September 19, 2020
We love to take the byways over the interstates. Today US 87 was on our radar as there are a couple of historic places we’d like to visit. We’re on our way to Fort Phil Kearney when we see a sign directing us to the sight of the Fetterman Massacre.
In 1866 group of 10 warriors including Crazy Horse attempted to lure a detachment of U.S. soldiers into an ambush. Captain William Fetterman was given strict orders not to go over the hill, do not lose sight of the fort. He took the lure, leading his detachment of 80 men after the band of Indians only to be intercepted by a large group of their brethren who promptly killed Fetterman and all his men- all 80 of them. At the time it was the worst military disaster ever suffered by the US Army on the Great Plains. The Fetterman Massacre took place on Crow Indian land, the attack orchestrated by an alliance of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe tribes without the consent of the Crow.
Fort Phil Kearney was one of three forts established along the Bozeman to protect miners traveling north from the Oregon Trail in 1866. It was the largest of the three stockaded fortifications.
Its eight foot high log walls enclosed anarea of 17 acres, the longest wall being 1496 feet in length. At its height the garrison had 400 troops assigned and 150 civilians. The Fetterman Massacre occurred in 1866 and the Wagon Box Fight of 1867 was the last major engagement that ended Red Cloud’s War. The three forts were abandoned in 1868 when the Union Pacific Railroad reached far enough west the emigrants could reach Montana gold fields through present-day Idaho, rendering the dangerous Bozeman Trail obsolete. Shortly after Fort Phil Kearney known to the Indians as “the hated post on the Little Piney” was burned by the Cheyenne Indians.
Sheridan (17,900 souls), the seat of Sheridan County is our next stop. The town is beautiful with a 1890’s wild west feel to its downtown district with beautiful homes to its west. The town is named after Union calvary general Philip Sheridan. The townsite grew from a trapper’s cabin to a small town in 1882. The arrival of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad boosted Sheridan’s economy leading to the construction of the Sheridan Inn where Buffalo Bill Cody was once a financial partner.
Coal mines opened north of town along the Tongue River in the 1890’s which drew farmers from back east as well as cattlemen. Immigrants arrived from Europe and Mexico. Today mining, farming, manufacturing drives its economy as well as a strong rodeo culture. Summer events draw participants and spectators for all over including the nearby Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, leading to the slogan “Cowboy Days and Indian Nights”.
We settled into Grandview Campground and RV Park, Hardin MT. It’s the only campground in town yet I would hesitate to recommend it. The park itself is OK but could use a lot of clean up. It appears to have been a farm at one time. Farmers don’t throw much away so there’s a lot of used “treasures” lying about that could be recycled or at the least removed from public view. We meet some interesting fellas here at the park. Several are from Pennsylvania and are participating in a safflower harvest. A couple of others are transporting huge combines, machines used to harvest crops, in caravans from Montana back home to Kansas. They drive work trucks that displays a “wide load” sign. Since they are never in one place very long when transporting, they pull their travel trailer home on wheels behind them. Interesting young men!
A visitor magnet for Hardin is the Big Horn County Historical Museum. Of course like a lot of museums and places of interest it’s closed. The main building is closed but the grounds are open, but dogs are not welcome. We take some photos and wish the place was open to the public. Sigh…….
Tomorrow we will visit a place that has gone down in infamy. See you there!