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Military History at Fort Assinniboine

I was traveling along US Hwy 87 between Havre and Box Elder the other evening and stopped to get some photos of Fort Assinniboine. The skies were ominous with a thunderstorm approaching but that contributed to some unique background.

This photo shows the view towards the brick fort buildings with the Bear Paw Mountains in the background.

Fort Assinniboine is an old military post, opened in 1879 by the US government. Troops serving here were to protect area settlers from possible Indian raids. A bit more history – General Custer had just recently been defeated by the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes in what is now southeastern Montana. Custer was in pursuit of the Nez Perce tribe being led by Chief Joseph. East of Fort Assinniboine is the Bear Paw Battlefield where the US Army eventually caught up with the Nez Perce as they tried to find freedom north of present-day Montana in Canada.

No serious Indian disturbances occurred after Fort Assinniboine was established.The fort was regarded as one of the most strategic points in the northwest.

In 1911, the War Department abandoned this post. In 1916, the landless Chippewa-Cree found a home on the southern part of the military reserve when 30,900 acres were set aside as Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.

The state of Montana purchased the fort buildings, the land where they are located, plus 2,000 acres. The acreage purchased became the Northern Ag Research Center of MSU-Bozeman. Research has been conducted here for over 60 years. As you drive by, it’s interesting to see the “sample plots” of grains planted.

Just so you know, this photo of the entrance to Fort Assinniboine was taken during a different visit there. I was burning daylight this trip and heading straight in to a thunderstorm so I put my camera away and pointed my wheels homeward.

Fort Assinniboine is part of an internationally linked group of forts called the Old Forts Trail. The trail also includes Fort Benton.

Guided tours of Fort Assinniboine are offered. The Clack Museum, located in Holiday Village Mall in Havre, is where the tours begin.

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