This military post was a welcome site for the pioneers usually being the first sign of civilization in six weeks. Ft. Laramie marked the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. The emigrants were now one-third of the way to the Willamette Valley. Here, they rested and regrouped. Some would give up the dream, turn around and go home. But most made the decision to push ahead.
The fort had humble beginnings. In 1834, fur trader William Sublette built a wooden fortification here and called it Ft. William. There was no emigrant traffic then Sublette's goal was trade with the local tribes. He offered alcohol and tobacco in return for buffalo robes.
The fort was soon sold to the American Fur Company; they rebuilt it as an adobe structure in 1841 as Fort John, or in full Fort John-on-the-Laramie because the fort was located on the Laramie River. The new trading post became a welcome stop for emigrants traveling westward along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.
The fur trade was in decline by then and fur traders would be gone from the fort by 1849, when the army bought them out they embarked on a major expansion. The now military structure was renamed Fort Laramie in honor of Jacques La Ramie, a local French fur trapper. The army's charge was to protect the emigrants from the increasingly hostile Sioux.
Strikes and counterstrikes escalated into all-out war and the battles continued for decades. As a result, Ft. Laramie grew into a large military complex. Important treaties between the United States and Plains Indians were signed at or near the Fort the first in 1851, and the second in 1868.
There were only two buildings at Ft. Laramie that warranted a visit by the Oregon-bound emigrants--the post trader's store. It was the only...