Winners of the West
Vol. XIII     No. 6
MAY 31, 1936


By Paul Henderson

Old Fort Laramie was established over a hundred years ago at the junction of the Laramie and north Platte rivers, and upon looking at our modern maps of today one finds it in Goshen county, Wyoming, about twenty miles west of the present city of Torrington, Wyoming.

About 1816 a French fur trader and trapper by the name of Jaques La Ramine, came into this district with several companions and erected a small log cabin on the narrow strip of land between the two rivers. Here La Ramie, continued to reside and trap on the streams that headed in the Rocky Mountains to the westward until some time in 1820 when he was killed by hostile Indians in the vicinity of La Ramine Peak, a mountain which now bears his name. After the passing of La Ramine, other free trappers and traders continued to meet annually at La Ramine's old cabin until about 1834, when it is said that William Sublette and Robert Campbell, arrived with some followers and erected a square stockade near La Ramine's old post and named it Fort William, in honor of William Sublette.

In 1835 Sublette and Campbell sold the stockade to Jim Bridger, Milton Sublette and three others, who in the same year sold a part interest to the American Fur Company. Early in 1836 it was found that the log stockade was in need of extensive repairs so the American Fur Company hired some Mexican trappers from the Santa Fe district to erect an adobe fort at a cost of $10,000, and which was named Fort John, and was occupied by them until 1849 in which year they sold it to the United States Government for $4,000.

Several years prior to the purchase of this old Fort by the United States Government, it seems that the name of Fort Laramie, attached itself to the place, owing to the fact that there were several Fort Johns on the far western frontiers and the shipping clerks and freighters around St. Louis, Missouri, had been marking goods consigned to this place, "Fort on the Laramie river" or Fort La Ramie," consequently Fort Laramie came into use. Several other trading posts and forts sprang up in the vicinity of Fort Laramie but their existences were of short duration.

Soon after the purchase of Fort Laramie by the U.S. Government, troops came and it was established as a Military post to protect the travelers going over the old Oregon and California trails. Many buildings were erected by the army engineers, and among the first were the old guard house and the Officers' Club, the latter became known as "Old Bedlam," and these with many others still are standing.

Old Fort Laramie has witnessed many tragedies and much suffering, and the futures of many persons were entirely changed through some small event which transpired while they were stopped at the old post. Thousands of emigrants bound for Oregon and California paused to rest and replenish their exhausted supplies. The Mormons crossed from the north side of the Platte river and followed the Oregon trail westward from this outpost. Many Indian tribes camped near the fort, and many treaties were made within the grounds of the fort, the first Pony Express rider from the east dashed across the Laramie river and into Fort Laramie, there to be relieved by another rider with a fresh horse from the Pony Express station which had been established there. Edward Creighton, brought the wires of the first Transcontinental Telegraph Line into Fort Laramie and established a telegraph office in one of the old buildings long after the first wagons to go over the old Oregon had passed that way. Many Military Expeditions, made this old post their headquarters. Scientific men, authors and prominent hunters came and went, and old Fort Laramie became nationally if not universally known. The old fort has witnessed many social events and romances started there, while only a few rods away is the old cemetery with its extreme air of peace and solitude, and sleeping within it one finds the graves of and loving pioneer mothers, fearless fathers, little children, soldiers, teamsters, old trappers and many others, some of them marked by old fashioned markers, but many rest in unmarked graves and their identity gone for ever.

In 1890 old Fort Laramie was abandoned as a Military Post and the site with the buildings passed into private hands. Several years later the railroad came and pass [ rest missing ]