Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
|Location||McKenzie and Williams counties, North Dakota, and Richland and Roosevelt counties, Montana|
|Nearest city||Williston, North Dakota|
|Area||444 acres (1.80 km2)|
|Architect||American Fur Company|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival, Other|
|Website||Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site|
|NRHP reference #||66000103|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||July 4, 1961|
|Designated NHS||June 20, 1966|
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site is a partial reconstruction of the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri, 1829-1867. The fort site is about two miles from the confluence of the Missouri River and its tributary, the Yellowstone River, on the North Dakota/Montana border, 25 miles from Williston, North Dakota.
In 1961, the site became one of the earliest declared National Historic Landmarks in the United States and was named Fort Union Trading Post by the National Park Service to differentiate it from Fort Union National Monument, a historic frontier Army post in New Mexico.
The historic site interprets how portions of the fort may have looked in 1851, based on archaeological excavations as well as drawings by contemporaries, including Rudolf Kurz, the post clerk in 1851.
Fort Union, possibly first known as Fort Henry or Fort Floyd, was built in 1828 or 1829 by the Upper Missouri Outfit managed by Kenneth McKenzie and was capitalized by John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company. Until 1867, Fort Union was the central, and busiest, trading post on the upper Missouri, instrumental in developing the fur trade in Montana. Here Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibwe, Blackfoot, Hidatsa, Lakota, and other tribes traded buffalo robes and furs for trade goods including beads, clay pipes, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, cloth, and alcohol. Historic visitors to the fort included John James Audubon, Sha-có-pay, Captain Joseph LaBarge, Kenneth McKenzie, Father Pierre DeSmet, George Catlin, Sitting Bull, Karl Bodmer, Hugh Glass, and Jim Bridger.
At first, Indians traded beaver pelts for Euro-American goods because of the popularity of beaver hats in the East and in Europe. When silk and woolen hats became more popular during the 1830s, demand for beaver pelts decreased, and the trade shifted to bison robes.
During the historical period, Fort Union served as a haven for many frontier people and contributed to further economic growth on the American frontier. As headquarters for the American Fur Company, it played a primary role in the growth of the fur trade and allowed fur trade entrepreneurs to exert considerable influence in forming policies that affected the Indian nations of the region. The presence of the fort near the northern border of the United States also symbolized national sovereignty in the region.
The fort maintained a large inventory of firearms that were traded with Indian tribes for furs. In turn, Indians used the firearms in hunting for furs and buffalo robes. Northern Plains Indians preferred the English-made "North West Gun," a smooth-bore flintlock, because of its reputation for quality and reliability.
Conflicts between Euro-American traders and Indians were less frequent around Fort Union than conflicts between the Indian tribes themselves. However, during the summer of 1863, when many tribes along the Missouri River became openly hostile to whites, Fort Union was nearly under siege, and steamboats and their passengers were exposed to significant danger.
- Fort Buford, nearby site
- Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center
- Fur trade in Montana
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Montana
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Roosevelt County, Montana
- List of National Historic Landmarks in North Dakota
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Richland County, North Dakota
- National Park Service (April 17, 2015), Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 4/06/15 through 4/10/15, retrieved April 23, 2015.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
- "Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- Roy A. Matteson (October 5, 1951) National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings: Fort Union, National Park Service and Accompanying 1 photo from July 1948.
- Matzko, 2001, p. 11
- De Vore, 1992
- Sudbury, J. Byron, 2009. Politics of the Fur Trade: Clay Tobacco Pipes at Fort Union Trading Post (32WI17). Historic Clay Tobacco Pipe Studies Research Monograph 2. 225 pages. Clay Pipes Press, Ponca City, Oklahoma 74602-2282 USA. http://www.claypipes.com/FortUnion.htm
- Chittenden, 1902, p. 52
- Chittenden, 1905, Vol I, pp. 31, 340
- Historical Archaeology, 1990, pp. 1–2
- Historical Archaeology, 1990, p. 3
- National Park Service, Essay: Firearms of the Fur Trade, 2015
- National park Service, Essay, MacVaugh, 2017
- Chittenden, 1903, Vol. II, p. 324
- Barbour, Barton H. (2001). Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3295-2.
- Chittenden, Hiram Martin (1903). History of early steamboat navigation on the Missouri River : life and adventures of Joseph La Barge, Volume I . New York : Francis P. Harper.
- —— (1903). History of early steamboat navigation on the Missouri River : life and adventures of Joseph La Barge, Volume II . New York : Francis P. Harper.
- —— (1902). The American fur trade of the far West, Volume I. New York : Francis P. Harper.
- ——; de Smet, Pierre-Jean; Richardson, Alfred Talbot (1905). Life, letters and travels of Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J., 1801-1873, Volume I. New York : Francis P. Harper.
- Chittenden, Hiram Martin; de Smet, Pierre-Jean; Richardson, Alfred Talbot (1905). Life, letters and travels of Father Pierre-Jean de Smet, S.J., 1801-1873, Volume II. New York : Francis P. Harper.
- De Vore, Steven Leroy (1992). Beads of the Bison Robe Trade: The Fort Union Trading Post Collection. Friends of Fort Union Trading Post.
- —— (1990). "Fur Trade Era Blacksmith Shops at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, North Dakota". Historical Archaeology. Springer. 24 (23): 23. JSTOR 25615792.
- Matzko, John Austin (2001). Reconstructing Fort Union. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-3216-7.
- Ross, Lester A. (2000). Trade Beads from Archeological Excavations at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. National Park Service, Midwest Archeological Center.
- "Firearms of Fort Union - The Flint and Fire of Fort Union: Firearms of the Fur Trade". National park Service. 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
- MacVaugh, Fred (2017). "Conflict at the Confluence: Catlin's Eyewitness Account". National park Service. Retrieved September 4, 2019.