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Montana Forts of the Old West - Page 4

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Fort Missoula, Montana, 1886Fort Missoula (1877- 1947) - Fort Missoula was established as a permanent military post in 1877 and built in response to requests of local townspeople and settlers for protection in the event of conflict with western Montana Indian tribes.


Founded on the Bitterroot River, its garrison took part in only one engagement of consequence -- the Battle of the Big Hole in August, 1877, 90 miles to the south, in the Nez Perce War. The captives were incarcerated at Fort Missoula. During the next 2 years, when they were not countering minor Indian harassments, the troops restored a stretch of the Mullan Road, running from Fort Benton, Montana to Fort Walla Walla, Washington. In post-frontier days the fort was not continuously active or garrisoned.


In 1904, funds were appropriated to remodel Fort Missoula and a complex of concrete buildings with red tile roofs was constructed between 1908 and 1914, including a new Officer's Row, barracks, and Post Hospital. During World War I, the fort was used as a military training center but by 1921 it was nearly abandoned. In 1933, it became the Northwest Regional Headquarters Civilian Conservation Corps.


In 1941, the fort was turned over to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization  for use as an alien detention center for non-military Italian and Japanese-American men. Its last official function was to serve as a prison for military personnel accused of military crimes and other personnel awaiting court-martial. When the post was decommissioned in 1947, many of the buildings were sold, dismantled, and removed from the site. The majority of the land is now in the hands of non-military agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Missoula County. However, a portion of the military reservation continues to serve as an Army and Navy training facility and reserve center.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula features a 13 historic structures and a large array of historical artifacts.


More Information:


Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

Building 322

Fort Missoula

Missoula, Montana 59804



Fort Pease vicinity mapFort Pease (1875-1876) - Established in June, 1875 by Gallatin Valley traders, this trading post was named for Major Fellows D. Pease, an expedition leader and Indian trader.  Located just below the mouth of the Big Horn River not far from old Fort Lisa. It was hoped by the Bozeman traders that the site might become an important riverboat site. The post consisted of a series of log huts connected by a palisade of cottonwood logs enclosing an area some 200 feet square. However, the post was built on land that the Sioux claimed as their own and they regarded the establishment as an invasion of their hunting grounds. After just a few months of operation, the post was held under siege by the Sioux until it was relieved by U.S. troops. The site was then occupied by the U.S. Army in 1876 during the Sioux Wars, at which time, it was called Terry's Landing. After the soldiers abandoned the fort, the Sioux burned the fort to the ground. The site was located at what is known as Pease Bottom in Treasure County, Montana.





The original 1841 St. Mary's Mission still stands at  Fort Owen, Montana.Fort Owen (1850-18??) - The fort is situated on the site of the first permanent white settlement in Montana. In 1841, Father Pierre DeSmet came to the area and established St. Mary's Mission among the Flathead Indians. In 1850, Major John Owen, an Indian trader, purchased St. Mary's Mission, establishing a regional trade center. He later acted as Indian agent. The fort, built of adobe and logs, also supported an extensive farming operation, sawmill and gristmill. Today, the site is a Montana State Park located in Stevensville, Montana. The park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features the original 1841 restored chapel, a cabin that now serves as a museum, barracks, and several other buildings on the one acre site. The park is 25 miles south of Missoula on U.S. 93 to Stevensville Junction, then .5 miles east on Secondary 269.



Fort Owen State Park

3201 Spurgin Road

Missoula, Montana 59804 




Fort Parker, MontanaFort Parker (1869-1870) - Also known as the Crow Agency, Fort Parker was established as a result of the 1868 treaty with the Crow Indians. Located a few miles below the great bend of the Yellowstone River, it was named for E.S. Parker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The area was intended to be a refuge for the Crow Indians from their enemies -- the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot. The government encouraged the Crow to adopt an agricultural lifestyle, with little success. When the government began to reduce the size of the Crow Reservation in 1875, the Crow Agency was moved to a location on the Stillwater River, near the town of Absorkee, ostensibly to remove itself from the whiskey peddlers at Bensons Landing. At that time, the fort was abandoned. Several years later, in May, 1883, the agency was moved farther east to its present location, south of Hardin, Montana. No buildings remain at the site located about ten miles to the east of present-day Livingston, Montana near Interstate 90.



Fort Peck drawingFort Peck (1867-1877) - Established 1867 by Colonel Campbell Kennedy Peck, the post was a branch of Durfee and Peck Trading Company. Said to have rivaled Fort Union, North Dakota, the trading post was constructed of sturdy cottonwood logs had a twelve-foot-tall stockade and several low buildings inside. It became the Indian Agency for the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Indians in 1871. A narrow shale ledge supporting the fort made steamboat docking and unloading easier. But, it would be the Missouri River that would be the fort's undoing in 1877 when it flooded and destroyed the stockade. The Indian Agency then moved to Poplar Creek. The site today is covered by the waters of Fort Peck Reservoir.



Fort Piegan (1831-1832) - This non-military fort was established in October, 1831 by James Kipp for the American Fur Company. Located by the mouth of the Marias River, it was the first successful trading post among the Blackfoot Indians. The fortress including three large log buildings surrounded by a 25 foot palisade. it was abandoned in 1832.



Fort Sarpy (1850-1860) - Built in 1850 by Alexander Culbertson for theAmerican Fur Company, it was established to replace Fort Alexander. It was named for John B. Sarpy, a company partner; however, some preferred to call it by the name of the older post -- Fort Alexander, or even combine the names into Fort Alexander-Sarpy. Situated on the north bank of the Yellowstone River, just below the mouth of the Rosebud Creek, it was first operated by Robert Meldrum, an experienced trader who was also an authority on the Crow tribe's language and customs. Meldrum, who was married to a Crow woman, was known to the Indians as "Round Iron." Once Meldrum was settled at Fort Sarpy, Culbertson moved on to work on rebuilding Fort Benton in Blackfoot country. The post was approximately 100 feet square and surrounded by 15 foot high pickets. It was abandoned in the summer of 1860. The trading post was sometimes also referred to as Meldrum's Post.



Fort Sarpy II (1857-1860) - A second fort called Fort Sarpy was located briefly about 23 miles east of Popular, Montana, about one mile north of the Missouri River. Also a post of the American Fur Company, the 100 foot square stockade was also referred to as Fort Kipp.



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Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-AlexanderPhoto Art - Images include collages, photographs with with watercolor and poster effects, colorized black & white photos, and digital enhancements to improve the composition of the finished product. The vast majority of the original photographs were taken during Legends of America's travels; however, a few are enhanced vintage photographs. Artwork by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.



Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

Photo Art by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


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