Friday, July 25, 2014

THE OREGON TRAIL’S FORT LARAMIE—AND A GIVEAWAY





Signing my first contract!
Hi everyone, it’s Jennifer Uhlarik. I am so excited to share some news with you this month. I just signed a publishing contract with Barbour Publishing! I’m going to be one of nine authors with stories in their upcoming Oregon Trail Romance Collection. Each story in the collection revolves around the Oregon Trail, so I’ve found myself researching a lot of new things in the past few months. I shared one interesting tidbit with you in my previous post here. Today, I wanted to share more of my research.

A small portion of my story will take place at Fort Laramie, which was located on the Laramie River in present day Wyoming, a mile or so north of where it joined the North Platte River. In its heyday, the fort served as a means of protection for the Oregon Trail, which was the main thoroughfare to California after the 1849 Gold Rush, as well as other places out west. However, it didn’t start its existence as a military fort.

It was built in 1834 as a trading post, and it was originally called Fort William, after William Sublette, William Anderson, and William Patton, all of whom were fur traders. Later, the name changed to Fort John, some think to honor John Sarpy, also a fur trader. The trading post continued on in its original purpose until 1849, when gold was discovered in California. As droves of easterners poured across the vast expanse of the western lands, the military saw need to set up a way to protect the newcomers. Thus, it was suggested that a fort be set up at or near the trading post. By late June, 1849, the sale of the trading post to the military was arranged, and the fort’s name was changed again, this time to Fort Laramie, after the river on which it was situated. The river was named after French fur trader Jacques Laramie, who was killed by Arapahoes at the river’s headwaters in 1821. 

By August of 1849, two companies of Mounted Riflemen and one company of Infantry took over the fort. At first, the soldiers occupied the old trading post buildings, but only until new ones could be built. Because wood was such a scarce commodity in that area, the buildings were made from a concoction of kiln-fired limestone, sand, gravel, and water. The mixture was known as Lime Grout, and dates all the way back to Roman days. However, lime grout is quite porous, so much upkeep had to be done on the fragile buildings.

One of the buildings they erected, a two-story building used for unmarried officers’ quarters, went by the nickname of “Old Bedlam.” As the tale goes, the noise of the parties and card games of the bachelor officers would get so out of hand at times, the building was reminiscent of England’s Bedlam Insane Asylum. However, because it was two-story, this building became a beacon to travelers making their way west, drawing the emigrants to the safety and security of the fort.

Interestingly, the fort was not surrounded by any type of wall. It was open and approachable from many directions. However, in its history, the fort was attacked by Indians only once. The attack came in 1864, when warriors suddenly rode across the parade ground and made off with several horses. The attack came on quickly, so quickly that they never caught the horse thieves.

Fort Laramie was only a third of the way into the journey to Oregon, and many travelers who reached the fort chose to turn back due to the hardship of the journey. Others would restock their supplies at the fort and carry on, their dreams of a new life in the West undaunted by the difficult passage. The fort had a compliment of shops and warehouses to hold and sell supplies for the soldiers, the travelers, and especially for other military forts further west. With a telegraph, it sent word back and forth between West and East, and it was often the place where transportation to parts further west was organized.

Due to copyright reasons, I am not able to include many fantastic photos I found of the Fort Laramie Historic Site, but CyArk has a wonderful section of their website dedicated to Fort Laramie found HERE, in case you would like to see photos, take a virtual tour, or learn more about this important piece of American History.

Unfortunately, Fort Laramie was eventually phased out as the railroad grew and took over. The Union
Pacific Railroad line fell seventy miles south of Fort Laramie, and the Chicago and Northwestern line fell fifty miles to the north, leaving the fort in a no-man’s land between tracks. The fort was abandoned by 1890, then part of the grounds were sold to the Department of the Interior. Today, the old fort has been partially rebuilt and is a national monument.

It’s your turn. If you had lived in the later half of the 1800’s, would you have been one of the brave ones who ventured into the Western Territories, or would you have stayed in the more settled lands back east? Why? To celebrate my recent contract, leave your email address with your comment, and you’ll be included in the drawing for one of Barbour’s latest novella collections.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and made the top 10 and top 3 in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and five fur children.

