KX Summer Road Trip: The history of Fort Stevenson State Park

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We’re continuing our coverage leading up to our KX on the Road Summer Road Trip to Fort Stevenson State Park on Friday with the history behind Fort Stevenson.

The Fort Stevenson State Park you visit today isn’t the one that existed back in 1867.

In fact, if you were to stand where it was originally, you’d be 110 feet underwater.

“In 1867, the Army decided they needed a fort in this area. The troops came up from St. Louis on the steamboat and they started building the fort,” said volunteer Ralph Sayler.

“There was almost as many civilians here as troops. Troops were about 220 usually which was a very small fort,” Sayler said. “They never had a palisade around the fort for protection — the two large cannons were the protection.”

Most everything at Fort Stevenson are replicas, including the cannons and guardhouse.

Artwork done by the first commander of the fort, General Régis de Trobriand, helped them recreate history.

“The guardhouse is a jailhouse. A jailhouse not for prisoners of war, but for troops that misbehaved,” Sayler said.

“After it was decommissioned in 1881 after the Indian wars, it was used for a boarding school for the Native American students who lived 17 miles west of here,” Sayler said.

But it isn’t just the hard facts he knows; he’s also a great storyteller.

“When Lewis and Clark was up here, they had to guard almost anything that they had that was made of steel because the Natives wanted that so badly to make arrow points rather than using the flint,” Sayler said.

“If you believe the journals of Lewis and Clark, one of the Indian chiefs came across the Missouri River in a bull boat. There was the chief, his wife, young child and a quarter of buffalo all in one bull boat,” Sayler said.

Sayler says because this fort existed, 1,600 people are now able to call Garrison home.

“If the fort had not been here, there would be no Garrison Troopers. There would probably be no Garrison,” Sayler said.

Our interview with Ralph lasted more than 40 minutes, but as they say, time really flies when you’re having fun!

More KX Summer Road Trip in Garrison

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