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 at the Mouth of the Missouri by Karl Bodmer.  Courtesy of the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation.

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.

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change

Related Media

  1. Lewis and Clark Pathways: Fort Union
    Video: Fort Union was a trading post where European settlers and Native American came together to do business.

Related Links The Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site web site has biographical information, sketches, and images of people, places, and events related to the fort.