Fort Laramie in Goshen County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)
Crossroads of a Nation Moving West
Fort Laramie National Historic Site
Crossed the Laramie ford this morning and passed through the fort registering our names and found that . . . 16,913 men, Women 235, Children 242, Wagons 4,672, Horses 14,974, Mules, 4,641, Oxen 7,427, Cows 465, passed, besides nearly as many more had probably gone without registering.
Between 1841 and 1866 at least 350,000 people crossed the Missouri westbound for new homes in Oregon, California, and Utah. Fort Laramie provided a welcome respite from the tedium of the trail, a place where travelers could rest, resupply, mail letters, exchange worn draft animals, and avail themselves of medical, wheelwright, and blacksmith services.
Emigrants, camped on the opposite side of the Laramie River, often spent evening hours relaxing as Lucy Bailey White describes:
. . . someone with a fiddle would strike up a dance and the long weary miles were forgotten and they joined in a dance around their camp fire that lasted until ten o’clock when all merriment ceased and the entire company . . . retired to their beds for they must be up early on the morrow to continue their journey.
The Prairie Schooner
The wagons that transported emigrants over the plains were much smaller than those depicted in Hollywood films. These “prairie wagons”
Prairie schooners were generally made of hardwoods, with wheels and axles reinforced with metal fittings. Hickory bows positioned along the frame held a cloth canopy in place. Toolboxes and a drinking-water barrel were attached to the wagon box, and a bucket for grease dangled from underneath the back.
Wagons carried food, cooking utensils, bedding, a minimal amount of clothing, firearms, medicine, bandages, lanterns, and sewing supplies. Furniture and other household “luxury” items were often left behind or eventually abandoned along the trail. Most of the emigrants walked alongside the wagon, with only the elderly, sick, or very young riding inside.
Leaving Fort Laramie
Leaving Fort Laramie was bittersweet. Most were eager to get on with their journey, but leaving behind civilization once again was hard. The trail became more difficult west of Fort Laramie as it climbed in elevation. In 1849, Charles Ben Darwin described the scene 12 miles west of the fort:
. . . now comes the time for destroying and abandoning property each on realizing that the difficulty
Erected by National Park Service.
Location. 42° 12.162′ N, 104° 33.326′ W. Marker is in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in Goshen County. Marker can be reached from State Highway 160, on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is located at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. Marker is in this post office area: Fort Laramie WY 82212, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Embassy on the Northern Plains (within shouting distance of this marker); Post Quartermaster’s Area (within shouting distance of this marker); Handcarts – The New Plan (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Army Bridge (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Post Bakeries (about 300 feet away); The Queens of Soap Suds Row Guardhouse (about 400 feet away); General Sink (Latrine) (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Laramie.
More about this marker. A painting by William Henry Jackson depicting a wagon train “Approaching Chimney Rock” appears at the upper right of the marker.
Also see . . . Fort Laramie National Historic Site. (Submitted on August 10, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Forts, Castles •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 10, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 228 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on August 10, 2015, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.