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Two Pioneer Forts That Helped Make History

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I'm on a weeks vacation so I'm spending the majority of my time working on my book project. Hoping to get it finished this year. :)


Some will ask how this is Numismatic related. My reply is that it is some history around The Old Oregon Trail which relates to the Half Dollar so named.


This is the Plate Coin in my book:



A Gregg Bingham coin.


Thanks Gregg. (thumbs u


In 1834 the fur-trading activities in the Rocky Mountain region brought into being two trading posts that were destined to play important parts in the developing drama of the West. These were Fort Laramie, built on the North Platte River in what is now eastern Wyoming; and Fort Hall, set up as a rival post on the Snake River in what is now southeastern Idaho.



Fort Laramie in 1849



Fort Hall in 1849


Each of these pioneer forts became not only a rendezvous for mountian men and Indians, but also famous stations for settlers, gold-seekers and others who followed the old trails into the regions beyond the Rockies.


Fort Laramie, established by the American Fur Company at the junction of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, saw most of the migration into the west during the covered wagon days. It was here that the Oregon and Mormon trails came together. Gold-seekers by thousands passed the place on their way to the California “Diggings.” In 1849 when the great “gold rush” began, the trading post was changed to a United States Army Post for the protection of the emigrants, freighters and others who thronged the old trails. In 1800 it became also a “home station” on the Pony Express.


With this stream of migration surging by, and frontier activities going on round it, the old post naturally became a place of historical importance. Letters post-marked Fort Laramie, sent back by the thousands in those earlier times, carried the fame of the old post over the country and the world. Practically everyone who kept a diary of the trip into the West recorded descriptions of the fort, and experiences connected with it. Parkman, in his OREGON TRAIL, gives us an intimate sketch of the place when he visited it in 1847 while it was still a fur-trading post. Authors in later times have made it a setting for some of their western novels.


In view of all the memories that link with this famous place, it is most gratifying to announce that old Fort Laramie has now been made a national historical monument. The people of Wyoming, under the leadership of their Pioneer Landmarks Commission, and with the help of their Governor and Legislature, have reclaimed the place by purchase from private owners. Our government has officially accepted the responsibility of maintaining the old post and its environs as part of our system of historical parks. We congratulate the devoted workers and officers of Wyoming, and the nation, on the fine service they have thus rendered to their state and to our nation.




Fort Hall, founded the same year as Fort Laramie, should likewise be made a national shrine. That old trading post, founded by a courageous New Englander, Nathaniel Wyeth, and named for William Hall, who financed the fur-trading enterprise, played a most vital part in the conquest of Western America. The Americans held the fort but for two years, failing because the British rivalry to win the Indian trade of that region. Wyeth sold out to the powerful Hudson Bay Company.


The significance of this bit of international history lies in the fact that the British traders holding this strategic spot did their best to divert the stream of American emigration away from Oregon. Some of the vanguard of home-seekers, discouraged by reports of the hard roads that lay along the Snake River and over the Blue Mountains, were shunted off into California; but others, following the trail of the Astorians and the intrepid missionaries, blazed a wagon way into our far Northwest.



Jason Lee



Fort Hall became the scene of dramatic history. It was there that Jason Lee, the stalwart Methodist missionary, began the evangelical work in our western wilds by preaching a funeral sermon over the body of a trapper killed in a horse race. Narcissus Prentiss Whitman and Eliza Hart Spalding, the first white woman to cross our country, rested on their journey with their missionary husbands at the old fort. Several years later, after making his famous winter ride out of Oregon into the Far East, Dr. Marcus Whitman returned with determined American home-seekers who would not be turned aside from their purpose to settle in Oregon.


Those covered wagons pioneers with their “cow column” opened the wagon way in 1843. Following them through the “Forties” and “Fifties” and “Sixties” thousands upon thousands of other fathers, mothers, and children came to participate in the constructive conquest of the farther West. Fort Hall, reclaimed in time as part of the American domain, was an important way station and a junction point as well for these emigrants. A suggestion of the intense activity that centered around the old post is given by Ezra Meeker, who states that when he paused there in 1852 on his way West, abandoned wagons by hundreds were strewn all around it. Emigrant trains were still streaming by or encamped near, while thousands of weary cattle and horses were gathering new strength on the rich meadow lands that stretched round the historic place.


This “story spot,” thrilled with memories of Indians and trappers, British and American traders, missionaries, settlers and gold-seekers, has not gone unremembered. In 1934, the hundredth anniversary of its founding, a national commemoration – THE FORT HALL CENTENNIAL – was centered at Pocatello, Idaho. Leaders of various historical and civic organizations of that city and state, uniting their forces, varied through an impressive celebration during the early days of August, 1934. With splendid pageantry, historical programs, colorful parades, the epic story of Fort Hall and the building of the west was reenacted for the thousands that came far and wide to participate in the commemoration.


