Fort Osage sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The fort was established in 1808 as a trading post for the United States in the new territory obtained during the Louisiana Purchase. Located in the small community of Sibley (MO), it was originally known as Fort Clark and then Fort Sibley.
Fort Osage National Historic Landmark is located about 32 miles northeast of downtown Kansas City.
William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) oversaw the fort’s construction. The location was based on his observation of the area during his and Lewis’ initial expedition a few years earlier. It provided a strategic location for the Americans.
The main purpose of the fort was to protect the trading post, known as a factory during that time, and provide housing for soldiers.
Today, the fort’s replica allows visitors to take a look back in time, to understand what life may have been like in the early days of the 19th century. The fort contains blockhouses (guard towers), barracks for both the officers and enlisted, blacksmith hut and other buildings. The original fort was larger and included a mess hall.
The blockhouses were located along the corners of the fort, giving soldiers a 360-degree view of the area. Rifle and cannon ports were placed in each blockhouse.
In the center of the fort’s grounds stands a large flag pole. Beside it, a punishment post (whipping pole). Soldiers who were found to have committed an offense had their wrists chained to the posts while they were whipped several times. The length and severity depended on the offense.
The fort’s main purpose was to provide protection for the trading post, as I mentioned previously. The trading post – aka factory – is built over the spot of the original factory. Archeologists discovered the remaining foundation of the cellar in the late 1940s. The original foundation remains and is marked with tape to allow visitors to see it.
The factory traded wares with the Osage Indian nation. The Native Americans signed a treaty with the United States after the fort opened, which allowed them to trade furs and other items with the factory operator. At any given time, there could be thousands of Native Americans outside the fort, so I imagine business was good.
A few years later, the Osage were forced to reservation life in southern Kansas. As a result, trading posts were located at other forts. Fort Osage was closed in 1822. It remained as a trading post for pioneers along the Santa Fe Trail. Eventually, settlers and others tore the fort apart for the skeletal remains of the wood, etc.
After the fort’s foundation was discovered, the replica fort was built, beginning in the 1950s. It’s served as the Fort Osage National Historic Landmark. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, it’s operated by the Jackson County Parks and Recreation department.
We recommend visiting the fort, which is about the size of five city blocks. Combined with a short video at the education center, a visit to Fort Osage is an interesting look into history.
For more information on the fort and its hours and admission, please visit www.fortosagenhs.com.