Fort Laramie
Park History, 1834-1977
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9. Richard H. Maeder, Superintendent, 1973-1977

Superintendent Maeder's incumbency was just over four years, from June, 1973 to September, 1977. The expiration of his term rather neatly fills out the first 40 years of Fort Laramie in public ownership, beginning with the State of Wyoming acquisition in April, 1937. The 40th Anniversary of National Park Service management will be July 16, 1978 when a new Superintendent will have been in office just a little over six months. Hopefully he will be around long enough to emulate the enviable record of conscientious productivity and stewardship of his predecessors. By whatever kindly Providence or quirk of Fate (since NPS management cannot always bat 100 percent in the selection of park area Superintendents), Fort Laramie Superintendents have always been a special breed.

Dick Maeder, who began his career with the NPS as a seasonal ranger at Mount Rushmore, has been a ranger at Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, and an interpretive specialist in Washington, D.C. He transferred to Fort Laramie from the Arizona State Office at Phoenix; from Fort Laramie he went on to become Superintendent of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. [158]

While there was some historic preservation work during Maeder's incumbency, this was more a period of consolidation of long-term gains, of stabilizing operational methods and procedures, and laying the groundwork for major new developments which would mark the culmination of many decades of hopeful planning. It was also a time of geographical re-orientation, management-wise, for in 1974 a new Rocky Mountain Regional Office was created in Denver, superseding the old Midwest Regional Office in Omaha to control National Park Service operations in Wyoming and other mountain states.

There are several ways to measure progress, and one is statistical. In four decades how well has the NPS discharged its responsibility of preserving and restoring Fort Laramie? Well, to actually preserve, stabilize, and restore, it has spent an approximate total of $550,000. If we are to update the valuation of all funds expended for this express purpose since 1950, and considering the fact that most of the major restoration was accomplished in the period 1950-1963, at relative bargain rates, the total valuation in 1978 would exceed $3,000,000.

What about costs of operation as a criterion? In 1939 Custodian Lombard received a salary of $2,000 out of a total Fort Laramie budget of less than $3,000. The 1960 budget of $37,500 included Superintendent Ringenbach's salary of around $8,000. In 1977 Superintendent Maeder earned as much in one month as Lombard did in a year, or about eight times as much as Superintendent Hieb's salary when he initiated the effective Restoration Program in 1950. This, of course, reflects the phenomenon of inflation and not a differential in degree of responsibility. To some extent this is true of operational funds also. In 1978 the Fort Laramie budget for operations, including maintenance and all other recurring costs, was $325,000, which is over 100 times the initial Lombard budget. But inflation is only part of the story here. The magnified budget also reflects the fact that there is a lot more to take care of in 1978 than there was in 1939. The difference is that the restoration program has matured, so to speak, and along with that there is a corresponding increase in both public and official awareness of the value of Fort Laramie, in both monetary and spiritual (or, if you prefer, inspirational) terms. This greatly heightened awareness is reflected also in the visitor "body count" which grew from 4,000 in 1939 to over 150,000 in 1972, which gives us a respectable multiplier of 40 or an increase of 4,000 percent.

Another way to measure progress since 1939 (actually 1940, the first budget year) is in staffing. Lombard's staff was a total of one — himself. Maeder's staff was a total of 12 permanent, plus nine seasonals or other nonpermanent classifications, like "temporary full-time" or "permanent less than full time." So according to whether you are looking at winter or summer staffing, it has increased by 1,200 or 2,000 percent. Now while to some extent the restoration and operating costs reflect inflation, the visitor count and the size of staffing do not. They are the best measure of the progress of 40 years, and the conclusion is that it has been phenomenal.

The 1978 staff of career employees consists of the following positions: Superintendent, Supervisory Historian, Park Technician, Museum Curator, Administrative Officer, Clerk-typist, Supervisory Technician (Chief of Guards), three Guards, Maintenance Foreman and Maintenance Worker. Those "other than permanent" include the following categories: park technicians, park aids, clerk-typist, laborers, museum aids, and guards. [159] The Superintendent would be the first to tell you that he is understaffed. He wouldn't be a good Superintendent if he didn't tell you that, and he is undoubtedly right, depending upon how you define the workload. But over 20 employees is a marked improvement over a grand total of one, by any measurement. The area doubled in size in 1960 but the new area is mainly vacant land and you don't allocate employees on the basis of acreage; if you did Glacier Bay and Death Valley would have thousands of employees and Fort Laramie would go back to just one!

It is significant that the largest category of present permanent employees is in the area of protection or, to use the preferred current term, "security." There are five permanent guards (including their supervisor and one "less than full time") designated as such plus a variable number of seasonal guards. With the assistance of other employees who "keep an eye on things" while they perform other duties, Fort Laramie now has total security in human terms, that is, at least one person on the premises at all times, and at least two for seven months of the year, that is, seven days a week, and 24 hours per day. There could be no better evidence of Government recognition that Fort Laramie is something of great and irreplaceable value than this blanket security system. [160]

From 1939 to 1967 "security" was theoretically achieved by residency of the Custodian/Superintendent, and for some time also the maintenanceman, in the Cavalry Barracks. But by general consent this historic building was vacated in the latter year when Sharp moved to Torrington, and that meant that guards had to be stationed on the premises during the 16 hours a day when regular employees weren't present. Anticipating this, Lewis Eaton was the first night-time guard (then designated "park aid") in 1966. Since that time the permanent guard staff has grown to the present five: George Hill, Octavius Calgiore, Ernest Pratt, John Sullivan, and Kenneth Weber, the latter being supervisor and having the longest term of guard service. (Eaton has been converted to interpretive services, as Park Technician.)

