Monday, September 18, 2017



Fort Osage, Missouri existed from 1808 to 1828 and has been rebuilt as it existed during that period.

    At Fort Osage, a rebuilt National Historic landmark near Sibley, Missouri, we especially enjoyed listening to  two re-enactors whose knowledge of the history of the site made it seem to come alive,

    Captain William Clark had picked this spot for a fort when the Lewis and Clark expedition had passed it in 1803.  He came back in 1808 to build it as an outpost in the new Louisiana Purchase.

     One of its most important functions was to establish trade with the powerful Osage tribe who readily joined the Americans for two reasons:  they wanted the trade items we made available to them and they needed our help in protecting their areas against other tribes such as the Ioway and the Cherokee.

A re-enactor at the trading post explains the fur trading business to us.

    One  re-enactor at the trading post had a great supply of different animal skins that he allowed us to feel the different tectures.  Carla even got to try the fox skin as a neck piece, a common fashion statement during our 1930s.   He showed us the trade goods most sought by the Osage: metal pots and pans, iron axes, beads, small bells, and for the men rifles and ammunition.  The building was three and half stories,  just outside the fort's gate.  

    The Osage may have been friends, but the army did not want more than one or two in at a time inside the fort because of some experiences elsewhere where an Indian tribe had overpowered the soldiers by coming in under false pretensions or even dressed as women.

    Fur trading companies, unhappy with the U.S. government taking over the business, protested that the result was more “factories” were being closed--so the fort was shut down in 1828.  The Osage also preferred the traders coming to them since it gave their enemies less opportunity to attack them.

    In the fort proper a re-enactor was easy to spot; the guy in old fashioned clothes sitting comfortably on a bench watching the visitors.  He was in front of the captains' quarters and told us how the captains lived in contrast to the soldiers who were there.   Eighty of them slept two to a bed, but when the team was reduced to forty, each got his own bunk.

Two men to a bunk made sleeping conditions tight.

    This site was not a popular assignment for soldiers.  It was isolated, there was little to do other than practice loading a rifle three times a minute, and food was so bad some of them got scurvy.  Other soldiers took to growing their own gardens in order to have a better range of food.

     Constant problems involved who was in charge of the fort: Captain Eli Clemson or George Sibley, the manager of the trade with the Indians.

    The re-enactor pointed out that the post in the middle of the square was a punishment post.  The rule breaker was strapped to it and whipped. That no or few women were available also contributed to the hardship.

    Following our inspection of the buildings and their facilities we went to the relatively new Education Center.  Special funds had been allotted by the state and it is now used by many schools in the area as a study center, but not only of the fort but of the history of the area with emphasis on the history of the Native Americans who had inhabited the area.

   An18-minute film showed re-enactors in large numbers as if the fort was still in operation.  We noted a fair number of civilians and learned that this was a sanctuary for early settlers and explorers.

    The displays in the main area start with a history of the Hopewell, goes on to more information about the Osage including an Osage hut and an Osage couple in natural surroundings.

    Other displays focused on objects from other tribes, plants and animals of western Missouri, information about the Lewis and Clark expedition and the history of the area.

    We were impressed with this as an excellent addition to the learning experiences available to visitors as well as the  students in the area.

The Osage were a tall, powerful people who used the fort as a protection against their enemies.

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