The Columbia Fur Company was a fur trading and Indian trading business that operated from 1821 to 1827 in Michigan Territory and in the unorganized territory of the United States.
When the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with the old North West Company in 1821, some 900 employees were dismissed. Many of these men then formed the Columbia Fur Company, which operated between the upper Mississippi and the upper Missouri Rivers. Made up of experienced fur traders, they made impressive profits and soon set up a series of trading posts along the Missouri River. Its headquarters were located at Fort Tecumseh, which was first established in 1822 in central South Dakota. Named after Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh, it was located about one mile north of the mouth of the Bad River.
John Jacob Astor, who hated competition, bought out the Columbia Fur Company in July 1827, giving the American Fur Company a virtual monopoly on the upper Missouri River. At the time of the buyout, the Columbia Fur Company had $14,453 in inventory. Keeping several of the former employees, Astor put Kenneth McKenzie in charge of the new Upper Missouri Outfit of the American Fur Company. The outfit built Fort Teton in 1828 about one mile south of Fort Tecumseh and the two merged in 1830. The combined fort was abandoned by the American Fur Company in April 1832 in favor of Fort Pierre.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2020.