Guard duties consist primarily of periodic patrols, both around the historic building complex and the total area, each guard being equipped with a 2-way radio. While those on patrol must be prepared to meet any emergency, the permanent guards are the only ones who are qualified with recognized "law enforcement authority." According to Weber, this is achieved only by 400 class-room hours in law enforcement given at a Federal training center at Brunswick, Georgia.

Security problems pertaining to buildings, the prime resource, are theft, vandalism, and fire. The wealth of historic furnishings are a great temptation, of course, to unscrupulous collectors or pranksters. Historic objects, principally guns, have been stolen, and one case of a stolen child's doll from Officers Quarters A was successfully prosecuted. The use of replica furnishings rather than originals in buildings with free access, as in the Old Bakery and the Old Guard house, helps to reduce the risk. [161]

Vandalism is almost nil but, to be sure, only because of the constant presence of uniformed personnel. Fire is the biggest threat, from smoking, spontaneous combustion, or lightning. Nonsmoking in the historic buildings is rigidly enforced, and an effort is made to eliminate combustible materials. Lightning rods are supposed to neutralize a strike but if lightning does strike (as it has done in recent years to Officers Quarters E) there is a good water supply, well-placed hydrants, and fire-fighting apparatus on the ready: one pumper for structural fires, one "wild fire" truck, and one foam generator. Should a fire start, of course, everything depends on early detection, and the instant assemblage of manpower. There is also an argument for the installation of burglar and fire detection devices, which would require bringing electricity to the historic buildings, as well as an argument for a heating system for the buildings, individually or collectively, to assure the ideal temperature and humidity for the fabric of the structures as well as the furnishings. We can only caution that anything can be overdone. Too much mechanical security can itself violate historic values which at Fort Laramie have thus far, over the decades, remained inviolate. [162]

While the types of threat posed by disorderly conduct, riot, or malicious destruction for fanatic reasons seem remote from this tranquil place, it is a historic fact that Fort Laramie was threatened, at least verbally, in 1973 and again in 1975 by radical members of the American Indian Movement who have a record of illegal occupancy and destruction, as at Wounded Knee, South Dakota and Shiprock, New Mexico. Outside law enforcement agencies are, of course, alert to such threats and would converge on the Fort in a hurry if needed. In an age of sociological upheaval accentuating the rights of special groups with historic grievances, it would take only one such group, or one individual fanatic, to destroy one or more Fort Laramie buildings.

There are just two things that Fort Laramie is "all about." One is "the resource", the physical evidence of past glory which the NPS is charged by Congress to preserve, the other is the human resource. The main indispensable part of the human resource is the visitor whose taxes help pay for parks like this and who comes to gain knowledge and inspiration. His numbers now exceed 100,000 a year, and since the peak year of 1972 of over 150,000 seem to have stabilized within this range. The other facet of the human resource is the park staff as well as NPS employees elsewhere who contribute in various ways. Park employees are the catalytic agent that make it work. Some administer, some protect, some build, restore, and maintain, but the ones who deal directly with the patron, the Great American Visitor, are those involved in Visitor Services, or Interpretation. Like Charlie Sharp in his later years, Dick Maeder has had the opportunity to experiment and expand in this field, now that the primary restoration job has been 95 percent achieved.

If the area were unattended the visitor could get along somewhat, as he was compelled to do, for example, in those days when lone Custodians Lombard and Borreson were away on other business. But that was when there was only a group of empty unrestored buildings. Now all buildings are stabilized and restored to a large degree, and some are full-fledged historic house museums. So the visitors' experience must be organized, with best possible interpretive effect, i.e., to convey knowledge and appreciation of and even reverence for this colorful segment of our past. This means employees, and those primarily responsible for the effectiveness of visitor services are the Superintendent and his Supervisory Historian. Maeder has been strongly people-oriented, as have his successive Historians, William Henry, Jr., and Douglas C. McChristian. Lew Eaton and Jim Petty among permanents, and Paul Hedren and Tom Lindenmier among nonpermanents have played active front-line roles.

The main elements of visitor routine that have evolved to 1978 follow the pattern of parking near the Cavalry Barracks (at the 40-year old "temporary parking area"), visit the "temporary museum" in the Commissary Storehouse which gives insights into Fort history, and obtain orientation from the uniformed attendant there. The "main course" then is a self-guided tour of the historic buildings, where interior furnishings can be viewed either through transparent plastic outside doors, or through transparent plastic shields over room doors, viewed from hallways. Leaflet, guide-booklets, and signs aid in interpreting these exhibits in situ. Then you return to your car, sometimes paying a return visit to the museum to ask questions or buy literature displayed by the Fort Laramie Association. (Other aspects of Fort history are touched on at the Old Army Bridge and along the county and park approach roads.) To serve visitors during regular hours in the summer there is a Living History program — interpreters in period dress.

