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Fort Hall was a 19th century outpost in the eastern Oregon Country, part of the present-day United Statesmarker, and is located in Fort Hall, Idahomarker. It was considered the "most significant of all pioneer institutions in the West" by noted historian Merrill D. Beal. Fort Hall was constructed as a commercial venture, situated on the Snake River north of present-day Pocatellomarker, Idahomarker. It became an important stop in the 1840s and 1850s for an estimated 270,000 emigrants along the Oregon Trail and California Trail, which diverged west of the fort.

History

The idea for the fort arose in 1832, as a business venture conceived by fur trapper Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth and 70 other men. They planned to journey to a rendezvous at Hams Fork, (near present day Granger, WYmarker) where they would sell goods to mountain men and fur trappers. They planned to use the profits from the rendezvous to establish a fishery on the Columbia River, exporting salmon to New Englandmarker and Hawaiimarker. The Columbia River post was the short-lived Fort Williammarker.

Old Fort Hall

The business venture proved to be troublesome. After arriving at the rendezvous, Wyeth and his men found that their goods sold poorly. As a back-up plan, they traveled West to the Snake near the mouth of the Portneuf and constructed the wooden Fort Hall (near present day Pocatello, IDmarker) to sell off their excess goods. Wyeth named the fort after a major investor in the enterprise, Henry Hall, a partner of the Boston firm Tucker & Williams & Henry Hall. Hall never traveled west. The fort was completed on July 31, 1834, the only U.S. outpost in the Oregon Country at that time. When Fort Hall was completed, Wyeth continued on towards the Columbia River with other members of his company and met Methodist missionary Jason Lee on his way to start the Methodist Mission in the Willamette Valley at Fort Walla Wallamarker on the Columbia. Once Wyeth reached the lower Columbia he built Fort Williammarker to serve as the rendezvous point.

In August 1837 Wyeth sold the fort to the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), which controlled the fur trade in the Oregon Country from their headquarters at Fort Vancouvermarker on the Columbia. The HBC considered Americans in the Snake River country an encroachment upon their territory and to counter Fort Hall built the rival post of Snake Fort, later named Fort Boise. The HBC had been working the Snake country for years, and with the support of Fort Boise were able to drive Wyeth's company out of the region and sell Fort Hall to the HBC. The company raised the Britishmarker flag over the fort and used the outpost to actively discourage U.S. emigrants from continuing westward. Emigrants who arrived at the fort were shown the abandoned wagons of those who had come before them and who had continued westward with their animals on foot. In 1843, Dr. Marcus Whitman, a missionary who had established a mission near present-day Walla Walla, Washingtonmarker, led a wagon train westward from the fort. In the following years the number of wagon trains grew sharply and the fort became a welcome stop along the trail for thousands of emigrants. It also remained an important trading post for mountain men and the Native Americans of the region, in particular the Shoshone. The fort found itself located in the United States in 1846 following the Oregon Treaty.

Civil War 1863-1866

Abandoned, and later occupied briefly by the Volunteer soldiers of the Union Army. Flood waters washed away the Old Fort Hall in 1863. Fort Hall was rebuilt in 1864, on Spring Creek just north of the original Fort Hall. Remnants of the old fort were used to construct this fortified stage station. The following year the site was abandoned and the Volunteer troops moved to Camp Lander until 1866. It was located three miles southeast of the original Fort Hall, at the junction of the Salt Lake and Boise Roads.

A replica the original Fort Hall was constructed in the 1960s in Pocatellomarker and is now operated as a public museum. The original site is located 11 miles west of the town of Fort Hallmarker in the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

New Fort Hall

On May 27, 1870 another military Fort Hall was erected on Lincoln Creek, 12 miles east of the Snake River and about 25 miles northeast of the old Fort Hall. U.S. Army soldiers stationed there were assigned to protect stagecoach and other travelers. After it was abandoned on June 11, 1883, the barracks were turned over to the Indian Service and used as an Indian school. The buildings were eventually relocated to Ross Fork Creek.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

References

  1. online at Google Books
  2. Robert W. Frazer, Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts West of the Mississippi River to 1898, University of Oklahoma Press, 1975, pp. 43-45.


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