No other part of the West saw such a succession of trading posts as did the heart of modern-day South Dakota, where the Bad River meets the Missouri near Fort Pierre. The South Dakota State Historical Society’s latest book, “Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau: Journal and Letter Books, 1830–1850,” transcribed and annotated by Michael M. Casler and W. Raymond Wood, details two such posts that reached their golden age under the American Fur Company in the 1830s and 1840s.
Central to the book are the forts’ letter books and a journal. Company employees recorded daily activities in journals and relayed company business as well as personal information about the individuals at the post in letters. Letter books, which contained copies of all outgoing correspondence, were once common items at all posts on the upper Missouri, but only a few survive today.
“The few letter books in existence today are dynamic documents,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society. “They illustrate the nature of commerce in this region and are a rich resource for historians. Scholars Casler and Wood have done a service to researchers in compiling them into one volume.”
Editors Casler and Wood transcribed and annotated these rare materials, including some translated from the original French. Known for over a century, the Fort Tecumseh journal and the letter books from Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau are published here in their entirety for the first time.
Casler is a former park ranger with the National Park Service and has written numerous articles on the upper Missouri River fur trade from his home in Williston, N.D. Wood is the author of numerous publications and has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Oregon. He taught anthropology at the University of Missouri for nearly four decades.
“Fort Tecumseh and Fort Pierre Chouteau: Journal and Letter Books, 1830–1850” is available for $29.95 plus shipping and tax from the South Dakota Historical Society Press, sdhspress.com, or from local and online booksellers. Contact the press by calling 605-773-6009 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.