Living History requires "props" (costumes and equipment), a lot of painstaking research to ensure accuracy, and trained "actors" who must have some native talent as well as training. Also this interpretive form exists only when these trainees are on duty, so in comparison with fixed exhibits it has the disadvantage of being transitory, that is, something that may or may not occur during your visit. (The one thing that is there all the time is the automated series of bugle calls, from reveille to taps, which sound off at regular intervals.) However, at Fort Laramie in particular, because of emphasis on accuracy as well as enthusiasm, it has been an effective new dimension, stressing aspects of garrison life as counterpoint to the broad sweep of frontier military history. Data for the following abstract on the evolution of the Fort's Living History program was supplied by Doug McChristian:

The Living History program began in 1966 under Murray. This simply involved seasonal rangers in NPS uniforms periodically firing historic weapons.

The following summer the demonstrations were extended to include seasonals Ken Korte and Glenn Burkes wearing replica Army uniforms. Clothing and accoutrements, mostly originals, were the subjects of talks at the 1876 Guardhouse.

In 1968 Tom White became Supervisory Historian. Demonstrations continued at the New Guardhouse with a cavalry trooper and an infantry sergeant of the mid-seventies speaking about soldier life, and using firearms.

A new and popular dimension was added in 1969 when the Sutler's Store and Bar-rooms were refurnished and opened to the public. Keith Beers in civilian costume was stationed there to interpret the many facets of this establishment. Cavalry and infantry weapons demonstrations continued at the New Guardhouse on a regular schedule.

Bill Henry transferred here from Custer Battlefield in 1969 to assume direct responsibility for the program the following year. He brought technical skill as well as enthusiasm to the job. Under his influence the program took on new dimensions and greater attention to authenticity.

In 1971 a soldier field camp was added, to be manned by soldiers throughout the summer. They portrayed rigors of campaign life through discussion of clothing, equipment, food, weapons, and field service. That year also Volunteers in the Parks program began. Mrs. Nadya Henry portrayed the role of an officer's wife.

In 1972 an officer's maid began interpreting facets of the role of women employed at the post. Lewis Eaton took over the role of the post trader's clerk, a job he has held to the present time (1978). Lance Grobowski was hired to portray a "mountain man" or fur trapper. He camped on the bank of the Laramie, living in his tipi day and night, and demonstrating Indian and fur trade crafts.

In June and July, 1972 two special weapons demonstrations were held. The original Gatling gun was fired with ball ammunition, Also, interpreters from other western military areas assembled here at invitation of the Fort Laramie staff (then Sharp, Henry and Hedren). Visitors included McChristian from Fort Larned and Lindenmier from Fort Fetterman State Park.

Discussion initiated at the 1972 meeting led to the concept of the Military Arts Camp of Instruction. After two years struggle to get official sanction and funding, Henry coordinated the first camp at Fort Laramie, June, 1974. A second course in 1975 was hosted by Fort Davis, Texas. The third camp was again conducted at Fort Laramie in 1976. About 20 participants became totally immersed in a recreation of soldier life during the Indian wars, spending four days in the Cavalry Barracks and two days on a march up Deer Creek.

In the summer of 1973 a company garden was introduced to provide insight on Army diet and supply problems. A prisoner, under guard, did hard labor at a woodpile. The full-time use of the Old Bakery was the major addition to the 1974 season. In 1975 a cavalry trooper demonstration was initiated by Tom Lindenmier, who provided his own horse and equipment.

Bill Henry transferred to Fort Larned in September, 1975, being replaced by Doug McChristian from Fort Davis. During the 1976 Bicentennial season the program continued in full swing. A sentry was added at the Old Guardhouse, to interpret Army discipline, the judicial system, and punishments.

In 1977 the cavalry trooper act was revived as the park acquired two horses, and two complete sets of replica equipment. An infantry soldier explained his different role. A company laundress scene was set up between the Bakery and the New Guardhouse. Three buildings — Store, Bakery, and Guardhouse, were manned on a full-time basis. [163]

Living history interpreters visited area schools upon request, during the period 1969 to 1974, to explain garrison life. In the latter year this activity was suspended due to the energy crisis.

In 1973 there was an experimental "moonlight tour", and since then there have been two such tours scheduled annually, on a reservation basis. (Obviously this primarily benefits local visitors since most tourists come from distant places on a random basis, just passing through). An 1876 atmosphere prevails on these unique tours.

Special 4th of July observances have been staged annually since 1973, with such attractions as ceremonial raising and lowering of the 37-star flag of 1876, gun salutes, Army encampments, free cider and sarsparilla at the Sutler's Store, free Army bread at the Bakery, 19th century games (sack races, greased pole, etc.), fashion shows, band concerts, and speeches. This is of course mainly a Fort Laramie regional community affair which has become a praiseworthy tradition. On Independence day in the Bicentennial year a crowd of over 3,000 showed up. Other events relating to the Bicentennial included the arrival on September, 1975 of the east-bound Pennsylvania Bicentennial Wagon Train, witnessed by another 3,000, before suspending their act for the winter. On May 24, 1976 this same train departed from the Fort and continued crosscountry to Valley Forge in time for the festivities there on July 4. In June 1976 Old Bedlam was the setting for the climax of a re-enactment of the famous Portugee Phillips ride from Fort Phil Kearny in 1866 (only that was in late December!) In August a "Bicentennial Bottle Show" (a display of antiques rather than an occasion for conviviality) attracted over 2,000 visitors. [164]

A few other observances of special interest may be mentioned. In June, 1974 there was a Governor's Day, the place swarming with 1,500 members of the Wyoming National Guard and the Casper Drum and Bugle Corps. That year also a philatelic exhibit was set up under sponsorship of the Wyoming Bicentennial Commission, and the U. S. Postal Service had a one-day stand at the old Fort Laramie post office in the Sutler's Store to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the military post founding. In June, 1976 the area hosted the Rocky Mountain Department of the Council on Abandoned Military Posts, led by attorney William VanDuzer of Denver. At the banquet in Torrington attended also by staff members, Merrill J. Mattes of Littleton, Colorado (Denver Service Center retiree, and Fort Laramie's first Historian and Custodian) gave a talk on the beginnings and early days of the National Monument, previewing his upcoming Park History project.

