The earliest known inhabitants arrived in the area that is now Edmonton around 3000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC when an ice-free corridor opened as the last glacial period ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.
In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area. His expeditions across the Canadian Prairies were mainly to seek contact with the Indigenous population for establishing the fur trade, as the competition was fierce between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company.
By 1795, Fort Edmonton was established on the river’s north bank as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company, near the mouth of the Sturgeon River close to present-day Fort Saskatchewan. Fort Edmonton, also known as Edmonton House, was built within “musket-shot range” of the rival North West Company‘s (NWC) Fort Augustus. The fort’s name was chosen by William Tomison, who was in charge of its construction, for Edmonton, Middlesex, England, home town of the Lake family – at least five of whom were influential members of the HBC between 1696-1807. Although both forts were initially successful, declines in beaver pelt hauls and firewood stocks forced both HBC and NWC to move their forts upstream.