Building a fort: Locals invited to Fort Hall Replica as it kicks off summer season

By Rebecca Long Pyper

 The Fort Hall Replica will celebrate its summer-season grand opening May 30 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 During the celebration guests will learn about local goings-on during the 1840s and 1850s, specifically about fur trappers and settlers in the West. “It’s a very enjoyable history lesson,” said replica committee vice chair Gerald Waggoner. “Most of the people in this area probably had ancestors that came through during that general time.”

 The Fort Hall Replica opened in 1963 and is operated by City of Pocatello Parks and Recreation. A 10-member committee oversees operation and has planned this season’s grand opening with one-day exhibits and demonstrations. Admission is free for the day.

 The replica is a good, local place for learning more about the Oregon Trail and those who travelled it since it was one of the primary stops for wagon trains, Waggoner said. “When they got there, a lot of the pioneers were not decided yet if they were going to Oregon or California,” he said, and after talking to other pioneers, “they made their mind up right there if they were going to go west or going to go south.”

 According to Waggoner, the Fort Hall stop was really a junction for pioneers, or the point at which they headed south to California by traveling through the City of Rocks in southern Idaho or stayed along the Snake River heading west.

 Early settler and New Englander Nathaniel Wyeth built Fort Hall as a permanent settlement in 1834. According to Waggoner, the fort was structured from poplar logs standing on end and stood 80 feet by 100 feet. Later the Hudson’s Bay Company bought it off Wyeth — essentially running him out of business in reality, Waggoner said — and made improvements to the place. The fort was extended to 100 feet square, and the wall of poplar logs was amended with adobe brick and stucco, then painted white “so pioneers would see it when they came up over the hill, glistening in the sun,” Waggoner said.

 The replica was built using the Hudson’s Bay plans to ensure authenticity. The fort includes sleeping rooms, two factor’s quarters for the bosses and a company room. Also, guests today can check out a blacksmith shop equipped with tools, a carpenter shop where harnesses would have made and repaired and rooms displaying everyday sundry Native American items.

 During the grand opening special guests will be on hand to demonstrate crafts and trades adopted by pioneers. Quilters will display their work, volunteers will be dressed in period costume and a flint knapper will teach guests, including kids, how to make arrowheads from obsidian, just like Native Americans did. Visitors in the afternoon will be treated to free chili too.

Photos by Jenny Losee:

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