History of the Fort

David Thelen

The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.

A Few Quick Facts

Years of existence: 1819-1827
Originally established as "Camp Missouri" just upriver in 1819. Floods in the spring of 1820 led to the construction of the permanent fort atop the original "Council Bluff."
Presidents during time of fort: James Monroe, John Quincy Adams
Nebraska firsts at Fort Atkinson: first military post, school, library, and large scale agriculture/livestock operation
Population: At its height, Fort Atkinson housed nearly 1/4 of the standing US Army (approximately 1,200 soldiers); roughly that many civilians lived just beyond the wall of the garrison.
Primary purpose: To protect the American fur trade by guarding the "gateway to the west."
The Missouri river originally flowed just below the east bluff of the fort. Today, its channel lies some three miles to the east.
Native Tribes: Pawnee (Gale's book), Omaha, Osage, Missouria, Otoe

Prominent Personalities

Hugh Glass
John Fitzpatrick
Jim Bridger
Paul Wilhelm, Duke or Wuerttemberg
Stephen Watts Kearny (Fort Kearny Nebraska was named after him), Governor of California
Kennerly's Wife (Elise Marie Saugrain) lived here - but George Hancock Kennerly visited
Omaha Chief Ongpatonga
Lucien & Logan Fontenelle (Fur trading post on river in Bellevue)

Additional History

We're Just Getting Started!

Historical Directory

Resources for Further Study


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