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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Visiting Fort Phil Kearny

Visiting Fort Phil Kearny

Fort Phil Kearny, near present-day Story, Wyo., was established by the U.S. Army in the summer of 1866 to protect travelers on the Bozeman Trail from Indian attack and abandoned two years later under terms of the1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors burned the fort shortly after the army left. The state historic site now offers a visitors center and a partly reconstructed stockade.

For info and mapped directions on how to visit Fort Phil Kearny and seven other Indian Wars sites in Wyoming, visit http://www.wyohistory.org/travel/historic-indian-wars-sites and download the QR-coded brochure, “Travel Wyoming’s Indian Wars Sites with WyoHistory.org.”

To hear three minutes of audio information about each of the sites, smartphone and tablet users can download the free app, TravelStorysGPS at http://www.travelstorysgps.com/, go to the Indian Wars tour, and find three minutes of audio information about each of eight historic sites from Fort Laramie to the Connor Battlefield north of Sheridan.

Here are some questions to raise during the bus ride:

  • Make a list of the animals seen along the way, both domestic and wild.  Which ones would benefit trail travelers, and which ones would be a hindrance? Which were of the most importance to the Indians in the region?
  • Where is the Bozeman Trail? When was it built? Why was it built?
  • Where is the Powder River Basin located? Why was this area important during the 1860s and 1870s?
  • How many forts were built to protect the Bozeman Trail? What were their names? Were all of them located in what’s now Wyoming Territory?

Arriving at Fort Phil Kearny:

  • What do you see when you enter the parking lot?
  • When was the fort built? What was its purpose? What materials were used in its construction? Was there ever a wall around this fort?
  • What was the size of this fort in relation to the others on the Bozeman Trail? What connection did these forts have to the transcontinental railroad? How far away from the forts was the railroad?
  • Why was the Bozeman Trail sometimes called “the bloody Bozeman?”
  • Who traveled along this route and why?
  • Soldiers at the fort had many jobs to do.  List some of those jobs and describe them. Which job would you like to have?  Which one would you try to avoid if you could?
  • Was there anyone else camping or living near the fort?  Who were they?  Why were they there? 
  • What famous battles occurred nearby? When did they happen?
  • What mountain range is near Fort Phil Kearny?
  • What happened to Fort Phil Kearny as a result of the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868?
  • What were some of the differences between this fort and Fort Laramie and Fort Reno or others you may have studied? Any similarities?

Back in the classroom after the visit:

  • Pretend you were a soldier stationed at Fort Phil Kearny. Write a letter to your family describing the fort. What did the buildings look like? How many were there? What were some of the things you did every day?  What was the weather like? What wildlife did you see nearby? What did the landscape look like? What did you eat? How did you obtain your food?

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.