Before Fort Mckinney, Wyoming, became a full-fledged fort, a temporary base called Cantonment Reno was built on the west bank of the Powder River to act as a supply base for General George Crook’s Big Horn Expedition.
The fort was later renamed Fort McKinney in honor of Lieutenant John McKinney, who was killed in the nearby Dull Knife Battle of 1876. In 1878, the well-developed fort faced water and lumber shortages and relocated 45 miles northwest to Buffalo, Wyoming. With the significant battles of the Indian Wars over, the fort’s primary objective was to ensure that the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes did not go back on the warpath.
A second task was to keep the Crow, Arapaho, and Shoshone tribes at peace with each other and the new settlers in the Powder River Basin. During the Johnson County War of 1892, troops at the fort were ordered by President Benjamin Harrison to stop the fighting and escort the prominent cattlemen and their hired Texas gunslingers safely out of the area before the angry citizens of Buffalo could lynch them. Two years later, in 1894, the post was closed.
Today, it is the site of the Wyoming Soldiers and Sailors Home. Three of its original buildings still stand.
© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2023.