The Corps of Discovery, commonly remembered as Lewis and Clark, camped at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers April 25, 1805. The place teemed with game and Meriwether Lewis noted its potential as a trading site.
The American Fur Company took up Lewis’ suggestion and built Fort Union, where the native people came to trade. For the natives, post was in the neighborhood. For Europeans, Fort Union was an outpost far from civilization. Reaching St. Louis would take weeks of hard travel. And life on the Northern Plains was difficult, a climate of extreme cold winters and short harsh summers. Even now, when it’s on a highway, the fort feels remote.
When fur trade declined, post was torn down. Materials were used to build Fort Buford a few miles to the east. Fort Union was Buford’s equivalent to Home Depot, since lumber yards did not exist on the frontier. Fort Buford is now a North Dakota historic site, but little has been done to restore that fort.
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