22 comments:

  1. Congratulations! I've loved stories of the Oregon Trail ever since playing the computer game in second grade :) Looking forward to the new novella collection!

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com
    http://heidi-reads.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Heidi! I loved the game as well. :)

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  2. I think I would have braved the West had I lived back then. That is one of my favorite time periods. Thank you for the chance to win
    griperang at embarqmail dot com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by today, Angela. I'm torn on whether I would have gone West or not. I am a true homebody most of the time, but I also love to travel and see new places. What an adventure it would have been!

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  3. I bet that unless my heart were also involved, such as my love wanting to move out west, I'd be content to stay in the east. pudy68 @ gmail dot com

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    1. I can completely understand that answer. As I said in one of my answers above, I'm a homebody most of the time, but I love a grand adventure now and then. So it would probably come down to what my husband felt strongly enough to do. I could go either way.

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  4. I probably would have been one to go see what the west had to offer. Wandering s minds want to know!!!!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Yes they do, Melanie! thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I would have probably stayed behind, I'm not much of an adventurer to places unknown. I love reading about the adventurers moving west.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. I can respect your answer, Wendy. It's one thing to read about it, another to actually DO it.

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  6. Oregon Trail! Awesome! As we moved out west we would read about the Oregon Trail at all the rest stops, lol. I think as a younger woman I would definitely have been one of those pioneer women, though as I get older and we do move across country from time to time (Michigan to Washington state to Virginia back to Washington state) I do sometimes dreaming of settling in one place!

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    1. I do think you've hit on something, Claudia. The moving around is a young person's game. Makes me wonder the average age of those heading out West on the Oregon Trail. Interesting...a thought to ponder.

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  7. Howdy from another author in the Oregon Trail Romance Collection. Jennifer, loved reading this. I, too, have been immersed in Oregon Trail research for the last few weeks. :) Just watched Passage West (1951) last night in an attempt to get some visuals of the wagons, travelling and stuff. Probably wasn't the best choice to watch (didn't care for the ending), but I gleaned a few tidbits for travel.

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    1. I was excited to see another CFHS blogger on the list for the collection, Pam! Glad you enjoyed my post. I have loved doing the research for my first big-time contracted work! :)

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  8. I hope I would've been able to continue on - Sometimes people really didn't have a choice if they ran out of money or supplies. thanks for the bit of history and would love to win. truckredford(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Eliza. You are correct that many couldn't complete the journey. I can only imagine the difficult travels they faced.

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  9. Jennifer, I enjoyed this History lesson. I visited Fort Laramie once while living in Wyoming. parts of walls all around. Was neat to see it. Not sure I would have been brave enough for that trip. And, they had to be strong women which I'm not. Never have been. Thanks for the lesson. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <
















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    1. Maxie, thanks so much for stopping by. I can certainly understand your feeling of not being strong enough to make that trip west. It was NOT for the faint of heart.

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  10. Hi Jennifer! Thanks such an interesting post. I absolutely would've been perfectly fine stay on the east coast. It's cities, States, &history are far more interesting and by far more beautiful than anywhere else in the country! Of course, I wouldn't have known that back then, but give me my cold temps, snow and beautiful eastern coastlines and I'm in hog heaven!! Congrats on your book deal. When will the series begin to release its books? I can't wait to dig into this series!
    kam110476 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! Doesn't our country have some wonderful scenery to offer? Whether you prefer the East or the West, there's something for everyone. I haven't seen the exact release date for this collection (it's a single volume of 9 novellas, not a series of full-length novels). I'm guessing it will be early 2015. Keep watching, I'm sure I'll do a giveaway once it has released.

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  11. Angela Holland, you are my winner for the Prairie Romance Collection, published by Barbour Books. I have already requested your contact information via private email. Thank you all who read and participated by leaving your comments!

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  12. That was interesting information on Fort Laramie. I'm sure it must be a National Historic Site and I will stumble across it on my travels around America. Thanks for the post and the contest. sharon wileygreen1ATyahooDOTcom

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