Posted in Forts, Indian Wars, Library of Congress, Maps, Military, National Archives

Hold the Fort! …or at least stick around and learn a little more about it

Out West, early on, it was lawless and rugged and full of guys who wanted land, gold, and water rights, and sometimes did not get along with the Native Americans who came first.  So Out West is also where forts and the United States Army Cavalry could be found.  Maybe your ancestor lived near a fort, or maybe he lived in one as a soldier.

Fort Laramie, Wyoming
Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Walters Art Museum {{Commons:File:Alfred Jacob Miller – Fort Laramie – Walters 37194049.jpg}} at Wikimedia Commons

You will probably be surprised to know how many forts actually existed in the 19th century Out West.  I don’t have an exact number, but I have some resources that will help you track them down, and also find the records created by the U.S. Army at those forts. Continue reading “Hold the Fort! …or at least stick around and learn a little more about it”

Posted in Books, Friday Finds, Migration trails

Friday Finds: “The Great Platte River Road,” by Merrill J. Mattes

So your ancestors ended up Out West?  How did they get there?

Chances are good they came via the Great Platte River Road—the name for the pioneer trail that followed the Platte River.  It was actually known by many different names, depending on where an emigrant “jumped on” or “jumped off.”

The Great Platte River Road, by Merrill J. Mattes (Lincoln, Nebr. : University of Nebraska Press, 1987) covers the section of the trail from Fort Kearny (near present-day Kearney, Nebraska) to Fort Laramie (near present-day Laramie, Wyoming).

According to the preface, “It is distilled from the firsthand impressions of several hundred covered wagon emigrants, representing both sexes and all degrees of human latitude, who somehow contrived to leave something for the historical record. It is the story of their unique collective Platte River experience as it emerges from their own unvarnished journals.”

The book is worth it for the detailed maps alone, but the narrative is very informative, as well.  The Great Platte River Road—it was just about everybody’s Granny’s Trail!