Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

After a surprisingly peaceful night at the city park in Fort Laramie (I only heard the train seven times), we got an early start and arrived in Casper just about lunch time.  It was up hill and into the wind for most of the drive so our gas milage suffered, I’m sure.

I want to back up a day and tell the story of our visit to Fort Laramie National Historic Site.  A whole lot of history took place at this location.

This “fort” got its start as a trading post.  In the early 1830 it opened as Fort William and mountainmen spread the word to the local Indian tribes--the Sioux and Cheyenne--that they were willing to buy buffalo hides.  After a couple of years in which business wasn’t all that great, the “fort” was sold to the American Fur Company.  Business was really good for a few years until a competing trading post was built down the street (or maybe it was a path).  In order to out do the new guys in town, the American Fur Company torn down the wooden structures and put up adobe type structures and changed the name to Fort John, but every body just called it Fort Laramie.

Administration building
Because it was near the trappers’ trail, there were always visitors stopping in, but in the 1840s Fort Laramie became a major stopping point for the Oregon Trail wagon trains.  This was great for business and the fort began selling supplies to the travelers.

Since the Fort was in the middle of Indian country, as more and more travelers poured into the area, their safety became an issue for the government.  In 1849, the Army stepped in, bought the Fort and converted it to a military post.

Captain's Quarters

The Army, of course, added on with barracks and officers’ quarters.  As a military outpost, Fort Laramie was instrumental in treaty councils with the Indians.  As the Oregon Trail became the major overland route during the westward expansion, the Fort also played a major role in protecting those emigrants.

Calvary Barracks

Fort Laramie was also a major stop on the Pony Express for a couple years in the early 1860s.

By the late 1860s, travel along the Oregon Trail had slowed and by the late 1880s even Indian hostilities had quieted down.  There wasn’t much need for a military post any longer.  The Army packed up and moved out in 1890.

Today, several of the old structures have been restored to the time when Fort Laramie was a military outpost and there are still a few walls still standing of the old adobe buildings.

We stopped in the Visitor Center, which is located in the old commissary storehouse, watched the movie and looked at the small display.  Then we walked around the grounds looking at all the old buildings.  Gene was very happy that all the restored buildings had also been furnished with period items.  It is so much more realistic and informative than just seeing an empty room.

We had to hurry along at the end because of the dark, threatening skies and loud claps of thunder rumbling overhead.  Didn’t want to get caught out in that storm.

I have added the photos of our quick shopping trip at Sierra Trading Post to Sunday’s post.  This store in Cheyenne is the flagship store for Sierra Trading Post.  Gene and I both agree that we like flagship REI in Seattle and the flagship LL Bean in Maine much better than this Sierra Trading Post store.  We were a little disappointed.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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