The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.

 

A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

 

Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

Find her online at:
AmandaCabot.com
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32 Comments

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  1. Hi Amanda, thank you for the glimpse into the life at Fort Laramie. The dining room is beautiful. Thank you for sharing and for the giveaway.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    1. Cindy — Were you surprised by the elegance of the dining room? I was. And you should see how it’s decorated for Christmas. I wrote a series of blog posts about Christmas at the fort. Here’s the link to one: http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/2015/12/wednesday-in-wyoming-december-9-2015.html

  2. Hi Amanda- I loved your post and information on Fort Laramie, my husband and me are planning our Vacation to Wyoming this year and Fort Laramie is one of my MUST stops. You only fueled my readiness for my vacation. Thanks for the wonderful info.

    1. Tonya — I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It’s a fascinating place to visit.

  3. Thanks for the great information. I would love to visit now. Adding to my list.

    1. It’s definitely worth the trip, Debra.

  4. It sounds like an interesting place to visit even if it wasn’t quite as you expected.

    1. Janine —

      It’s true that it wasn’t what I’d expected, but that led to a series of books and a novella, so it all turned out well.

  5. Great glimpse of Fort Laramie. Sounds interesting.

    1. Come visit it, Estella!

  6. I love seeing places like this! I always try to envision what it would have been like to live there. I need to put this on my bucket list!

    1. Susan —
      If you come, there are a number of other Oregon Trail spots not too far away. The signatures on Register Cliff (the nineteenth century’s version of graffiti) reminded me of how beautiful penmanship used to be, and seeing the wagon ruts cut into rock was amazing.

  7. I love hearing about the history of our country – always fascinating. Thanks!

  8. Amanda I have one small reference to Fort Laramie in ONE novella and I did so much research! BUT that was on the history of the fort. I didn’t know it’d been rebuilt! I love this information.
    Have you ever heard they MOVED IT?

    Fort Laramie was in different locations? That tripped up so much of my research because I’d get conflicting info, but finally I realized the info was for different locations.

    Anyway, it’s been a while and I can’t really remember all the details, but I loved this.
    THANK YOU. Great Post.

    1. Mary —
      The fort itself didn’t move, but there were other forts on the same general location. Fort William was a trading post in the early nineteenth century. Next came Fort John, and finally Fort Laramie. When Fort Laramie was decommissioned, many of the buildings were sold and removed from the site. Lots of history!

  9. Love visiting old forts always makes you wonder what life was like back then.

    1. Kim —

      I thought I knew what life was like, thanks to those old television and movie westerns, but I was so wrong.

  10. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Amanda, and thank you for an interesting post! I loved the pictures! Especially the birdbath! The simple elegance of the dining room too. Now my preconceived notions of what a fort looks like have been dashed!

    1. Wasn’t the birdbath interesting, Kathryn? I laughed when I saw it.

  11. What a great post, Amanda. Thank you for showing us Fort Laramie. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    1. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you too, Melanie. I’m all in green today — even (by chance) had a green apron.

  12. We loved the sites we saw in Wyoming on a road trip we rook many years ago mostly following the Oregon Trail. It’s a trip I’ll never forget, that’s for sure. Not only Fort Laramie and Independence Rock with its many signatures, but also other side trips through the Tetons which are so very beautiful, and the Wind River Reservation to check out what may be Sacajawea’s grave site (where my son also found a very healthy rattler!), as well Devil’s Tower in the northeast. The deep wagon ruts across the state line in Nebraska were so very memorable too. Lucky you, living in Wyoming!

    1. Eliza —

      It sounds as if you had a great trip — all except for the rattler. I’m always leery when I see those “snakes in the area” signs, but I’ve been fortunate enough not to encounter any.

      Did you enjoy Devils Tower? I can understand why Native Americans consider it a sacred site, because I felt a sense of reverence as I walked around it. It’s a wonderful example of the beauty of God’s creation.

      1. Yes, we really did enjoy Devil’s Tower; my son and I walked around it too. Since you mentioned Indians and the beauty of the land, I’ll add we spent time too in western South Dakota taking in all the Indian sites we could, like the Black Hills, Custer State Park with its free ranging buffalo, the Badlands, Wounded Knee and so on. Oh, and a trip north to the Little Bighorn and surrounding areas in Montana. The wide open vistas of the West are so breathtaking when one lives in the crowded Northeast as we do. I will say, though, that I do prefer our garter snakes over the rattlers we saw there. Rattlers definitely give one a sense of the benefit of cowboy boots!

  13. Loved our visit to Ft Laramie a number of years ago. Definitely not what Hollywood has shown us. We have also visited Ft Robinson near Chadron, Nebraska. Because it was decommisioned in the 1900’s,I think they said, many of the buildings are original. What a great way to get a more realistic impression of 19th century life in the West.

    1. Alice — I keep putting Fort Robinson on my “must see” list, in part because I loved Stephanie Grace Whitson’s books that were set there, but somehow the trip never happens. Maybe this year …

  14. Thanks for a grest post. That dining room is exquisite.I love the bowls with lid; so elegant and practical.

    1. Naomi — If you’re like me, you probably envisioned tin plates and cups, not elegant china. I was glad to see that people lived so well, despite the undeniable hardships of the frontier.

  15. I have not been to Fort Laramie but I grew up about three hours from Fort Davis in west Texas and we visited there often. We started going there before it was restored and over the years watched the restoration. It seems very similar to the one you described. Thank you for the memories. I would love to win a copy of your book.

    1. Susan — I’ll have to add Fort Davis to my list of places to visit the next time I’m in Texas. Thanks for the suggestion.

  16. I’m very late in reading this post but really enjoyed the “new” view of Fort Laramie. Not at all what I expected! Thank you for enlightening me on some of my misconceptions even if it has nothing to do with “A Stolen Heart.”
    As to the bird baths, they must have either had no cats or very few birds.

  17. Rosie —
    I suspect you’re right that there weren’t too many cats. Dogs, on the other hand, could be a problem, and I know the fort had more than its share of them.

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