Each autumn the Fort plays host to the Senior class in Planning, Recreational Department, College of Forestry, Colorado State University, shepherded by Professor Art Wilcox. Similar classes and seminars have shown up from other institutions of higher learning, Michigan State and Wyoming University among them, and the Fort is frequently visited and the staff consulted by members of the Wyoming Historical Department and the Wyoming Recreation Commission, who handle state exhibits and historical properties, respectively. Fort Laramie, in other words, has become a mecca for historic preservation and park planning students and experts alike, who come to see a model historical park in action. [165]

Fort Laramie has not been untouched by the supernatural. Maeder soberly reported to his superiors that on October 7, 1976 he had seen "the Fort Laramie ghost," along with "15 members of the Cheyenne Westerners who had joined a few locals for a ghost watch on the second floor of Old Bedlam." He characterized the group as "a prestigious and sane group of people whose testimony could be relied upon." This ghost, of course, had to be the diaphanous daughter of the American Fur Company manager of 1847 who, according to the legend reported by Superintendent Hieb as told to him by Colonel F. W. Allison in 1951, went on a horseback ride and never returned (Sob!). Every seven years however, on a full moonlight night, the ghost of horse and rider reappears. Sure enough, on this occasion said horse and rider were seen crossing the parade ground. "They disappeared near the Laramie River and were not seen again." Now Maeder and the respected Westerners don't drink, and they are known to be worshippers at the altar of historical accuracy. Therefore we can only assume (since we cannot bring ourselves to believe that this was a "put-up job") that what they saw was either "the Spirit of '76" (western version) or a stranger who was trespassing, coincidentally, on Government property. The really impressive thing is that the audience gathered beforehand, in expectation of seeing the Fort Laramie ghost, and her poignant apparition was right on schedule. Amazing! [166]

We will not dwell on the character of the "temporary museum" exhibits except to note that they reflect the annual upgrading efforts of the interpretive staff. It may receive criticism from alleged experts who consider it "old-fashioned," but if that's a criticism, it's the way visitors like it, and they spend a lot of time there. Among the more effective displays are those of coins and buttons, uniforms and weapons, and the vivid and illuminating contemporary photographs which research workers have discovered. Also, the Commissary museum is the only place on the premises, outside of a map at the site of Fort John, where visitors learn much of anything about the fur trade period of Fort Laramie. [167]

More pertinent to the historical perspective is the status of the museum collection and what happened to it since Jim Petty assumed the curatorship in 1965. In effect, the main thing that's happened to it is that the bulk of the uncatalogued cumulative collection has been declared surplus and has been disposed of, leaving some 13,500 of the more valuable catalogued items. Murray claimed a total of over 100,000 items in his day, though Petty thinks the grand total was more nearly like 80,000. The number isn't so impressive, mathematically, when we remember that this included every bullet casing, every bit of broken glass, and every fragment of anything. It seems that around 1965 the Harper's Ferry Center, which calls the shots in the museum department, mandated that large field collections (which means all items not on display at the moment) had to be inventoried, and then all items deemed either worthless or surplus to legitimate area needs were to be disposed of through standard Board of Survey procedures. Accordingly, there have been at least three such Surveys, one with Murray and two with Petty. Items condemned by hopefully qualified staff members can be destroyed or taken to a dump, presumably. Bob Murray moved at least two truckoads of such items away from the area to points not of record. However, items which have any conceivable value to others have been offered liberally to other areas of the National Park system, such as Colonial, Scotts Bluff, and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, to state agencies, and to local museums. Sometimes articles of value which are nevertheless surplus have been exchanged with other parks, agencies, or museums. [168]

Because of storage limitations in the present, and probably also in the future, there are two categories of museum items which tend to be burdensome — oversize items such as furniture and transportation gear not displayable, and general collections from official archeological projects. Although there have always been strict standards as to accepting only authentic items, the definition of such items is subject to individual interpretation and, unless a given item is proven to be a genuine Fort Laramie original, its indefinite retention in a field collection or "study collection" tends to be costly in space and therefore monetary terms. Accordingly "white elephants" are among the likeliest targets for Board of Survey actions. As to archeological collections, while in theory all items of a given provenience should be retained in "study collection" status, in practice some of the more scroungy fruits of archeology are felt to be a drug on the market, of little or no research value, and therefore disposable. There is a new policy of sometimes reburying such a collection in vaults or barrels, and the site recorded on a map and photos in the catalog. This treatment was given to most of the items yielded by the Rustic Hotel dig of 1972. [169]

Although there was accessioning, cataloguing, and marking of sorts in earlier years, going back to the CCC and ERA projects of 1938-1939, scientific record-keeping in accordance with Service-wide standards did not begin until 1958-1959 when Regional Curator Newell F. Joyner inaugurated the new system. This has been followed by Rex Wilson, Bob Murray and Jim Petty. All records and markings prior to 1958 have been incorporated into the new system. This hinges on four basic forms of recording — the Accession Book, the Accession File, the Catalog, and the Locator files.

