Fur Trade History Being Celebrated at Cultural Heritage Center Program

December 7, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. — Activities at two important Upper Missouri River fur trading posts will be brought to life during a program at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

Michael M. Casler, co-editor of “Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau: Journal and Letter Books, 1830-1850,” will be the guest speaker when the History and Heritage Book Club meets at 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Cultural Heritage Center.

Everyone is welcome to attend the free program, sponsored by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation and the South Dakota Historical Society Press.

“Fort Pierre is celebrating its bicentennial. These two fur trading posts were located near what came to be the city of Fort Pierre and played an important part in Fort Pierre’s history,” said foundation President Michael Lewis.

In 1822, five years after Joseph La Framboise established a trading post at the junction of the Bad and Missouri rivers, the Columbia Fur Company built Fort Tecumseh to the north of La Framboise’s post. The rival American Fur Company bought out Columbia Fur Company in 1827. Workers moved goods from Fort Tecumseh north to the newly constructed Fort Pierre Chouteau in 1832, and Fort Pierre Chouteau succeeded Fort Tecumseh as a key trading location on the Upper Missouri River.

Letter books exist for Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau for most of the time from 1830 to 1850. These books consist of copies of outgoing letters written by the bourgeois (managers) of the posts to their company officers and subordinates in the field. Company employees recorded daily activities in journals.

Casler said that he and co-editor W. Raymond Wood believed it was time for publication of these documents. Wood transcribed the letters and Casler annotated them.

“The letter books illustrate the nature of commerce in this region and are a rich resource for historians,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society. “Casler and Wood have done a great service to researchers in compiling them into one volume.”

Casler lives in Williston, N.D. The former park ranger with the National Park Service currently works as an independent historical researcher.

“Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau Journal and Letter Books 1830-1850” was published in September by the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Copies of the book are available at the Heritage Stores at the Cultural Heritage Center and the Capitol, as well as by calling the Press at 605-773-6009.

Please call 605-773-6006 for more information about the program.

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