July 19, 2015

7/17/15 - Fort Laramie NHS

We were apparently in a wagon rut on the emigrant trails (ha!), having just passed Chimney Rock and then staying at a campground where we could see Scotts Bluff a couple miles away. It seemed appropriate to head over to Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Started as a fur traders post, the fort suffered through an identity crisis, having its name changed from Fort William to Fort John, and finally to Fort Laramie. At one time this fort was the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains, with emigrants on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails coming through.
Near the parking lot is a monument obelisk with 5 historic markers. My favorite is this one. I don't know whether the "...few interested residents" is tongue-in-cheek or a political comment. Either way, it cracked me up.
The Visitor Center is in the old Commissary Storehouse. They have a little museum but it's more interesting outside.
At one time Fort Laramie looked like a frontier town; now it looks like a good place to let your imagination wander. After it was abandoned in 1890, the old fort became fair game for locals to scavenge building materials. (Not a lot of trees on the Great Plains, especially after the wagon trains went through.) A huge effort has been made to restore and refurnish twelve of the buildings (or eleven, I forget, and the brochure I have is old.) The rest of them are either ruins or foundations of the original buildings.
There's a walking tour of the fort--the Commissary Storehouse was #1. From there we went to #19, the Calvary Barracks. (It had restrooms and we'd just had lunch.) The barracks was the largest building at the fort, and has been restored and refurnished. The barracks could be waiting for the soldiers to ride back from fighting Indians, unsaddle their horses and head to their bunks. (I haven't a clue where the stables were--it's not on the map.)
In some of the restored buildings, there were posters that explained about the preservation that was done. (I didn't read most of them, but the ones I did read were interesting. If I'd read them all, we'd probably still be there.)
After checking out the barracks, we continued in the opposite direction from everyone else. There was a costumed interpreter in the Sutler's Store, which is restored to the way it looked in 1860. (I think that's like a commissary, only private enterprise, not military.)
Officer's Row starts off with the Lt. Colonel's Quarters (right) and the Post Surgeon's Quarters. The surgeon's quarters are in a duplex and have been refurnished too.
The other building for officers was this one called "Old Bedlam", built for bachelor officers and is the oldest documented building in Wyoming. One side is restored to look like a BOQ in the 1850s, and the other to Post Headquarters in 1863-64, when Lt. Col. Wm. O. Collins and his wife lived on the second floor.
A couple of the other Officers' Quarters are in ruins, but you can check them out. And the duplexes are just foundations.
The Administration Building is in ruins too.
The Old Guardhouse is different than all the others--one story from the front, two from the back. It housed 40 prisoners or more, who had no heat, light or furniture. There's a view of the river, but I don't think the prisoners cared. The two doors in the back were for solitary confinement.
Ten years later, after many complaints by the post surgeon, the Old Guardhouse was replaced by the New Guardhouse. (I'm guessing they didn't call the Old Guardhouse the Old Guardhouse until they built the New Guardhouse.)
When the New Guardhouse was being built, they found the ruins of the First Guardhouse. (Are you as confused as I am???) Those cells below were 5' high and 5' long, mostly reserved for repeat offenders, who probably had 2 weeks' solitary confinement on bread and water.
The last building we checked out was the Old Bakery. It's been restored, but the New Bakery is in ruins. (I have no idea how they managed to do that.)
We should have checked out the Hospital ruins when we first got there because after walking all around the fort, we weren't much interested in climbing the hill to check out another old relic.
More pictures here:  Fort Laramie Natl Historic Site

Post a comment.

Post a Comment

Please leave comments here: