guns in the village. In World War 2 an airforce base was established several miles from Ku-Kultz. Some of the servicemen learned about the cannons and after the war the cannons started to disappear. By the 1960s only 3 cannons remained at Ku-Kultz. By the end of the 60s only two pieces were left. The last remaining cannon was taken to Vancouver by fish boat. This cannon is the only authenticated H.B. Co. brass piece in Canada. In 1976 the only cannon left overlooked the bay. Later, some scuba divers stumbled across 6 cannons on a sandy beach of an isolated bay in the region. Any cannons left in the area should be treated as museum pieces.
The present day village of Fort Rupert is a historic Kwakwaka'wakw village of the Kwagu'ł (Kwagyewlth or Kwakiutl) and the Komoyue subgroup where the opportunity exists to see native carvers working on totem poles or other artwork and traditional crafts. The band government of the Kwagu'ł is the Kwakiutl First Nation.
Petroglyphs, though difficult to find, do exist on the sandstone formations in the higher tidal zones below the old Hudson's Bay Fort site.
- N.L. Barlee (1976), Historic Treasures and Lost Mines of British Columbia. Canada West Publications.