Filed Under Sidney

Fort Union Trading Post

National Historic Landmark

Situated on the Missouri River near its confluence with the Yellowstone, Fort Union dominated the region’s fur trade between 1828 and 1867. With its white palisade walls and bright red roofs, it was often hailed as the “grandest fort on the Upper Missouri.” Here, Northern Plains tribes—primarily Assiniboine but also Cree, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and Sioux—delivered beaver pelts and brain-tanned buffalo hides for shipment downriver to St. Louis. In exchange, Native traders were paid in manufactured goods including beads, blankets, guns, pipes, cloth, and cookware that came to Fort Union from around the world. Part of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, the post also hosted many notable visitors as they traveled through the region. Such guests included artists and scientists like George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Prince Maximillian of Wied-Neuwied, and John James Audubon. For most of its history, trade at Fort Union was conducted peaceably, with little conflict between the cultures involved. In 1867 the United States Army purchased the post, dismantling the structures and salvaging the building materials to use in the construction of nearby Fort Buford, North Dakota. Although little visible trace remained, the fort’s historic significance merited its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Beginning in 1985, and guided by archaeological excavations and careful research, the post’s buildings were rebuilt atop the footprints of the original buildings. According to the National Park Foundation, “the reconstructed Fort Union represents a unique era in American history, a brief period when two different civilizations found common ground and mutual benefit through commercial exchange and cultural acceptance.”

Images

Fort Union Trading Post, Williston, ND Aerial view of Fort Union bastion, fenced walls, and Bourgeois House in background. Source: National Park Service Creator: National Park Service photo Date: ca. 2019
Fort Union Trading Post, Williston, ND Fort Union Trading Post illuminated by the sun's golden light from the west late in the day in mid December. The snow-filled dirt track in the foreground approximates the location of the historic road that once connected the American Fur Company's two major Upper Missouri trading posts, Fort Union and Fort Benton near present-day Great Falls, Montana. Source: Fort Union Trading Post Gallery, National Park Service Creator: Fred McVaugh for National Park Service. Date: ca. 2014
Fort Union Trading Post, Williston, ND View of Fort Union trading post at sunset Source: Fort Union Trading Post gallery, National Park Service website. Creator: Robert Harper, photographer. Date: Oct 2014

Location

15550 Highway 1804, Williston, ND | Public. Open 9 am to 5 pm CENTRAL TIME, 7 days/week.

Metadata

Montana Historical Society, “Fort Union Trading Post,” Historic Montana, accessed February 8, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/3242.