Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory, was the most noted name on the map of the West from 1854 to 1863. Although now the old fort is in Wyoming forty miles beyond the Nebraska state line, the memories of its early days belong to Nebraska history.
Fort Laramie in 1848
The early fur traders founded Fort Laramie. One of them, indeed, died to give his name to the Laramie River from which the fort was named. As far back as 1834 the first fur trader's post, called Fort William, was built in the forks of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. By the year 1846 the name Fort Laramie was in common use. It was a new fort with walls twenty feet high built of sunbaked clay bricks. It stood on a little hill near the Laramie River about a mile above where that river joined the Platte. Here the hunters and trappers for the American Fur Company brought their furs and here Indians came to trade. About 1849 the United States bought the fort from the fur company and it soon became the chief post in the Indian country. All the travelers on the Oregon Trail longed for sight of Fort Laramie. It was 667 miles from the Missouri River. Here the plains and the mountains met. Here the wagon trains rested and refitted before starting on their journey through the mountains. Near here the great councils were held with the Indians, and the historic treaties of 1851 and 1868 were made. Great buildings were built here by the government to shelter soldiers and supplies. From this fort the regiments marched to the Indian wars and here were brought many of the dead from those campaigns. It was the great station on the world's great highway.
In 1891 Fort Laramie was abandoned. To-day its ruins cover forty acres of land. A few of the old buildings are used by five or six families who still live at the old place. The old guard house or military jail where prisoners were kept is used as a horse stable. Roofless buildings and crumbling walls are everywhere. Deep gullies over the hills mark the route of the Oregon Trail. A tiny white schoolhouse stands near the corner of the old parade ground, now grown over with grass, and a dozen school-children now laugh and play where once the soldiers marched at command. The dead are gone from the graves on the hillside to rest in the cemetery at Fort McPherson. The old life of the Oregon Trail and the Indian wars is gone never to return, but the name of Fort Laramie will always remain in the history of early Nebraska.