The Council House

Although it is out of view from the Main Square, the Council House, like the Great Hall, is one of the most prestigious buildings at Fort William. It is no coincidence that both structures are elevated, reflecting not only their important functions but also the social status of the bourgeois  (gentlemen) who used them.

The primary function of the Council House was to house the annual meeting of the North West Company which took place each July. Here, Montreal agents and wintering partners met to talk about company business and to agree on a strategy for the coming year. The broad range of topics is reflected in the minutes of the meetings. The explorations of Simon Fraser and David Thompson on the west side of the Rockies; the reduction of transportation costs by limiting the amount of personal belongings carried by each canoe; the promotion of clerks to partnership; the struggle against the "opposition", i.e., the Hudson's Bay Company; liaisons with Native women; and the liquor trade-these are only a few of the issues recorded in the minutes.

Since wintering partners often disagreed with the Montreal agents on such matters as agents' commissions, rotations to Montreal, supplies and assignment of partners to departments, these meetings often turned into heated arguments.