The Cree and Blackfoot tribes can trace their ancestry to the Edmonton area for 5000 years. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that Europeans first arrived in the area. A trade outpost was built by Hudson’s Bay Company in 1795, which was dubbed Fort Edmonton.
Trappers, traders and adventurers frequented the fort, but it wasn’t until 1870, when the government purchased Fort Ed and opened up the area for pioneers, that Edmonton saw its first real growth in population. When the railway arrived in Calgary in 1891, things really started to speed up.
Gold was the first big boom for the area – not gold found in Alberta, but gold in the Yukon. Edmonton was the last stop in civilization before dreamers headed north to the Klondike. Some made their fortunes, most did not; some settled in Edmonton and the town began to grow.
In the 1940s, WWII precipitated the construction of the Alaska Hwy and the influx of workers helped to further increase the population. Ukrainians and other eastern European immigrants came to Edmonton in search of work and enriched the city in the process.
Today, Edmonton is once again the hub for those looking to earn their fortune in the north. But it isn’t gold or roads this time – it’s oil.