Fort Union—the Grandest of Fur Trading Forts
Fort Union, located at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, was the grandest and best-known of the many fur trading posts that dotted the American West from the 1820s into the 1860s. Here was the center of business for the powerful and prosperous American Fur Company. Here native people exchanged furs for goods; here the famous of Europe came to see what life in the “wild west” was like. Here the men of the fur trade schemed and made deals.
Fort Union Chronology
• 1829 – founded by Kenneth McKenzie, head of the Upper Missouri outfit of the American Fur Company
• 1830 – visited by Prince Paul, Duke of Württemberg
• 1831 – reached by first steamboat, The Yellow Stone
• 1832 – visited by artist George Catlin
• 1833 – visited by Prince Maximilian of Wied and artist Karl Bodmer
• 1837 – McKenzie retires and leaves Fort Union
• 1840 – visited by Father Pierre De Smet, S.J.
• 1851 – visited by Rudolph Kurz, Swiss artist
• 1856 – raided by 400 Lakota
• 1860 – visited by military’s Yellowstone expedition
• 1864 – first U.S. army contingent stationed
• 1865 – army departs
• 1867 – U.S. government purchases Fort Union and dismantles it for use in construction of Fort Buford
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.