Reed’s Post was built at the mouth of the Boise River near a traditional Shoshoni salmon fishery as early as 1813. The station that John Reed constructed in the early nineteenth century was subsequently rebuilt and used as a trading post by fur trappers and trading companies; in 1834 the Hudson’s Bay Company named it “Fort Snake” and by 1839 it was known as “Old Fort Boise.” The local tribes warned the fort’s early tenants of the river’s tendency to ‘change its mind’ when they built their station so close to the banks, but they paid little mind. And so when the river flooded, severely damaging the fort both in 1853 and then again in 1855, it was finally abandoned by the trading company.
The migration of an estimated 300,000 individuals had just begun then, and some of these emigrants were met with native hostility and so that same year the United States Army established Camp Boise River, miles downstream from the site of the old fort. Flood waters returned in 1862, destroying the camp, and it was again abandoned. Several ferry and stage sites had been established by individual means along the river to accommodate the wagon trains and by the 1860s the Boise Valley had become the junction between the old Oregon Trail and the mining trails that led into the Boise Basin. In July 1863 Boise City was surveyed and platted out, shortly afterwards the Army ordered West Point graduate Major Pinkney Lugenbeel to establish a fort in the region in order to keep the peace and protect the growing mining community and the fruits of their industry.
The newest fort was located away from the banks of the Boise River, to the north of Boise City limits towards the foothills, near the Cottonwood Creek. Lugenbeel oversaw the construction of a mill and a kiln as well as a sandstone quarry near Table Rock, to aid in the construction and settlement efforts at the fort. The sandstone blocks were used to build the first structures both at the fort and the city. Three of those original structures remain on the fort grounds today; the officer’s barracks, officer’s quarters, and the Quartermaster building; known today as building 1, 4, and 6, respectively, as well as the stone guard house near the fort’s original entrance. There were five U.S. Cavalry companies stationed at Fort Boise that first year, and so barracks were built to accommodate them as well. By 1864 Boise City had a population of 1,685, and Fort Boise served the growing community by providing work, protection, and even recreation. By this time more women and children began arriving in the city, altering the demographic. Fort Boise’s social events were popular among the growing pioneer community; in the later years theater, dances, and festivals were regular events.
By 1865 Boise was the largest city located along the Oregon Trail and emigrant camps were developing on its outskirts. These parties were offered protection by the fort during various Indian uprisings and up until 1864 the Army even offered protection to Native Americans who sought refuge there. That same year the Shoshoni Indians signed the Treaty of Boise at the fort, relinquishing their traditional rights to the Boise River and its tributaries. Natives seeking refuge from disease and starvation were then moved to ‘protected’ areas. Fort Boise was then used to dispatch companies in the Indian Wars up until 1879.
In 1890 Idaho was admitted into the Union. By that time the remaining tribes had been ushered onto their various reservations, canals had been dug, and the railroad arrived in Idaho. By this time there was very little need for protection, and so the post was officially closed in 1912. Today the Veterans Administration manages the remaining 33 acres as well as its surviving structures and cemetery.
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