Fort Laramie, Wyoming.
On the way to California or Oregon in the mid-19th century, you might look forward to arriving at Fort Laramie in east-central Wyoming. Travelers on the Mormon, Oregon, and California trails were welcomed by the traders who were ready to help the travelers replenish their supplies on the journey west.
The trading post opened as Fort William in 1834, and Lakota Sioux traded pelts and buffalo robes for manufactured goods. For 56 years, miners, soldiers, emigrants, ranchers, homesteaders, and Native Americans all provided a business at this flourishing trading post. Renamed Fort John, the importance of the location along the North Platte was its blessing and its curse.
As competition heated up in the form of nearby trading posts built in the area, the post was sold to the U.S. Army in 1849. Renamed Fort Laramie by the Army, new buildings were hastily constructed to serve the needs of a military garrison.
The fort soon grew to become a principal military outpost on the Northern Plains and a hub for transportation and communication, as well. As its location is a prime gateway into the Rocky Mountains, those emigrant trails, stage lines, telegraph systems, and the Pony Express used Fort Laramie as a waypoint.
The Visitor Center is housed in what was the fort’s Commissary Storehouse. Original buildings, restored or reconstructed buildings, and locations of buildings no longer standing are identified throughout the site on plaque markers.
As a military center, the fort became the location for signatories of significant and controversial treaties with the many nearby tribes. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 (also known as the Horse Creek Treaty) was signed at the fort, for example.
The historic site is open year-round, dawn to dusk, every day. The museum and visitor center are open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours of opening for the center are longer in the summer, and admission to the site is free.
Old Bedlam is literally the oldest standing military building in Wyoming. Originally it was officers quarters, but is now remembered as the post’s headquarters. At one point, the building was all but fallen in upon itself. Like most of the buildings in the fort, it fell into disrepair. In the 1960’s a renovation of the building brought a museum-like quality to the reconstruction.
Several of the rooms were restored with actual items of the period. Visitors cannot enter the rooms, but instead can look at the contents through plexiglass blocking the entrances.
The restoration of Old Bedlam started in 1939, but little was done by 1940 when a large crowd attended ceremonies where officials spoke from the platform of the newly rejuvenated porch.
The renovation of Old Bedlam was substantially completed in June, 1964. The major physical reconstruction took about four years, though prep work took the prior three years to complete.
There is plenty more to see of the grounds of Fort Laramie. If you are so inclined, you can get a 2K HD closeup of these images by the click through link on the photograph. Alternatively, you can visit my Flickr album here to view the entire gallery.
Note: If all goes well, we’ll be on a cruise ship when this journey is published on September 13, 2022. I have found Internet connections to be less than stellar on cruise ships, so I didn’t even buy an Internet access package for the week. It’s been a long time since I’ve “unplugged” for a week. My only connection times will be when in port, three stops, and lots of sea days. My responses to your comments will be a bit tardy.
Wonderful post, John. Fascinating site. But why is the building called Old Bedlam?? Funny. Enjoy your long-awaited cruise!
I couldn’t find a definitive answer to why it got the name, but I surmise it was due to the fact that it housed bachelor quarters.
Thank you for this information.
Love the antique weapon.
I enjoyed reliving my experience here as I read about yours. I visited in the off-season so it was also neat to see the fort with green grass and leaves on the trees.
We had an interesting visit here some years ago (2006) so it was good to relive it through your images. Great historical account of the fort too 🙂
Thanks, Sarah. It is and interesting historical site.
Loved the post, John! Enjoy your cruise!
I have enjoyed your post about the West. Every day I visit my 94 year old father and we watch re-runs of “The Wagon Train” series. Your posts help bring the show to life for me! Thanks for bringing us along your travel journey.
Thanks, Donna! What a great compliment you have given me!
Thank you John, these are wonderul pictures and I love that you shared them with me.
I love doing the work of processing them. Glad you like them.
Seeing the premises almost alive is better than reading the history books. Thanks for the visit.
It is indeed!
Enjoy your cruise!
We are, indeed, Hien.
A fascinating and crucial part of history – wonderful to know that it is preserved.
I hope you’re having a marvelous time on your cruise, John
It is an historic location, for sure. Thanks!