Fort Union Trading Post


Bainville 59212,Northeast Montana,Roosevelt County

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Outpost on the Missouri

John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company built Fort Union in 1829 near the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in what is now North Dakota. The post soon became headquarters for trading beaver furs and buffalo hides with the Assiniboine Indians to the north, the Crow Indians on the upper Yellowstone, and the Blackfeet who lived farther up the Missouri.

Much of the fort’s early success was due to Kenneth McKenzie. He not only supervised its construction but served as the first bourgeois, or superintendent, of the Astor-affiliated Upper Missouri Outfit, as the operation at the trading post was called. The Scottish-born McKenzie came to the United States by way of Canada, where he gained experience in the fur trade by working for that country’s North West Company. He was a proud, ruthless man and he set out to dominate the upper Missouri trade. Others would compete with him, but none succeeded for long.

Fort Union stood on a grassy plain that stretched away to the north for a mile, thus providing ample space for Indian camps at trading time. A stout palisade of vertical logs enclosed a quadrangle 220 by 240 feet. Employees occupied rooms in

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