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Fort Assiniboine

Location: Havre

Fort Assiniboine, the largest military post constructed in Montana, was established in 1879. Within four years, a stately, impressive complex of some one hundred brick, stone and wood buildings, was clustered around the parade ground overlooking the quiet meandering of Beaver Creek, and in the shadow of the beautiful Bear Paw Mountains. The Fort buildings were surrounded by a vast military reservation of a half million acres.

The Fort was designed to house ten companies of soldiers, both infantry and cavalry. The troopers were in charge of monitoring the activities of the many Indian groups living in the region, and protecting them and the citizens of Montana from hostile incursions of Canadian tribal bands. In its heyday, nearly 1,000 officers, enlisted men, and civilians called Assiniboine home.

The Fort, one of northern Montana’s earliest white outposts, was a busy self contained city. Bakery, laundry, and blacksmith facilities were in operation, as were a general store, post office, hotel and restaurant. For recreation, the post band gave regular concerts, and the men engaged in such sport activities as baseball, track and boxing. Other diversions offered included a library for reading, cardplaying and checkers; plus an enlisted man’s amusement center housed in the regimental band barracks. The lifestyle was routine, with the men largely spared from battle activity.

By the early twentieth century, Montana’s frontier was drawing to a close, and the Fort was surrounded by homesteads and the trappings of “Civilization.” The post was finally closed in 1911, and the state of Montana turned the site into an agricultural experiment station. Today much of it is gone, but the surviving buildings are a proud and majestic reminder of Montana’s Frontier Heritage.

The site of old Fort Assiniboine is now the home of the Northern Agricultural Research Center, operated by Montana State University. It is not open to individual visitors; however, the Fort Assiniboine Preservation Association conducts regular guided tours of the site during the summer months. Tour schedules and other information may be obtained from the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce (406) 265-4383. Reprinted from Fort Assiniboine Preservation Association brochure.

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