Posts Tagged With: Chadron

Inside the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, Nebraska: Part 3

Canoe overhead at Fur Trade Museum

Life is looking up at the Museum of the Fur Trade.

Place at a Glance

Name/Location Museum of the Far Trade(located just east of Chadron, NE on Highway 20)
Website/Facebook Museum of the Fur Trade; Museum of the Fur Trade on Facebook
Open hours Open May-October from 8-5 daily; off-season by appointment
What to Know Request a scavenger hunt (picture or word versions) to engage kids
Cost Children age 18 and under are free; adults are $5;
Group Tours Educational tours are a possibility; small groups are probably ideal
Museum Manners Limited tactile opportunities, although there are plenty of places to explore;Fragile objects are on display – no running or touching most display objects
Recommended Ages Ideally for ages 8 and up, although certain parts would appeal to all

Before our trip to the Museum of the Fur Trade near Chadron, Nebraska, I could have told you the basics about the fur trade.  Trappers, Indians, supplies, beads.  After our outing, I can tell you that there is SO much that I do not know.  I had no idea just how far reaching the fur trade was.  About how many cultures and kingdoms this type of commerce has impacted.  In fact, I am feeling rather cautious about typing factual information for fear of being way off base.  So, I will share bits and pieces of what we saw and what I began to learn and hopefully do so with accuracy.  Anything more and you will need to visit for yourself.  (Which I highly recommend!)

Fur trader picture

A well done representation of a fur trader in a seeded frame (evidently these type of frames were popular long ago!)

My initial impressions: fur traders were rough, tough, strong and hardy man.  They were not scared of adventure.  Or hardship.  Or weather.  Okay – maybe they had moments of fear.  But they still went on anyway, not knowing what to expect.  Travel and Escape has posted the Canadian Film Board’s classic movie on the “Voyageurs” that is playing at the museum.  (My boys sat there and watched it through almost two full times before we left the museum!)  Trappers would trade for tools, and traders would trade furs for goods.  A beneficial cycle for everyone.  Mostly.  Unless greed or dishonesty was involved (which had to occur sometimes!)

bear skin

The only place I have seen where having a bear skin on the wall looked perfectly natural.

One thing I did learn: much of the trading involved guns.  The museum strives to have the most complete “trader” guns collection possible.  So, they annually attend the larger gun shows to continue to keep up their stock.

Fur trade gun collection

Although I will never be a hunter, I have to say I was impressed with their display!

gun snake insignia

Many of the traded guns had the snake insignia on the back, per the Native American’s request.  That was the symbol they wanted to see.

Red Cloud gun

This is the documented gun of Red Cloud, one of several guns “collected” that were actually used by others and where the story behind the gun is known.

Why is this museum so well done?  They have had the same curator/director for 17 years.  Gail DeBuse Potter is meticulous about detail and is so incredibly knowledgeable about the fur trade and antiquities.  (In fact, I missed getting to see parts of the museum as in-depth as I would have enjoyed because I was talking to her for so long.  Fascinating woman!)  She is recording details that have never been documented and compiled before and is overseeing the project of compiling several volumes of fur trade history.

Fur Trade Museum Display

One example of a wall display.  Hard to take great pictures due to the low lighting that is necessary to preserve the objects.

The other main factor that makes this museum unique: collections were acquired deliberately, as opposed to an “object donation” only basis.  Since the museum is writing down the history, they are compiling items and memorabilia that best reflect the events that occurred in the past.  Due to monetary donations and other acquisitions, the museum has been able to stay very purposeful.


Fur trade Native American collection

A sample of the Native American collection.

Director Potter does feel that the focus of the museum is more for adults.  Yet because of the immensity and variety of collections, as well as the outdoor displays, my children loved the museum.  She did give my boys a picture scavenger hunt to complete which helped them to really hunt through the displays, and then there was even small prizes at the end.

Lewis & Clark nickels

The boys each got a commemorative Lewis & Clark nickel for completing the hunt.  (And a small coloring book too!)  I am not sure what she hands out to larger groups.

So, while the focus is not children, they will still have a great time.  My youngest two missed out on this event, but even at 4 and 6, I think they would have enjoyed seeing all of the displays.  I know that my oldest two thought that this was one of the best museums ever!

boys at Fur Trade Museum


Categories: Blue Star Museum, Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History, Nebraska Passport, Panhandle, Passport Pursuit Programs, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback Friday: Life at a Trader Post (Museum of the Fur Trade: Part 2)

The unexpected part of our visit to the Museum of  the Fur Trade near Chadron?  Being able to walk around a replicated trading post area.  The museum was built on the site of a former fur trading post, adding authenticity to the feel.  Many historical events were influenced by Trader James Bordeaux and impacted by this site that served as a satellite trading post at one time for nearby Fort Laramie.

Fur Trade Trading Post sign

(Bordeaux Trading Post text)

Behind the museum building, they carefully reconstructed the post in 1956 using the original footprints as a guideline.

Soft dugout picture

This view of the dugout is almost camouflaged into the hillside.

National Historic Place Fur Trade

Their re-creation of the post was completed so authentically that the place is now on the National Register of Historical Places.  This award is normally only given for original buildings, not reconstructed ones.

Dugout picture

Whenever I see a dugout, I can imagine a cow stepping through the roof.  Or even worse a snake slithering in.  This had to be a real possibility.  After all, this sign was prominently posted in the dugout.  I doubt life has changed that much!

fur trade rattlesnake sign

I was not disappointed when we did not see any rattlesnakes!

Trading Post interior

While the building may have been small, many activities took place inside.

fur trade post interior

You can peer through panes at items that might have been for sale at a post.

fur trade post living quarters

You can also see a glimpse of what the “living quarters” for the traders might have resembled.  And yes, furs were probably involved in the furnishings.

dugout view

The adjacent creek is almost visible over the hill.  A nearby water source was essential for life on the prairie.

dugout storage shed

Nearby the dugout, a storage shed was built to demonstrate how they would have had to hoard  stock supplies to have enough for trading.

supplies for the fur trader

Replicas of the goods needed to trade.

fur press

Even back then, space was at a premium.  This is an example of a fur press that they would have used to compact the furs before shipping.

tipi fastener

Also re-created on the grounds is the tipi used by the the Brulé Sioux Indians who would have been the primary people to use this post.

Kyle and boys inside the tepee

Taking a break from the hot summer sun, although the tipi felt warm due to the lack of breeze inside.

tipi view

A room with a view.

Indian Heirloom Garden

The staff at the museum annually plant an Indian heirloom garden, continuing to grow plants that have been around for centuries.  (Here is a list of the Heirloom plants growing in the Indian Garden). And if you also have a hankering for hidatsa beans or little blue corn, packets of seeds are for sale inside the museum.

Pine Ridge Bluffs

The beautiful setting for what ended up to be one of our favorite places on our Nebraska panhandle trip.  The Pine Ridge Bluffs near Chadron and the Museum of the Fur Trade.

Categories: Blue Star Museum, Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History, Nebraska Passport, Panhandle, Passport Pursuit Programs, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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