What is better on a beautiful summer’s day than to take a backroads trip to Fort Osage, Missouri National Landmark? This fort is a surprise. There are decades of U.S. history represented here.
Let’s face it. We grew up watching “cowboys and Indians” on television. Although a lot of those shows bent the truth, I’d like to think they instilled a love of history-especially history of the frontier-in our generation.
As you explore America’s midwest, there are many forts to visit, but none has so many layers of American history.
Fort Osage is also an inexpensive educational stop to make if you are traveling with grandchildren, school children or by yourself! Don’t miss it!
REASONS TO VISIT FORT OSAGE
1. One reason to visit Fort Osage is the age of the fort. This fort is one of the earliest built in the midwest. When this fort was built, the Missouri River was our country’s boundary with the untamed frontier. The fort was built in 1808 under the direction of William Clark, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In the same year, Pierre Chouteau of the Chouteau fur trading family and an agent for the Osage Nation, took Osage chiefs to meet with President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson promised to build them a trading post, so Fort Osage was used both as a military garrison and a trade center.
2. Another reason to visit Fort Osage is the special purpose the fort served in early America. Fort Osage was one of three forts established by the U.S. Army to establish control over the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase Territories.
Fort Madison in southeast Iowa was built to control trade and pacify Native Americans in the Upper Mississippi River region. Fort Belle Fontaine near St. Louis controlled the mouth of the Missouri River.
Rose early, examined the Situation and the points of a Small Island which is opposit, found the River could be completely defended and the Situation elegant, this Situation I had examined in the year 1804 and was delighted with it and am equally so now, ordered the Boats to be unloaded and tools got ready to work, and fixed on the spot for the fort and other buildings…”
-William Clark, Monday, 5th September 1808
3. Fort Osage is situated in an extremely strategic location. This historic site overlooks the broad Missouri River. On a bluff, Fort Osage is perfectly situated for defense. We found the view alone worth the visit!
“…a high commanding position, more than 70 feet above high-water mark, and overlooking the river, which is here but of little depth.”
The Fort was built by the men of the 1st Regiment, U.S. Infantry, who traveled in six keelboats up the Missouri River under the command of Captain Eli Clemon and the St. Charles Dragoons, who marched overland under Clark’s command. Four of the keelboats carried $20,000 worth of merchandise belonging to George C. Sibley, who was the chief factor, or trader, at the post.
4. Another reason to visit the Fort is the number of legendary people who stayed there. Upon their return from their expedition in 1806, Meriwether Lewis was named Governor and William Clark was given the position of commander of the militia and Indian agent of The Louisiana Territory. Sacagawea and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, stayed at the Fort on their way back north to the Dakota territories. Daniel Boone visited Fort Osage in 1814, at the age of 81, while on one of his last hunting trips.
SOME FORT HISTORY
Fort Osage was abandoned in June 1813 during the War of 1812 because it was not considered to be under threat. At the end of the War of 1812, the Adams-Onis Treaty removed the threat of Spanish or British campaigns against the U.S. As the Osage Nation ceded more and more of their land, a new trading post at Fort Scott, Kansas was established closer to the ancestral villages near the headwaters of the Osage River. (See our post on Fort Scott, Kansas) Fort Osage formally closed in 1822 but remained a landmark on the Santa Fe Trail and as a site for moving supplies northward.
FORT OSAGE TODAY
Step through the gate of Fort Osage and begin a walk through history. The Fort is portrayed today as it was in 1812. Just think, James Madison was president in 1812!
Archeologists rediscovered the foundation of Fort Osage in the 1940s and today the Fort you see has been rebuilt.
Volunteer re-enactors dress as Fort residents, soldiers and traders and eagerly share the story of the Fort without being corny.
Fort Osage is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. year round. There is a museum, trading post factory, main blockhouse, four other blockhouses, officers’ quarters, soldiers’ barracks, service buildings and more to visit. The entrance fee is $8, ages 5-13, $4, age 62+, $3. The site is wheelchair accessible but there are some distances to cover so don’t choose a hot day to visit.
107 Osage Street
Sibley, Missouri 64088
(816) 650-5737 or (816) 650-3278
From Kansas City, Route 24 to Buckner; north at Sibley Street (Route BB); through Sibley, Missouri following signs to Fort Osage.