Fort Laramie 1879-1890

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The 1880s were the golden years of Fort Laramie. A false sense of permanence prevailed as major building and public works projects were undertaken. Many old frame, log, adobe, and stone buildings were replaced by new lime grout structures. Streetlights, board walks, picket fences, and birdbaths lined Officers’ Row.

While the enlisted soldiers were occupied with routine drill, fatigue details, and occasional field maneuvers, officers spent many hours socializing, hunting, fishing, picnicking, and staging amateur theatricals. By the mid-1880s, a railhead within thirty miles of Fort Laramie brought all the amenities of late Victorian life.

The last cavalry unit rode away in 1883, leaving only the infantry to garrison the fort. In 1886, the construction of a new railroad near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, made the closure of Fort Laramie inevitable. On August 31, 1889, General Orders 69 ordered the abandonment of the “Grand Old Post.” The remaining buildings and land were sold at public auction and in April, 1890 the army marched away for the last time.

1890, the end of an era: Fort Laramie abandoned, Wyoming proclaimed a state, the last major Indian conflict on the Northern Plains at Wounded Knee Creek, and the Superintendent of the Census declared that the American frontier had ceased to exist.

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