We went to Fort Laramie today, spent a lot longer there than I thought we would about five hours. There is a vast amount of history here, which is really neat to learn.
The original fort was Called Fort John, built at a bend in the Laramie river, just about where it goes into the North Platte river. It was built before 1840, was a small place about 200 x 200 with fifteen foot hill log walls. It was a trading post really, where fur traders, and Indians would come together and trade goods. The very powerful American Fur Trade company owned it. In 1849 the U. S. Army purchased the Fort as part of a plan to establish a military presence with the increased emigrant traffic. It was renamed Fort Laramie. Right away it was enlarged and grew in size with new buildings made of adobe and had everything a fort would need. Military presence grew, and soon the fort became the principal military post on the northern plains. The fort was also the transportation hub for the Oregon trail, pony express, stage lines ,and the telegraph. In the 1870’s the fort saw again a need for update, new buildings were now made of cut sandstone, more quarters for troops we added, married men brought there wives and kids to live. Soon it looked almost like a small frontier town, as in the 1880’s there were tree lined streets, gas lights, swanky looking homes. In 1890 with the railroad, and the Indian wars over, it was closed, and sold at auction. Homesteaders bought what was left, tore down buildings to use for there own use. in 1938 Roosevelt declared Fort Laramie a national historic monument. Detailed surveys then took place, along with archeological research. Twelve buildings are now restored to original, to show what live was really like out in the plains.
The fort after it’s many enlargements, about a mile long, three quarters mile wide. The original, small Fort John , is in the far left hand area by the river, nothing remains today. The iron bridge to the right goes over the Laramie river, ( no longer standing)built in the early 1870’s, before then and in which most immigrants had to do was take the ferry across, which was in itself very dangerous. Also on the far right is a vast flat area where all the wagon trains would stop, then you could go the fort and buy supplies. Soon sutlers, selling there goods ,and even some hotels sprang up on that side to resupply settlers on there way to Oregon. Also on the far right top would of been the very vast area for the horses, mules, oxen ,whatever ,think about how that smelled day after day.
The fort as it appears today. Notice there are no walls, around the fort. They only had rifle pits around which were maned all the time, with a few cannon about. Indians liked open area attacks where they had the advantage with there swift pony’s. They knew it was not wise to attack a fort, so all the movies you see with them attacking, that’s just Hollywood.
If you were traveling west on the Oregon trail, Fort Laramie, was a must stop, you would of crossed the Platte River and Laramie river by barge or ferry. Time consuming and dangerous. As i mentioned before an iron bridge was erected over the Laramie river, there was one also across the Platt river. It still stands and to think thousands of people, horses and wagons crossed it was fun to walk it.
Fort Laramire’s emigrant season lasted only 45 days, between late spring and early summer, each year, the place was so busy that in the sutlers store, they had 13 clerks working day and night to keep up with the demand of goods needed along the trail. Pictures below show that ,and the counter the sutler is leaning on is the original one over 175 years old.
Traverling the trail also required a special kind of wagon, called a prairie schooner or wagon, only four feet wide, it was built to withstand the harsh terrain along the trail. Emigrants walked along side of it, not in it as it was packed with too much stuff, they only slept in it, if there was room.
The fort underwent a lot of changes in it’s time, with a lot of original buildings lost to history, but what is left defines what it was like to live in the open out west country at the time.
On our way back we stopped in Guernesy to have lunch at the Twisters Eatery. It was good food.