FORT LARAMIE IN WYOMING
Sunday, May 19, 1850
John App and his traveling companion, Jacob Broadwell, have been at Fort Laramie (in eastern Wyoming) for a short time, and in the afternoon of May 19th left to continue their journey. Fort Laramie was an interesting place. Located on the Laramie River, it is over 900 miles (1,450 km) from home in Pekin, Illinois and John and Jake are satisfied with their rate of progress and the level of difficulty along the way. By this time, in their own journeys, many emigrants were not having as easy a time and used this place as a gauge to decide whether they would continue on to California (or Oregon), or to turn back and return home.
From about 1849 until 1890 the fort served as a military post in the western Indian wars, and was the place where important treaties were signed (first in 1851 and then in 1868) between the United States government and the Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations. These were large gatherings with well over 100 signers. Among them were Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and William Tecumseh Sherman. John was there early in the fort’s military commission (1850) but the treaties were not signed until 1851 and 1868. The point is that Fort Laramie held great importance during the time of westward migration, and John and Jake had an opportunity to be there in its early days.
Maybe you have noticed that in his diary entries John spelled some words phonetically. He refers to the fort as “Fort Larama” instead of Fort Laramie. The same is true for Laramie Peak (he calls it “Larama”), a great mountain in the distance. It is an interesting insight into the spoken language in those days before voice recordings.
In John’s diary entry for today you will learn quite a lot about him – his sense of economics, his expectations, and his phonetic spelling. This entry was probably made on May 22, 1850. He mentions the “St. Louis Passenger Train”, which was not a train that ran on tracks. It was a stagecoach line that shuttled between St. Louis (back in the “states”) and the western territory carrying mail, among other things. In the interpretive picture (below) of the sutler’s store, the left portion of the building existed in 1850 when John visited there, but the right portion wasn’t added until 1852. John did his trading in the left portion. It was built of adobe in the 1830s, and is probably the oldest building now standing in Wyoming. Mountain man, Jim Bridger, once lived in it and it was here, in 1868, that Red Cloud signed the Sioux treaty.
The Sutler’s Store was the center of commerce at Fort Laramie. Not just soldiers, but family members, emigrants, as well as the Northern Plains tribes who frequented the Fort could trade or purchase items there. The store stocked a variety of items including tobacco and smoking supplies, firearms and ammunition, housewares such as cups, plates, and bowls of ceramic and tin, sewing notions, calico fabric and beads, and food items such as brown sugar, nuts, jellies, canned seafood, vegetables, and sauces. A selection of clothing and footwear was available, including otter hats, cloth sunbonnets, straw hats, shirts, coats, vests, and boots for the entire family.
Route: Left Fort Laramie (Wyoming) in the afternoon
Elevation: 4,250 ft
Left Ft Larama May 19 in the afternoon went __ miles and camped, I saw snow when I was at the Fort on the Larama peak a distance of 45 miles, Ft Larama is a rather pritty Place, situated on the Banks of Larama River a nice Level valey with a Chain of Bluffs on Both sides, their is only 3 Companies of soldirs here now, their is one Store, and the way they sell goods is a Caution I stoped in and Bought a fish line, such as costs about 4 cts, paid 30 for it, a Tooth Brush that cost about 6 c the price was 50 c and no Jewing, it is a one priced store, a Tin Bucket that Cost 45 or 50 ct two and a half dollars, Every thing Els in proportion, what uncle Sam has to sell is very Reasonable, Flour 11 1/2 cts per lb Crackers 14 ct ___, Buffaloe meat Fresh 6 cts per lb, Baked Bread Fresh 11 1/2 cts per lb the Freight from the River is 9 cts p lb to this place so they dont make much they aim to sell at Cost, so the Commissary told me we got some Fresh Buffalo meat and Fresh Bread then. we had fine liveing for a few days, Game has been very scarce so far, Liquor Beats ale for Prices, one of the Peoria Boys sold 1 gall of Brandy pritty well watered for 12 dollars whiskey is selling by the small at 1 dollar pr pint, Brandy at 2 dollars pr pint, If I had to make this trip over again I would Know what to bring and How to fix, Yet we are as well fixed or rather Better than any on the road, If I had one Bbl of Brandy I Could make 500 dollars out of it Easy, Last Friday we passed the St Louis, Pasenger Train they sold 2 of their spring Carriages at the Fort for 20 dollars, their Horses & mules are very Poor, and some of the Passengers wish they had died Before they started, they left the Missourie River Before we did, they will have as hard or rather harder time than last season, Because their is no Chance for Recruiting, the Grass is so short, and the Emigration so great that nearly Every space is swept Clean, and the last will have to take it, we have grain Enough to take us over the Mountains I think the grass is getting much Better