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Montana Forts of the Old West - Page 3


Vintage Native American Photographs


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Fort Custer (1877-1898) - Established 1877 by U.S. Army to control the Crow Indians, the post was located on the high point between the Big Horn and Little Big Horn Rivers south of present-day Hardin, Montana. The post was named for George A. Custer who died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. By the time the fort was established, most of the hostile Indians in the vicinity had been confined to reservations, but the post supplied troops for some of the Plains campaigns, including the Bannock War in 1878 and an uprising at the Crow Agency in 1886. With the Indian threat subdued, the post closed on April 17, 1898 and the buildings were sold. Today nothing remains of the fort but a monument. It is located in Big Horn County, on an unimproved road, about 1 mile west of I-90 and 2 miles southeast of Hardin, Montana.


Fort Custer, Montana

Fort Custer

Fort Dauphin (1860-1865) - A trading post established at the mouth of Milk River by Louis Dauphin, a Creole trapper. He was killed by Sioux near here in 1865.


Fort Ellis (1867-1886) - Fort Ellis was tasked with watching over the miners and settlers in the Gallatin River Valley of western Montana and the nearby Bozeman, Bridger, and Flathead Passes. Figuring in the 1876-81 Sioux campaigns, it was the base at which Colonel John Gibbon, operating out of Fort Shaw, Montana, acquired additional troops in 1876 before proceeding eastward in the ill-fated operation that ended in the Custer disaster. Gibbon also led Fort Ellis troops in the Battle of the Big Hole, Montana. Today, the Montana State University's Fort Ellis Experiment Station occupies the site, but no buildings remain. A commemorative monument is located just off I-90 in Gallatin County, about 3 1/2 miles east of Bozeman.


Fort Fizzle (1877) - A temporary barricade about five miles above the mouth of Lolo Canyon. It was erected on July 25, 1877 by Captain C.C. Rawn in an attempt to halt the flight of the Nez Perce. It was nicknamed Fort Fizzle after the failure to stop the Indians.


Fort Fox & Livingston (1842-1844) - A trading post established in 1842 to compete with the American Fur Company by Fox, Livingston & Company. It was located approximately 11 miles below Fort Benton on the east bank at or near Shonkin Creek. It was moved in 1844 to the site of the first Fort Lewis. It was bought out by the American Fur Company in May, 1845.

Fort Galpin (1862) - A trading post established in 1862 by Charles Larpentuer for the  LaBarge, Harkness & Company. It was named for William and Charles Galpin who were partners in the company. It was located 12 miles above the mouth of the Milk River.


Fort Gilbert (1864-1867) - A trading post established at the edge of the Fort Buford, North Dakota Military Reservation, it was named for Colonel Charles Gilbert, a one time commanding officer at Fort Buford. Located at the southern boundary of the military reservation on the west bank of the Yellowstone River, the post served the Yellowstone Valley. Though there is nothing left of the post today, a marker designates the site about five miles north of Sidney, Montana on state highway 200.


Fort William Henry Harrison (1892-Present) - Authorized by Congress in May, 1892, this military post was established as part of a greater consolidation program to close a number of smaller installations which would be replaced by just a few larger posts where troops would be concentrated. It was first called Fort Harrison after the sitting President Benjamin Harrison. It was garrisoned with troops from Fort Assinniboine in September, 1895. Some years later in 1906, the name was changed to Fort William Henry Harrison because it was discovered that there had already been an Army fort named for Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana. The second name honored William Henry Harrison who was a soldier, governor, and Congressman who served just one month as President of the United States in 1841 before succumbing to pneumonia.


Fort William Henry Harrison

Fort William Henry Harrison

The U.S. Army troops were withdrawn in 1913, the government retained the land. Subsequent history included being used as mustering site for Montana troops bound for France in 1917, Veteran's Administration facilities beginning in 1922, as a training site for National Guardsmen between the two world wars. It is probably best known as the home base of the First Special Service Force, known as the "Devil's Brigade," in 1942 and 1943.


Today the site continues to house the Montana National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, and U.S. Navy Reserve, as well as a growing Veterans Administration facility. Some of the fort's original buildings including Officer's Quarters, baracks and the parade ground are located toward the back o the compound. There is a museum on the site, but is only open 1-2 days per week. The post is located on the west side of Helena, Montana off of Hwy 12.


Fort Hawley (1866) - A trading post established by Louis Rivet of the North West Company, it was named for A.F. Hawley, a partner in the company. It was established to trade with the River Crow Indians. It was located below Fort Benton on the south side of the Missouri River, about 20 miles above the Mussleshell River. 

Fort Henry (1822-1823) - Named for Andrew Henry, this post stood at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. It was destroyed by
Indians just a year after it was established.


Fort Howes (1897) - A rock walled redoubt on a hill above the Howes Ranch south of Ashland. It was built as civil defense against a threatened outbreak by the Cheyenne in 1897. It was comprised of 10' x 18' rock walls with a plank roof.


Fort Jackson (1833-1834) - A trading post established in December, 1833 by Francis A. Chardon near the mouth of the
Poplar River, it was named for Andrew Jackson. It was 50' square structure. It was abandoned the very next year.


Fort Janeaux (1879-1883) - Also called Janeaux's Post, Fort Turnay, and Medicine Lodge, this trading post was established by Francis A. Janeaux, a licensed Metis Indian trader and later the founder of Lewistown, Montana. He and his wife, Virgjnia Laverdure Janeaux, established a homestead in the fall of 1879 on Big Spring Creek, and in partnership with the trading firm of Leighton Brothers, Janeaux built a substantial post. The trading post, which measured about 100 by 150 feet, was surrounded by a stockade with two bastions at diagonal corners. In the middle were several log cabins, one for he and his family, and the others reserved for clerks and interpreters. The post traded buffalo robes, furs, meat, and pemmican with traveling bands of Missouri River Indians and with about 100 families of the Red River Metis. No sooner had Janeaux established his trading post, when he found himself in direct competition with Alfonzo S. Reed and his Reed's Fort Settlement, which was situated just mile away. However, in the end Janeaux would win out. In 1882, he and his wife donated a plot of 40 acres to develop the townsite of Lewistown and the following year he sold his store. By 1884, a two story hotel was built facing the store, and before long livery stables and saloons surrounded his old trading post. Today, his post would have sat at what is the intersection of Third Avenue North and Broadway, right in the center of present day Lewiston, Montana.



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