The Trade Store & Warehouse

the fort's tradestoreHere at Fort Benton, trade occurred   mainly between Indians and the American Fur Company.  Peaceful ones came inside the walls and into the store to trade.  In the Fort's early years trading was done through a small window in a narrow passage that opened to the outside which was protected by rifles to curtail outbreaks of violence.

Trade items were priced for the free trader and others with money, but usually the barter system prevailed.  Furs and robes were traded directly for provisions and a multitude of trade items both practical and impractical.    

The biggest item was under the counter whiskey;  it gave the best profit to the trader. For a few cents the company would take an Indian's furs and give him watered-down whiskey.  The furs would then be sold for many dollars at the exchange in St. Louis.  The company was caught and punished several times because of the whiskey trade, once being saved by the fort's namesake Thomas Hart Benton.  That never slowed the practice.  Nothing slowed the practice until the last buffalo robe disappeared from the Upper Missouri.

The attached warehouse served as storage for the robes and furs before their shipment down river.  Fur and robes were pressed into bundles containing sixty medium sized pelts. The bundles weighed about one hundred pounds each and sold for $8.00 per pound in St. Louis.  Shipments were kept until spring then sent down river on mackinaw boats, built at the fort, or via keelboats which came every spring full of new provisions and trade goods.

Photographs and artwork within this website may not be copied or reproduced without written  permission of the Fort Benton Restoration Committee and the River & Plains Society. Copyright and reproduction rights apply.

© Fort Benton Restoration Committee