Friday, January 19, 2007

Fort Pembina Stats

1872 Fort Pembina - Painted by Washington Frank Lynn
Fort Pembina, North Dakota 1870-1895

- Fort Pembina was established on March 25, 1870 by Special Order No. 43 Department of Dakota1, which detailed Companies I and K, 20th Infantry, to establish a new post on the west bank of the Red River of the North. NOTE: Charley Brown was 1st sergeant of Company I; Sergeant Arendt was from Company K.
- Lat. 48 degrees 56’ 46”, long. 97 degrees 12’ 30”.
- Located on left bank of the Red River, three and one-half miles south of the British Possessions (Canada).
- Telegraph and signal station at the post (lines reached there in 1872...)
- Quarters for 200 men.
- Two enlisted barracks; four officer’s quarters; hospital; guard house; store house; stable; bake house; brick magazine; work shop; laundress’ quarters; ice house.
- Water obtained from Red River by wagons.
- Wood supplied by contract.
- Climate cold. Winter sets in with November and continues through mid April.
- Native Tribes - Pembina band of Chippewa numbering about 300 range in vicinity of the post. The Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa scattered as far west as Turtle Mountain, 160 miles distant.


General Sykes was appointed to choose the site for Fort Pembina. He chose a site 30 miles from the town of Pembina due to hearing of the flooding problems. Several prominent citizens of the area petitioned to have it moved closer to town and the border, and provided testimony of long-time residents that flooding was not that bad, and due to unsettled nature of Indian tribes waring against each other, 30 miles away was no good. They got their way!

SMUGGLERS POINT (as the area was commonly known...) - Neche and Felson Townships, Pembina County, North Dakota - was a well-known ford across the Pembina River mentioned many times by Alexander Henry either as grand PASSAGE or the PEMBINA TRAVERSE. By the 1860s there was so much smuggling from Canada into the USA in this vicinity that Mr. William H. Moorehead was appointed customs inspector in an effort to curb this illegal traffic. However, that still not being enough, the post served also to check the illicit trade between the United States and Canada.

Also, the soldiers called the fort by the nicknames of 'Fort George H. Thomas' - my guess as to why? Well, George H. Thomas was a general during the Civil War who was well-known for his methodical - but slow - methods. Perhaps it was the soldiers' cynical way of saying their assignment at the Fort was mostly, shall we say...boring?! Thomas also passed away around the time the fort was established, and some say it was contemplated to be named after him, but instead became Fort Pembina.

1 - Fort Snelling became headquarters and supply base for the military Department of Dakota, which extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Regulars from Fort Snelling served in the Indian campaigns...