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Fort Maginnis


Location: East of Lewistown
Fort Maginnis, the last army post created in Montana, was built about 8 miles north of here in 1880. This country was great buffalo range before that time but cattlemen were bringing in stock from the western valleys and the Texas longhorns were being trailed in from the southeast. There wasn’t room for both cattle and buffalo, so the latter had to go. The soldiers were to protect the cattle from being mistaken for buffalo by hungry Indians, to encourage settlement of the Judith Basin west of here and to patrol the Carroll Road to keep supplies rolling between Carroll (near the mouth of the Musselshell River) and Helena. By 1890 the post was no longer needed, the threatening Indians having been relegated to reservations, and the fort was abandoned with civilian blessings.

There were also quite a number of palefaced parties who were handy with a running iron and prone to make errors as to brands and ownership. Such careless souls were known as “rustlers”. Sometimes the cattlemen called on these pariahs with a posse and intimated that they were unpopular. Usually such a visitation cured a rustler or two permanently.

Editor's note: Fort Maginnis was actually not the last fort built in Montana. Fort William Henry Harrison was established by the army near Helena in 1892.


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