May 20-22, 2010 the 150th Anniversary Mullan Road Conference was held in Fort Benton, Montana. The conference celebrated completion of the Mullan Military Wagon Road in 1860, the first wagon road from Fort Benton to cross the Rocky Mountains to Fort Walla Walla, WA. The 624 mile long Mullan Road joined the Missouri River with the Columbia River. Parts of the Mullan Road can be traveled today and last weekend’s conference featured a field trip from Fort Benton into the Sun River Valley to Fort Shaw, MT.
The conference also celebrated the arrival of the first steamboats at Fort Benton’s levee July 2,1860, beginning a new era in this community’s history.
A tour of Old Fort Benton kicked off the conference late Thursday afternoon. Resident mountain man Burnt Spoon led the group and showed the original Block House (Montana’s oldest permanent structure), the newly constructed log Stockade and Bourgeois House, and the Trade Store and Warehouse.
About 70 participants heard Mullan Road activity reports from Washington, Idaho and Montana. Friday afternoon presentations included Mullan Road Online Resources (including a Google Earth Mullan Road Fly-Thru), Sampling the Minckler Mullan Road Collection, Through Indian Country: Native American Perspectives on Mullan, and Regional Development. There was also a presentation on actions to designate the Mullan Road a National Historic Trail.
Saturday morning’s presentation was Surveying Along the Mullan Road, followed by the field trip.
Thanks to Ken Robison, historian, Overholser Historical Research Center, Fort Benton for this information and photos.