Friday, January 14, 2011

National Archives

Company 876, 20th Infantry, U.S. Army, Fort Pembina, Dakota Territory
Source:  State Historical Society of North Dakota
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Archives announced a new Online Public Access search engine prototype. It holds great promise to make searching of our national archival records much easier.

I did some test searches, and came up with some interesting finds already. For instance, about Fort Pembina, I found this...
Originally called Fort George H. Thomas, this post was established on July 9, 1870, by Companies I and K, 20th U.S. Infantry, under the command of Capt. Loyd Wheaton. The post was located in northeastern North Dakota, on the west bank of the Red River, one mile south of Pembina city. The site was chosen as a result of two boards of officers ordered to select a site for a post by Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, commanding general of the Department of Dakota. A reservation of 1,920 acres was declared by the President on October 4, 1870. The name of the post was changed to Fort Pembina in accordance with General Order 55, Department of Dakota, dated September 6, 1870. The post was established to render aid to the civil authorities in collecting fees at the customhouse and land office in Pembina. The post was abandoned September 26, 1895, in accordance with a letter from the Secretary of War, dated July 11, 1895, and pursuant to Special Order 109, Department of Dakota, dated July 15, 1895. The reservation was turned over to the Department of the Interior in accordance with War Department General Order 60, on December 5, 1895.
I had no idea that the fort had originally been named Fort George H. Thomas. I did a little digging and found out that a general by that name had died earlier that year in 1870, thus it was probably an attempt to name the fort in his honor. Why it didn't remain under that name, I haven't found that out yet. Probably a political choice of some sort...

Another fact I didn't realize, is that the Pembina Airport is on land that was part of what was once the 'military reservation' comprising Fort Pembina.

From May 27, 1895 St. Vincent New Era
Source:  New York Times (May 28, 1895)

[Click to enlarge]
A large part of the post was lost by fire on May 27, 1895 which led to its abandonment on August 15, 1895.  It was transferred to the Department of Interior on November 27, 1895, and sold at public auction in April 1902. Some of the lands went for as much as $20 an acre.

"During its time, the fort brought the one thing that was needed to the area - stability." - Major E. W. Davis, Headquarters of the Army, dated July 11, 1895, Fort Pembina Papers, State Historical Society of ND.

Soldiers present arms at Fort Pembina, DT (1870)
Source:  State Historical Society of North Dakota