The Accession Book simply records the sequence of accessions beginning with Number 1 on September 12, 1939 when the Harmeier family donated miscellaneous things found on the premises. There are (as of October, 1977) 543 accession files or file folders. The number is misleading because some accessions may represent the donation of only one item while others may represent large and diverse collections, with hundreds of pieces. The overall collection (minus the 100,000 odd pieces, plus or minus, surplused since 1965) was assembled from the following sources: (1) intermittent official archeological projects between 1938 and 1972; (2) surface finds by Government personnel; (3) donations by private individuals; (4) donations by or exchange with other parks or other State and Federal agencies; (5) purchases by the Fort Laramie History Association or the National Park Service, including purchases with funds from the Virginia Hill Donation account. (The Hill assemblage, the most valuable part of the entire collection, is covered under only one accession number, though the items catalogued exceed 1,000 and still growing.)

Items in the collection, from beads, bullets, and bottles to guns, uniforms, toys, chintz curtains, buffalo robes, paintings, and pianos, cover virtually every type of historical specimen in the NPS classification system. Among the most recent items acquired are an 1849-model mountain howitzer and 1876 Gatling gun, gun carriages, limber with ammo chest, pack saddles, and harness. (If men and horses could be rounded up, it seems there is now enough gear to start another Indian campaign.) The most visible part of the collection consists of the furniture and furnishings in the Sutler's Store, Old Bedlam, Old Bakery, Old Guardhouse, and Officers Quarters A, E, and F, plus wagons, ordnance, and heavy equipment displayed in the New Guardhouse, the Magazine, and on the parade ground; and of course whatever items are on exhibit in the Commissary building museum. The rest is in storage mainly in that same building, along with the Curator's office and laboratory. [170]

All items have been assigned monetary value according to the staff curator's knowledge of the antique market, with minimum valuations of $1. Items deemed to be worth in excess of $100 are recorded and listed as accountable Government property. Given valuations, of course, are generally behind actual current values on the collectors' market. Petty believes that the theoretical value of the entire collection is in the neighborhood of $100,000. That much alone has gone into the Hill Collection. It seems that the figure could be doubled or tripled also on the strength of extra value accruing from the mere fact of association with historic Fort Laramie. [171]

A new furnishing project underway in 1977 is the Magazine, to store ordnance and supplies of the period circa 1867, for which an original inventory is available as guide. Meanwhile furnishings for the Cavalry Barracks — blankets, gun holsters, canteens, and whatnot — are being gradually assembled against the final restoration of that building's interior, scheduled for 1980. As of January 1, 1978 about $35,000 remained in the Hill Donation account, which should easily finish the job. The only refurnishing of surviving historic buildings beyond that would be for the Commissary Storehouse itself, as, if, and when it may be vacated. [172]

The Fort Laramie Historical Association (FLHA) has continued to flourish over the years, becoming ever more prosperous. When Sharp EOD gross sales were $2,000 per annum; when Maeder EOD they had grown to $22,000. The figure for 1977 is right at $40,000. This of course reflects the general prosperity of the country as well as the visitor upswing, but it is a rather amazing figure for a small operation. Adults and children alike seem to have a compulsion to buy something. Maeder professed to be in awe of "the unrestrained buying power of the general public." [173]

What do they buy? Whatever items the Association offers, mainly books, of which about 65 titles are listed in the inventory. Because the cost of hardcovers has floated up out of sight the bulk of offerings are paperbacks which now retail at the same prices that hard covers once did. In the spirit of the law which authorizes Associations such as this, sale items are required to have a tangible relationship to the area theme. However, since the history of Fort Laramie spans that of the entire frontier of the Northern Plains, 1834-1890, that legitimizes a pretty wide range of historical subjects. There is substantial profit also in the sale of post cards, film, memorial coins, and philatelic items. Miscellaneous sale items include replica military insignia, sunbonnets, clay pipes, china doll kits, and pewter soldiers. Some of these items have been offered for sale at the Sutler's Store during the summer season.

What does the Association, a non-profit organization, do with their profits? For the 6-year period 1971 to 1976, when gross sales ranged between $20,000 and $38,000 plus for a total of $169,000, the Association disbursed $25,000 of their net profits, or 15 percent of gross sales, in ways benefitting the Fort's research and interpretive program. One of the more important ways is to contribute directly to the effectiveness of the Living History program, by buying period costumes, equipment, and accessories, and paying for the cleaning bills. Other expense items include some temporary museum exhibits, framing, photo reproduction, microfilming and Xeroxing of research materials, subscriptions to newspapers and periodicals, membership in organizations like the Highway 26 Association, and miscellaneous expenses that would be awkward to handle administratively, pertaining to public celebrations and special tours and gatherings. The Association pays for the cost of reproducing photos and other items for outside researchers and mailing them out, for nominal reimbursement. It also publishes a handsome color-tone tour guide.

