Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alaska -- Day 11

This is what we woke up to this morning--snow and a low temperature of 33. The high was only 40.

We decided to drive 40 miles to Fort Benton to learn more about the life and times of the earliest settlers in Montana.We drove through beautiful wheat country (as best I could see through the snow).

We saw lots of grain storage along the railroad tracks.

In town we first saw this sculpture of explorers Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea.

Fort Benton was a very early steamboat port on the Missouri River where goods arrived from the east and fur pelts were shipped to buyers on the East Coast and in Europe. There are great views of the river.

The original fort was built out of adobe bricks. It has been restored with more solid bricks. Look what the weather here does to adobe.

One of the restored buildings shows the room where traders met with the Indians. You can see both the goods offered for trade and some of the fur pelts the Indians brought in to pay with.

Look at the great variety of fur pelts that could be traded.

There we met Mike Nottingham, a museum interpreter who is also a Mountain Man. As he and John were talking and sharing stories of their Montana ancestors, it turns out Mike's great-grandfather would probably have known John's great-great-grandfather. It sure is a small world.

Another building contains an amazing art collection. Robert Scriver was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Canada and did numerous sculptures portraying the Blackfeet way of life.

In the years 1832-34, Prussian Prince Maximilian and Swiss artist Karl Bodmer made an expedition to the American West to record the natural world here. You can read more about them here. Bodmer made numerous water colors of what they saw, then engraved special plates from them. Prints from those plates were then hand colored. In the 1990s another 125 sets of prints were made and hand colored. A museum supporter acquired one whole set for the Fort Benton museum. This print depicts the Citadel, a rock formation seen along the Missouri River.

I vaguely remember hearing about Prince Maximilian somewhere in the past. I know a very little about early trading and settlement in the American West. Now I know a whole lot more. I really enjoyed this day because I love learning new things, even if I have to venture out in the snow to learn them.

No comments:

Post a Comment