Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fort Benton Montana

The American Fur Company started doing business at the current site of Ft Benton, Montana in 1847. Prized buffalo robes came into the store brought by Plains Indians, who desired many of the items the traders had to offer. This is the trading room used for that purpose. Most of the Indians here were taller than the Europeans that operated the trading activity, so the traders went so far as to build a raised platform they could stand on behind the counter!

In early June, of 1805, Louis and Clark arrived at the confluence of two rivers about 10 miles downriver from here and climbed an overlooking hill to decide which branch to take to find the great rapids spoken about by the Indians and the sought after passageway to the Pacific Ocean. Clark took an expedition up the right fork and Louis, the left. For 5 days, they traveled seeking the great falls. Louis' route was chosen as the correct route.

Ft Benton is a small town full of colorful history. One of its blocks became so rowdy and lawless, it had to be surrounded by the US Calvary to settle things down to a more or less civil atmosphere. At that time, it was known as "Bloodiest Block in the West," where six shooters were openly displayed on the top of every poker table. Twelve of the thirteen business on the block were saloons, dance, halls, of brothels.

This 1888 bridge still spans the rushing Missouri. Pedestrians may stroll out and sit on benches or watch the river flow along the Louis and Clark route. Oscar was surprised by the old squeaky board which sagged as we walked past.

In 1887, this artful display of buffalo collected from Montana went on display at the US Smithsonian Museum. They remained there for 70 years before being displaced by other exhibits. In 1996 they returned to Montana and are now on display in Fort Benton at the Hornaday/Smithsonian Buffalo and Western Art Gallery - an impressive sight.
The mountains are close and the skies are enchanting at Ft Benton. The Wonder Egg looks right at home as the sun paints the clouds with ever changing hues.

To be continued . . .


Kansas Rob said...

Pete, thanks for your excellent blog and allowing us to travel along with you on the Lewis and Clark Rally.

Pete said...

Thanks, Kansas Rob. Kudos should really go out to Judy Colorado, who put this whole rolling rally together. I just like taking pictures, telling stories, and keeping that rascal, Oscar, out of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Pete. What a run you guys and gals have had. I spent several days in Fort Benton about two weeks before you got there. It's nice to again see the sights, in pictures.

Well done,