Doubtless the biggest, or at least the most enduring contribution by the Association is the Fort Laramie Library. The great bulk of the books here have been purchased by the Association and donated to the Government. This is one of the finest specialized libraries in the National Park system. It began in a modest way with Superintendent Hieb who began Association activities, and accelerated under Sharp, Maeder and their Supervisory Historians as FLHA profits soared. Although covering most all aspects of Western frontier history, it is specially strong in the areas of the Indian Wars, the frontier Army, and rare military manuals. Rare items are kept under lock and key. Among these are a fairly complete set of all historical, archeological, architectural and restoration project reports pertaining to Fort Laramie going back to 1938. Most of these reports are one-of-a-kind and together they constitute a unique and priceless assemblage of specialized knowledge about the Fort's history and its restoration. The Association pays for the hardcover binding of these reports, as well as the binding of periodical series and the re-binding of old books as required. [174]

The Library contains around 2,500 carefully catalogued books, as well as bound periodicals and reports, and the small space allotted to it in the Commissary building results in shelf space being jammed (particularly in the locked cases) and gives anyone searching for titles in the cramped aisles a sense of claustrophobia. Because of the extreme importance of this research library (coupled with the bulky official research files, photographs, card indexes, maps, microfilm, and Xeroxed material which are now separate from the Library) it will be a tragic error if planners and architects who design the future headquarters building fail to provide adequate space for a Fort Laramie Library and Research Center which needs room also for future growth. The combined Fort Laramie Library and research collection, to which the Association contributed so heavily, is a historical resource commensurate in importance to the physical remains of the Fort, because it contains most of the basic data which made the Restoration possible.

The FLHA, with a fluctuating membership of around 50 (plus honorary members selected for unusual contributions to the Fort's history, restoration, interpretation, or management), has an annual Sunday meeting at the Fort, formerly in February, but now in November, which is usually well attended by those members of local residence. The Association in fact is an excellent device to enlist the active interest and support of Fort neighbors, young and old alike. It should be noted that proceeds of sales also go to pay for an annual audit as well as summer help at the sales desk. As of 1978, Doug McChristian is the Executive Secretary, while Lew Eaton functions in effect as Librarian and Business Manager.

An impressive amount of research has been accomplished by Park Service historians and archeologists over the decades; it is doubtful if any historical area of the park system has been more thoroughly researched than Fort Laramie. This is not to say that there is no research left to be done. There are always some blanks to be filled in about specific happenings at or near the Fort, 1834-1890, as well as the stern circumstances of fur trade, emigrant, and military life that contrast so starkly with our relatively comfortable world of 1978. Perhaps the major unfinished project, one that would require the close collaboration of historian and archeologist, is the identification and marking of all extinct building sites. A corollary to this is the need to resume the search for Fort William, the first Fort Laramie. Since no trace has been found of the hypothetical site at the early trail crossing of the Laramie, well downstream from the parade ground area, and a recent clue has turned up suggesting that Fort William might, after all, be in the vicinity of the Fort John site and present parade ground, a project to ascertain the validity of this location should be given highest priority. While no reconstruction of Fort William is contemplated, particularly if it should prove to be under the military site, its "rediscovery" would be a major research achievement, and could greatly enrich the interpretation of the fur trade period. [175]

With regard to the surviving structures which are the principal reason for the Park Service's presence, in compiling data for a 1976 Congressional Briefing Book, Superintendent Maeder refers to the area's principal resource as "14 buildings, 8 standing ruins," which of course conforms with our 1915 and 1937 inventories, since under the National Park Service no historic buildings have been either added or subtracted from the collection they inherited in 1938.

Classifications tend to be arbitrary and wobbly. The present official checklist reads as follows:

Intact BuildingsRuins
Old Army BridgeCavalry BarracksSawmill
Commissary StorehouseOld GuardhouseAdministration Bldg.
New GuardhouseOld BakeryOfficers Quarters B
Old BedlamSutler's StoreOfficers Quarters C
Officers Quarters APrivyOfficers Quarters D
Officers Quarters EChicken HouseHospital
Officers Quarters FMagazineNon Com Quarters

New Bakery

Not included in the above is a standing wall fragment of another un labelled officers quarters, close to the Magazine. If that isn't a standing ruin, what is it? The New Guardhouse is a standing ruin with a reconstructed roof. So in a sense it is not exactly a ruin but neither is it exactly an intact building. While the Magazine itself seems intact today, it is actually a standing ruin with roof reconstructed to historical specifications. The original 1849 Guardhouse and the 1867 Infantry Barracks are quite visible ruins, one might say "standing foundations." There is no inventory of visible archeological remains; such an inventory must be accomplished by a future survey. These remarks are not meant as quibbles but to point out that definitions are slippery. They will become slipperier if the Park Service succumbs to the temptation to veer away from its long established policy not to reconstruct vanished buildings, such as Fort John or the 1856 Infantry Barracks, or to reconstruct roofs on standing ruins other than the New Guardhouse and the Magazine which was done in each case for special reasons. (The flagpole is another reconstruction which is exceptional.) To summarize, aside from questions of classification, preservation only of authentic ruins and restored original buildings has been the Number 1 goal of the Park Service at Fort Laramie in the past, and should continue so in the future. That has been its principal claim to distinction.

