In 1842 Henry H. Sibley, American Fur Company trader, sent Norman W. Kittson to Pembina to replace Joseph Rolette Jr. as the head trader in the Red River Valley and International Boundary region. Kittson arrived in 1843 and established three new posts, including one in the vicinity of present-day Walhalla. This post may have been supervised by Antoine B. Gingras (see Gingras Trading Post). At about this same time, Rolette helped organize Red River oxcarts into a caravan to haul furs and hides to St. Paul.
The commercial activity generated by the oxcart trade drew many Métis families to the area, and by 1849 there was a resident population of one thousand. In 1852 Kittson moved to the growing community and built a store and warehouse. He was followed by Father George A. Belcourt, who built a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph. The community was subsequently named St. Joseph.
In March 1869 the Hudson’s Bay Company surrendered possession of vast acres of land in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the Dominion of Canada, which effectively eliminated the Métis quest for an independent homeland (the Riel Rebellion). This, along with the opening of a United States land office in December 1870 and the steep decline in the buffalo trade, assured the influx of European immigrants to the St. Joseph area. By 1877 only a handful of Métis lived in St. Joseph and quickly were replaced by Scandinavian immigrants. The town’s name was soon changed from St. Joseph to Walhalla at the suggestion of James Wickes Taylor, U.S. Consul and settlement promoter.
In 1899 the Kittson store and warehouse were reportedly serving as stables for the Bellevue Hotel in downtown Walhalla. In hopes of preserving a relic of the fur trade, one of the buildings was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt on its current location at Walhalla State Historic Site in 1904.
Today the log building sits on the edge of the Pembina Escarpment (Hair Hills) overlooking the town of Walhalla. A depression near the southeast edge of the park is reported to be a cellar from one of Alexander Henry’s Hair Hills fur trade posts. In 1994 archeological test excavations at the site discovered American Indian pottery dating from 800 to 1700 and Euro-American artifacts dating from the early 1700s to the middle 1800s. A gravel parking lot, restrooms, interpretive sign, and a picnic shelter provide amenities for the visitor.
612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Museum Store: 8am - 5pm M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10am - 5pm.
State Archives: 8am - 4:30pm., M-F, except legal holidays, and 2nd Sat. of each month, 10am - 4:30 pm.
State Historical Society offices: 8am - 5pm M-F, except legal holidays.
phone: (701) 328-2666
fax: (701) 328-3710