The Oregon Trail Memorial Association was glad to lend what encouragement and help it could to the Idaho leaders who devoted their efforts to the conservation of the rich historical resources connected with Fort Hall. Our hope with theirs is that some plan satisfactory to all concerned may soon be carried through for the proper memorialization of the old post which has played so vital a part in the story of America’s making.


Information provided above courtesy of "National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; The Fraser Papers, 1937 Oregon Trail Memorial Association "Progress Report."


Please enjoy your coins and their history.




As I think about all the history here, who in today's society, would have the gumption to make this trek today? I can't say that I would, even though I love the outdoors and have walked some of the Appalachian Trail.

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Very cool... I live very close to the old "Fort Vancouver" site and just obtained an Oregon Trail coin while I was on business in St. Joseph, MO. It seemed appropriate since St. Jo was one of starting points of the Oregon Trail pioneers and Fort Vancouver became the "end of the trail" for a number of them, including my grandmother's family.. the same grandmother that got me into coin collecting and her family came from a town about 200 miles SE of St. Jo's. I haven't gotten the coin photographed yet, but I will post it here when I do.


Other significant historical contributions to the history you mention came from my grandfather's side of the family. When Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came West, they traveled with a man named William H. Gray or (W.H. Gray as he commonly went by) William had dreams of being a doctor and missonary like his idol Marcus Whitman, but alas was neither a doctor or a missonary, but was a skilled carpenter by trade.... something that was a welcome skill to those moving West. He was also a bit "difficult to get along with" according to historical documents, a trait that apparenlty caused the Missonary Board to reject his application as a missionary... reading between the lines, I think he also had a "thing" for Narcissa, but so far as I know never acted on those desires as she was married to Marcus already.


Willliam actually helped the Whitmans build their mission site near Walla Walla, WA., and after he was rejected as a missionary, he moved West to Astoria, Oregon, narrowly missing being involved in the Whitman Massacre. (If he had stayed, I probably wouldn't be here to write any of this.) In Astoria he married and raised 4 boys; one of which was my great grandfather. All 4 of his sons became riverboat Captains and have made historical contributions of their own.


After the Whitman massacre, WH Gray petitioned for and facilitated the founding of Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. After he and his wife Mary passed away and were buried in Astoria, they were later exhumed and re-buried at the Whitman mission site next to Marcus and Narcissa Whitman as a nod to his contribution to remembering the Whitmans and contributions he made to starting the Whitman college. Their graves are there to this day and marked marble headstones.

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I think if you took the avg. American hard hat, told them that they would get a chunk of land in a new part of North America, you'd get some takers.


Either case, it's a pleasure to read your work. Are these essays part of your book?

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I think if you took the avg. American hard hat, told them that they would get a chunk of land in a new part of North America, you'd get some takers.


Either case, it's a pleasure to read your work. Are these essays part of your book?

I forgot about the land accept of the trip. :blush:


I'm all in then. :)


Glad you liked it.


These will be a part of my book.


As an add on:




The outstanding historical event in 1936 was the Whitman Mission Centennial. This commemorated the advent of the first white mothers in the great Northwest and the founding in 1836 by them and their missionary husbands, at Waiilaptu, near the present Walla Walla, Washington, of an institution and a missionary settlement that was once a home, a church, a school and a center of industry. The Centennial in a special way paid tribute to the leading personalities of that missionary settlement, its founders, Marcus and Narcissus Prentiss Whitman. The public celebrations were held at Walla Walla, Washington on August 13, 14, 15 and 16.



Narcissa and Marcus Whitman


This Centennial was one of the most effective and colorful pioneer celebrations ever held in America. It was effective because during the period of its preparation, which extended throughout the preceding year, the officers of the Centennial under the leadership of its Chairman, Herbert C. West, conducted an educational program. This made the State of Washington and contiguous Oregon Trail states conscious, as never before, of their historical background. It was colorful because of its dramatic and varied program of public celebrations which attracted many thousands of visitors to Walla Walla.


The Oregon Trail Memorial Organization cooperated in both phases of the program. It assisted Mr. West and his associates in the early part of 1936 in the developments of plans. It reinforced the funds of the Centennial Committee with a donation of 1936 Oregon Trail coins. It cooperated in the public celebrations by assuming sponsorship of certain features of the third day’s program which was known as Oregon Trail Day.


On the opening day of the commemoration, the American Medical Association honored Dr. Marcus Whitman as the first practicing physician to cross the Rockies and carry his profession in the West.


The second day was devoted to a tribute to his wife, Narcissus Prentiss Whitman, the first white mother in the West.


On the third day, known as Oregon Trail Day, representatives of our association from eight different states together with the national president and national secretary and other officers from New York City participated in programs interpreting the covered wagon period and the outstanding historical events in the West from 1830 to 1860. An outstanding feature of this day was a colorful parade and pageant five miles in length.


From the viewpoint of the Whitman Mission, the outstanding result of this commemoration was a gift by the Centennial Committee to our national government of the Whitman Mission site as an historical monument.


As part of its participation, the Oregon Trail Memorial Organization held its annual meeting for 1936 at Walla Walla on August Fifteenth.

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