No extensive restoration work per se was undertaken under Maeder, but there was some preservation/restoration activity over and above cyclic maintenance. Most important was "Emergency Repairs, Cavalry Barracks" in 1973, with architectural design work by Russell Jones of the Historic Preservation Team, Denver Service Center, and the $27,400 day labor job supervised by Earl D. Warthen, a key figure in restoring Old Bedlam and other major structures under Sharp. This was brought on by the alarming condition of the ancient roof. The project formula: "Remove shingles, replace sheathing as needed, re-shingle with fire retardant treated shingles. Remove non-historic chimneys, replace others destroyed by remodelling. Fabricate and install metal roof ventilators. Early photos of the east elevation show clearly the historic chimney and ventilator arrangement, but no early photo of the west elevation exists. Accordingly only careful analysis of concealed evidence in the fabric itself revealed the existence of the original west side chimneys. The restored roof has seven lime-concrete chimneys extending from bearing walls, three brick chimneys, and four ventilators. The latter were located according to trimouts in original sheathing. (The 1978 budget provides for the HSR and architectural design work to finalize restoration of the Barracks, mainly the scrambled interior, Estimated cost $400,000.)

The important job in 1974 was "Roof Repairs, Sutler's Store," required by persistent leaking in the roof of this hybrid structure (an inverted "W" profile), composed of early NPS shingles over the adobe and stone sections, and an 1883 corrugated iron roof over the concrete section, with a poorly drained valley between. The Completion Report on this day labor job, which cost $11,400, summarizes the work. Removal of corrugated iron was difficult because it had been secured by screw type nails. After spraying the sheathing with water-proof compound, weather-board was applied with cement-coated nails, then a layer of rolled rubberoid roofing, and a layer of slate roofing. Original corrugated iron was straightened, cleaned and replaced, leaving breather space under the iron. After removing wood shingles, sheathing sprayed likewise, layer of tarred felt applied, and re-shingled with cedar.

In 1975 Maeder was able to accomplish a bit of "interior restoration" to the Sawmill Ruins. In pre-Park Service times the steam boiler with fire box which once occupied this building was somehow and for unknown reasons removed to the Laramie River bank, in line with the Old Bakery, and it was visible there, partly submerged, in 1938. In 1973 a flood again exposed it to view. With the donated help of the 960th Maintenance Engineers, Wyoming National Guard, and their power crane, the 3-1/2 ton boiler was hoisted from the river and conveyed back to its place of origin within the ruins. "A delicate job," declared Maeder, in thanking the public-spirited Guard. It seems improbable that the Sawmill will ever be restored in a function al way, but it's nice to know that the boiler is back home. [176]

In 1976 there were two ruins stabilization jobs, costing $21,700. Despite some stabilization work by Hieb and others, the Non Com Quarters, the elongated ruin north of the Hospital, was deteriorating rapidly with some recent sectional collapse. This called for drastic treatment prescribed by Regional Historical Architect Rodd Wheaton. Diamond mesh wire was fastened with galvanized nails to the old grout, and vertical reinforcing steel bars positioned. Form boards were placed at bottom, then elevated one pour line each 24-hour period, to allow for setting of formula concrete mix. There was no reconstruction. Free standing piers and voids remain. Reinforcing bars were employed at corners, Novarat preservative was applied to remaining wooden elements, a few lintels and side bucks and some lath. Stabilization of the General Sink consisted of grouting of low foundation walls, and restoring brick trough in a grout bed, using brick discarded from Bedlam fireplace chimney stacks. [177]

Another 1976 project, accomplished with operating funds, was the erection of a new replica flagpole or flagstaff, purporting to be a typical model of a U. S. Army flagstaff of 1870, as revealed in Signal Corps photographs of other contemporary posts. It is made of two extra-long spliced pine poles from Laramie Peak, donated by the U. S. Forest Service. The 50-star flag is flown normally; a replica 37-star flag of 1876, on special occasions. The flagstaff location near the New Guardhouse was authenticated by Superintendent Hieb before he erected the iron pole used previously. The stump of one of the original wooden poles is in the museum collection. [178]

In 1977 architects of the Historic Preservation Branch, Denver Service Center, compiled a "Historic Resource Maintenance Guide" for all historic structures, utilizing data fortunately preserved in a series of records and reports by Lombard, Hieb, Ringenbach, Sharp and Gann. The intent is to ensure that maintenance work continues to be historically accurate. The Guide itself seems valuable mainly as a reminder and a basis for systematic scheduling of maintenance. To ensure accuracy of detail, and to avoid erroneous alterations, it seems that reference to the original plans and reports themselves would still be required. [179]

Aside from the continuing challenge to preserve authentically, it seems that there are inherent difficulties in recent preservation and maintenance work. One is the required clearances resulting from Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Maeder complained that such clearances for stabilization work on the Non-Com Quarters and the General Sink took three years! Perhaps the double- and triple-checking involved outweigh the resultant delays, but Fort Laramie would never have been restored at all if every detail of complex restoration projects like the Sutler's Store and Old Bedlam had to be cleared through the State Preservation Officer and then all the way up to the President's Advisory Council and back home again! It is a blessing that most restoration work was accomplished prior to 1966. [180]

Another difficulty confronting the current program is the danger of "maintenance overkill." With everything repaired and painted up to the minute we have a restored Fort looking like it was brand new. Maintenance should not be so "cyclic" that the buildings never have a chance to show some of the authentic patina of age. We should not lose sight altogether of the fact that in old Army days the Quartermaster was forever complaining about the poor condition of his buildings. Rarely were they reported to be in "good condition." We don't want them to be again in "poor condition" but neither should we require that they forever look brand new and sparkling.

