About the Author
Barton H. Barbour
Barton H. Barbour received the Ph.D from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in 1993. In 2001 he joined the faculty of the history department at Boise State University where he is an associate professor.
Dr. Barbour worked for several years in museums and cultural institutions administered by local, state, and federal agencies. From 1998 to 2001, he worked as a research historian with the National Park Service at Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has taught at the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute, at Bishop's University in Quebec, Canada, and he was a visiting professor at Boise State University in 1994-95.
Barbour has had five books and several articles published, most of which deal with the history of the North American fur trade and its effects on various “frontiers" of society, ethnicity, business, law and politics. His book, Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade, was a finalist for a Western Writers of America SPUR Award (2002) and received an honor award from the Denver Public Library's Caroline Bancroft Trust Award for Western History books (2003). Barbour’s newest book is a biography for the University of Oklahoma Press titled Jedediah Smith: No Ordinary Mountain Man, the story of Smith who was a fur trader and explorer in the frontier West.
Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade
Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2001.
This is the first comprehensive history of Fort Union, the nineteenth century’s most important and longest-lived Upper Missouri River fur trading post. Fort Union is now a national historic site, located on the North Dakota-Montana border along the Missouri River. Barbour explores the economic, social, legal, cultural, and political significance of the fort which was the brainchild of Kenneth McKenzie and Pierre Chouteau, Jr., and a part of John Jacob Astor’s fur trade empire.
From 1830 to 1867, Fort Union symbolized the power of New York and St. Louis, and later, St. Paul merchants’ capital in the West. The most lucrative post on the northern plains, Fort Union affected national relations with a number of native tribes, such as the Assiniboine, Cree, Crow, Sioux, and Blackfeet. It also influenced American interactions with Great Britain, whose powerful Hudson’s Bay Company competed for Upper Missouri
Barbour shows how Indians, mixed-bloods, Hispanic-, African-, Anglo-, and other Euro-Americans living at Fort Union created a system of community law that helped maintain their unique frontier society. Many visiting artists and scientists produced a magnificent graphic and verbal record of events and people at the post, but the old-time world of fur traders and Indians collapsed during the Civil War when political winds shifted in favor of Lincoln’s Republican Party.
In 1865 Chouteau lost his trade license and sold Fort Union to new operators, who had little interest in maintaining the post’s former culture.
For more information about Fort Union, located on the border between North Dakota and Montana, go to the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site website.