Missouri River Odyssey
Relive frontier fort life
As young historian Hannah Verlinde tells stories about life in the 1870s barracks at Fort Buford along the Missouri near North Dakota's Montana line, visitors' eyes take on a faraway look. It's as if they're peering into the past. A buffalo coat like the ones the army issued for four men to share hangs on a peg beside the rough wool jackets the soldiers wore winter and summer. Narrow bunks where two men slept head-to-foot flank a woodstove that looks too small to heat the big room.
"They froze in the winter and baked in the summer," Hannah says. She points to stiff black boots that the soldiers called "Left and Right Jeffersons" because they were poorly made to fit either foot. Worse yet, the army might have provided them only in size 7.
The commander's Victorian cottage stands alone at Fort Buford as if it's keeping vigil, the only remaining witness to July 19, 1881, when a Sioux party crowded into the parlor to watch their great Chief Sitting Bull surrender.