The same need for a historical perspective applies to landscaping. In 1974 the chronically anemic parade ground trees were once more replaced by a professional tree crew, and they have been watered vigorously ever since. Now among proposed projects is one to "turn back the clock" on the Sutler's Store by replacing the 1876 period store exhibit with one dating eight or ten years earlier, the reason given that 1866 is more nearly "the period of maximum importance." If this principle must be invoked on behalf of the Sutler's Store, then why is it so consistently ignored in the case of the parade ground? Prior to the decadent period of the late 1880s. which is well outside the Fort's overall period of maximum importance, the parade ground was devoid of trees.

As for non-historic improvements, the most important development was the construction, in 1975-1976, of a larger concrete bridge over the Laramie, on the approach road to the future Visitor Center. This was built by the Wyoming Highway Department, with design by the Federal Highway Administration. The $569,000 cost of this vitally needed improvement was split by the two agencies. [181]

In 1973 sections of the new utility road across the Laramie River were washed out by what Maeder calls "the worst flood on record", as were approaches to the then proposed new public bridge over the Laramie. Emergency repairs were needed at both locations. (The new concrete utility road bridge over the Laramie was not damaged.) [182]

In 1974 approval was obtained to obliterate the abandoned Fort Laramie Ditch Company's open irrigation ditch south of the Hospital, and restore original contours. This was accomplished again with the help of the National Guard, in 1975. At the same time ditch rights over the former Foote property, held by G. W. Holtzclaw, were liquidated at a cost of $3,500, and that ditch was also obliterated. A rational landscaping improvement was the planting of trees on the far south side of the Laramie to screen the future maintenance area, and likewise on the barren approaches to the new public bridge over the Laramie. [183]

Ironically, the most important feature of the Fort Laramie landscape is not the parade ground area or anything else within the present enlarged park boundaries. The most important thing is the surrounding terrain, the environs of the Fort as far as the horizon in all directions. The reason this is so important is because it provides restored Fort Laramie with a scenic setting of rare authenticity and integrity. The Fort has had the good fortune to be a respectable distance from towns, railroads, or major highways, in a region fit mainly for dry-land farming or ranching. No elevators, silos, gravel quarries, dumps, factories, suburban split-levels, or condominiums. Since the NPS has no control of this surrounding land, it is by sheer accident or happy coincidence that the integrity of these environs has been preserved, providing the NPS with opportunity for vivid interpretation of the historical environs, a proper setting for wagon trains, cavalry columns, Pony Express riders, and Indian caravans. It may not be feasible for the NPS to extend its boundaries to the horizon in all directions to safeguard the historic setting, but there should be a study of ways and means to attain this end, i.e., by being fully alert to the threat of adverse encroachments, by scenic easements, cooperative agreements, and skillful public relations. Proposals or actual projects for dams, power plants, water diversion and distribution systems, high tension lines, radio towers, etc. within sight distance of the Fort or affecting the Laramie River flow, should be monitored religiously and combatted by all legitimate means to safeguard the priceless legacy of Fort Laramie. [184]

Planning future developments for the National Historic Site itself during Maeder's time continued at the same feverish tempo that characterized earlier administrations, with the new Rocky Mountain Regional Office taking the initiative. It seems inappropriate to trace the ups and downs and the convolutions of this cerebral activity since some of the current concepts are in the throes of delayed childbirth which may require a Caesarian operation. It would seem out of order for a Historian who is presumably expert only on the irrevocable past to predict the future. At this moment in history (January, 1978) the two most interesting ideas under discussion are a further extension of park boundaries to encompass most all lands between the present boundaries, the county road, and the Laramie River; and the conversion of the Administration Building ruins into a permanent Visitor Center (with all other modern developments on the south side of the Laramie, in accordance with the long-established orthodox plan.) The latter proposition is of dubious merit, not just because it diverges from the orthodox plan, but because it would be a clear-cut violation of the integrity of the Historic Zone. [185]

It would have been nice to provide a poetic end to this history by reporting the fulfillment of the Canfield Plan of 1940 — the completion of a new Visitor Center - Headquarters building on the south side of the Laramie River, near the mouth of Deer Creek, overlooking the parade ground area but so designed itself as to be unobtrusive from the parade ground. There would be a pedestrian bridge connecting the two areas, and the visitors streaming across it would have happy expressions on their faces. However, that's not history, and it may not even be good prophecy since it hasn't happened yet after nearly 40 years of heavy planning and dreaming, but it's as good a way as any to end this ponderous report.

Almost, but not quite. It would be well to end with the assurance of dreams that have been fulfilled. The Old Fort has been saved, and it has now been beautifully restored. It is on the map as one of the most important historic sites in Western America. But what about a history of this New Fort Laramie, the details of how the Old Fort was saved from extinction, and how it was transformed into the model National Historic Site of today? In January, 1976 Superintendent Maeder submitted an "Outline of Planning Requirements" which included two significant items: "Revised Historical Handbook" and "Documented Park History." Contrary to the usual long interval between thought and deed, in this case the Rocky Mountain Region asked the writer in April, 1976 if he would undertake these two tasks. In June, 1976 the contract was signed. In January, 1977 field research work began. In July the final manuscript for a revised Handbook was submitted, and now (January, 1978) this final draft of a "Fort Laramie Park History" has been completed and delivered. That too is a dream which has now been fulfilled. [186]

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Last Updated: 01-Mar-2003