Part 4: Missouri River Fur Trade

Part 4: In a Nutshell

  • The first American trading post in North Dakota was Fort Lisa, established by Manuel Lisa along the Missouri River in 1809.
  • The War of 1812 stopped the fur trade business for about 14 years.
  • James Kipp established Kipp’s Post in northwestern North Dakota in 1826 and Fort Clark in 1831.
  • Upper Missouri refers to the northern part of the Missouri River.
  • John Jacob Astor founded the American Fur Company, the largest and most successful fur company in the United States.
  • Kenneth McKenzie built Fort Union, the largest post on the Upper Missouri. It was in business almost 40 years.
  • Kenneth McKenzie, nicknamed the “King of the Upper Missouri,” used alcohol to trick Indians into trading their furs cheaper.
  • A cat was one of the most prized possessions of a fur trading fort because it helped control the population of mice.
  • The Yellowstone was the first steamboat to travel on the Missouri River in North Dakota, reaching Fort Union in 1832.
  • George Catlin and Karl Bodmer were artists who became famous for drawings and paintings of American Indians and landscapes in the Upper Missouri.
  • Prince Maximilian was a German scientist who studied and wrote reports on the customs of American Indian tribes, as well as animals, plants, and minerals of the Upper Missouri.
  • The steamboat St. Peter brought the worst smallpox epidemic ever to North Dakota.
  • Millions of bison were killed as their hides and tongues became more valuable than beaver pelts.
  • By the 1860s the fur trade business was declining because the U.S. Army sent its own traders to army forts, fewer fur-bearing animals were available, and steamboats made more money carrying other kinds of cargo.
  • Fort Clark closed in 1861, and Fort Union closed in 1867.