Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Picket Fences, Sidewalks, and Gaslights

What do all of the above have in common. . . .Fort Laramie. That's right. What a surprise!

During my trip to Colorado, my son Mark drove me up to Fort Laramie, Wyoming in the Platte Valley to visit the historic site. What an adventure and one I had been looking forward to for many years.

The original wooden fort built around 1834 was named Fort William. (Picture of Fort William) It was located on the Laramie River, near the Platte River and built by fur trader William Sublette for the use as a trading post. By 1841, a new structure of adobe and wooden beams was built about a mile away. They named it Fort John on the Laramie, which became Fort Laramie.

In June of 1849, the army purchase the fort and began building housing structures in the open area to replace the old rotting fort. There were to be no palisades to protect this fort in its stark, treeless setting. By this time, trapping had petered out and wagons began to appear on the horizon. Fort Laramie developed into a major supply stop for wagon trains and travelers heading west to California and Oregon.

By 1888, the historical site hit its heyday. It depicted a small town with white picket fences, sidewalks and gaslights. Wives and sweethearts walked about the area with parasols and played cards at night.

Today the fort is still a stark, treeless area of ghost structures. The parade ground is grassy now but you can almost hear the soldiers stomping in formation. A gravel walkway encircles the parade ground about the size of a football field, or close to it. If you stand still and shut your eyes, you can feel the spirits around you as the wind whips across the open area. The surrounding view of skeleton remains and refurbished displays of housing, barracks, jail, bakery, and the visitor's center leaves an eerie feeling. It is quite overwhelming, especially when you realize that at one time thousands of people past this way, looking for a better life.

For an adventurous story, pick up one of my books, JOURNEY TO TRACER'S POINT (first in the series) or WINDS OF CHANGE (second in the series). See what challenges the Anderson family faced as they traveled by covered wagon, leaving their possessions behind in Virginia to search for gold in California.

To learn more about this historical site, go to Fort Laramie and Legends of America . Discover the richness of American history and enjoy the read.

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