Yellowstone River Trading Posts

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Hysham 59038,Billings Area

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Things to SeeHistorical Markers/Interpretive SignLewis and Clark Expedition
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General info

Located south of Hysham

Even before the Lewis and Clark Expedition returned to St. Louis in 1806, enterprising fur traders looked to the upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers as a source of profit. At various times between 1807 and 1876, eight trading posts were located between the mouths of the Big Horn and Tongue rivers. Most were owned and operated by the American Fur Company—a firm organized in 1808 by John Jacob Astor. Rather than rely on the rendezvous system and the mountain men, the “Company” built a series of fixed posts designed to encourage the local tribes to trade at the forts. American Fur Company forts were virtual duplicates—each was about 100 square feet with cottonwood palisades and blockhouses at opposite corners. The forts included Fort Remon or Manuel Lisa (1807-1809), the first Fort Benton (1821), the second Big Horn Post (1824), Fort Cass (1832-1835), Fort Van Buren (1835-1843), Fort Alexander (1842-1850) and two Fort Sarpys.

Nearly all the existing accounts of the forts tell stories of a lively trade that was often filled with danger for both traders and Native Americans. By 1876, the fur trade was no longer profitable and the trading post was abandoned. While their presence was fleeting; they significantly impacted the lives of Native Americans and those who chose to garrison these isolated places. The trading posts represented a colorful era in Montana’s history.

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