October 22nd, 2020

Constructing the fort


By Submitted Article on September 15, 2020.

SUBMITTED BY THE GALT MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES

William Gladstone (“Old Glad”) was the head carpenter and blacksmith. He was a former carpenter and boat builder for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and he was hired in Fort Benton in the early summer of 1870 for the two-year project of building the bigger, more permanent fort at the junction of the Oldman and St. Mary Rivers as a winter camp, also known as Ákáí’nissko (Many Deaths Place).

This larger fort was built using about 6,000 squared cottonwood logs. Buildings faced inward to an open central square. There was a kitchen, trading room, robe storage room, warehouse, gun loft, blacksmith shop, living quarters and “deep roomy cellars” for the furs. There was also stabling for the horses. Animals were important at the fort and included oxen, horses and a few dogs. The fort reportedly kept pigs to help manage the rattlesnake population.

Even though the fort was designed and used for trade, it incorporated elements of military forts intended for defense. It was enclosed by a palisade with a heavy oak gate on one side, bastions at two opposing corners, and featured loopholes, high windows and bars over the chimneys. The Whoop-Up flag flew over a corner bastion.

The similarity to the American flag reportedly concerned the Canadian government and was a factor in plans to increase the government’s presence in the west.

The fort was equipped with two cannons: a six-pounder on a naval carriage and a two-inch muzzle-loader. The two-inch cannon was fired to announce the arrival of bull trains arriving from Fort Benton with new trade goods.

2020 marks 150 years since Fort Whoop-Up was established. You can learn more about the history of the fort at https://fort.galtmuseum.com.

Your old photos, documents and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact the Galt Museum and Archives before destroying them.

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