We packed a lunch, programmed the GPS, and we were off to Fort Laramie.
The road took us past the Laramie River Station Power Plant which represents one of the largest consumer-owned regional joint power supply programs in the United States:
We continued on the back road with some beautiful scenery:
Past Greyrocks WHMA:
And then….our GPS took us down this dirt road – still beautiful scenery:
When we stopped at the gate, the ranger says “I see you came in the back way via your GPS” and we all laughed.
Our first stop was the picnic area where we had lunch – it had been a late start kind of day. Then a slow walk to the visitor center (the large building in the center) which was originally the food warehouse for the army. The smaller building to the right of the visitor center is the bakery where they do occasionally make and sell bread (but not today ).
The stone monument on the above picture had this engraving:
I wonder why they did not mention what presidents.
A little about Fort Laramie:
“Located at confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers in southeast Wyoming, this famed outpost -first as a fur trade post and then as a military garrison-played a strategic role in transforming the United States. Here, for 56 years successive waves of trappers, traders, Native Americans, missionaries, emigrants, soldiers, miners, ranchers and homesteaders interacted and left their mark on a place that would become famous in the history of the American west - Fort Laramie.
In 1834 Robert Campbell and William Sublette established the first "Fort Laramie" here. Officially named Fort William, the post was rectangular, and small, measuring only 100 by 80 feet. Hewn cottonwood logs 15 feet high formed the fort's palisade. With the beaver trade already in decline, Campbell and Sublette recognized that the future of the fur trade lay in trading with the Native population for buffalo robes. Fort William enjoyed a near monopoly on the buffalo trade in this region until a competing trading post, Fort Platte, was built a mile away in 1841. This rivalry spurred Fort William's owners to replace their own aging fort with a larger, adobe walled structure named Fort John.
Indian tribes, especially the Lakota (Sioux), traded tanned buffalo robes here for a variety of manufactured goods. Each spring caravans arrived with trade goods at the fort. In the fall, tons of buffalo hides and other furs were shipped east. Throughout the 1840's, however, the take of buffalo robes continually declined and Fort John's role changed. In 1841, the first of many westward-bound emigrants arrived at Fort John.
Tens of thousands of emigrants bound for Oregon, California, and the Salt Lake Valley would eventually stop at the fort. The traders at Fort John did a brisk seasonal business catering to the needs of emigrants.
In 1849, the U.S. Army offered to purchase Fort John as part of a plan to establish a military presence along the emigrant trails. The owners of Fort agreed to the sale and on June 26. The post was officially renamed Fort Laramie and it began its tenure as a military post. The Army quickly constructed new buildings for stables, officers' and soldiers' quarters, a bakery, a guardhouse and a powder magazine to house and support the fort garrison.
As the years went by the post continued to grow in size and importance. Fort Laramie soon became the principal military outpost on the Northern Plains. Fort Laramie also became the primary hub for transportation and communication through the central Rocky Mountain region as emigrant trails, stage lines, the Pony Express, and the transcontinental telegraph all passed through the post.
Fort Laramie played an important role hosting several treaty negotiations with the Northern Plains Indian Nations, the most famous of which were the Horse Creek Treaty of 1851 and the still controversial and contested Treaty of 1868.
Sadly, relations that began amicably between Native Americans and the Army began to change as the number of emigrants using the overland trails swelled. As conflicts grew, major military campaigns were launched from the fort against the Northern Plains tribes, who fiercely defended their homeland against further encroachment by a nation moving west.
As the Indian Wars came to a close Fort Laramie's importance diminished. The post was abandoned and sold at public auction in 1890. Over the next 48 years, it nearly succumbed to the ravages of time. Preservation of the site was secured, however, in 1938 when Fort Laramie became part of the National Park System.”
What I found most interesting is that this was a stopping point for those who traveled the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, Stage Lines, Pony Express, Transcontinental Telegraph as well as traders and Native Americans. Can you imagine the stories that this post could tell!
We watched a movie on the post, checked out the store, picked up the audio guides and away we went.
Our first stop was the Cavalry Barracks:
The Post Trader’s Store and Complex:
The trader – what great stories he told us:
The Post Surgeon’s Quarters:
Have you noticed the inside pictures? What I really enjoyed was that we were able to go in almost every structure.
This was known as “Old Bedlam”. It was built to house bachelor officers'’ quarters and it is Wyoming’s oldest documented building.
It was beautiful!
From there we took a walk down to the Laramie River:
The back of the Captain's Quarters House:
The Old Guardhouse. This is Fort Laramie’s second guardhouse, built to house 40 prisoners but often held more. The upper story had quarters for the guard and the Officer of the Guard. The first floor had the general confinement area and two small solitary-confinement cells. Prisoners had no furniture, heat, or light.
The upper floor:
The lower floor – entrance to the jail:
The inside of the jail:
Inside of the new guardhouse were displays of weapons and carriages used during this period:
The bakery and the gardens – notice the teepees in the background. That was where many of the Northern Plains tribes gathered to trade, talk, and do treaties:
What a wonderful tour!
We made a final stop at the visitor center to drop off the audio guides and headed home.
I will leave you with two pictures of the day: