Fort Assinniboine

According to the United States War Department, Fort Assinniboine was established in 1879 “for the purpose of protecting the citizens of Montana from the hostile incursions of Indian tribes dwelling in that region; and especially … the Sioux which had withdrawn across the international boundary line after its victory over the United States troops in the Yellowstone country in 1876.” The first buildings were built so quickly that local Indian people said they “rose magically out of the ground.” Eventually more than 100 buildings cost in excess of a million dollars on the 220,000-acre military reserve. Fort architecture ranged from typical nineteenth century military utilitarian designs to elegant fortress styling. Garrisoned troops were to monitor the Blackfeet Nation, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Sioux (Lakota), Cree, and Métis; deter raiding parties; and guard wagon trains. Soldiers drilled on the parade ground, patrolled the prairies, made brick, and constructed fort buildings. These troops, however, never saw major action. Fort Assinniboine could accommodate 746 enlisted men and officers, but there were seldom more than 500. Later on, the fort housed some of the famous African-American “buffalo soldiers” of the Tenth Cavalry. Abandonment of the post by 1911 influenced the subsequent history of northern Montana; demolished buildings provided the brick for construction of Pershing Hall at Northern Montana College; 58,000 acres of fort land became part of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation; and another portion became an experimental station for Montana State Agricultural College. Most of the land was opened to homesteading and the Beaver Creek area, first designated a federal park, became part of the largest county park in the United States.

Company Officers' Quarters (Apartments)

A battlement-topped octagonal turret—a traditional military architectural symbol—distinguishes Fort Assinniboine’s Company Officers’ Quarters. Built in 1880 under supervision of Major J. C. C. Lee, the six-unit building asserted permanency and…

Company Officers' Quarters (Duplexes)

A row of thirteen mansard-roofed officers’ quarters, flanked by two flat-roofed apartment buildings, defined the northeast side of the parade grounds. Ten of the buildings were duplexes, most like this one, designed to house married officers and…

Ice House

Before modern refrigerators, ice provided a primary means of keeping food fresh. Each winter, troops would harvest ice from the nearby Beaver Creek reservoir, the Milk River, and Milk River tributaries. The work required specialized tools, including…

Library

The post’s first library was relegated to a small space at the back of the Signal Corps office, but in 1888-89 the military spent $1,409.13 to build a one-story, brick, hipped-roof library with multiple wings. A visiting Helena reporter called the…

Officers' Amusement Hall

Fort Assinniboine officers pooled their resources to pay enlisted men an extra .25 per day to build a gathering place for the officers, their wives, and visiting dignitaries. Troops likely quarried the stone for the one-story building in the Missouri…

Post Exchange

Frontier capitalist C. A. Broadwater received the contract to provide locally manufactured bricks and timber, hauled from the Bear’s Paw Mountains, to construct Fort Assinniboine. He hired five hundred Métis (mixed-blood Chippewa-Cree) from the Upper…

Root Cellar

Before refrigeration, rural Americans preserved perishables in root cellars. The fort’s first root cellar, a 100-by-20-foot structure, was built in 1879-80. In 1902 the government invested $3,900 about $237,000 in 2011 dollars to replace the original…