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North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends
North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Guardhouse at Fort Stevenson

The original guardhouse was built at Fort Stevenson, Dakota Territory military garrison in the 1870s. This was a distinctive building on the Dakota prairie creating an imposing military presence. The building measured 60 feet long by 20 feet wide and was divided by two equal sized rooms called the guard room and the prison room. Between these two rooms was a sally port or entrance to the fort. Above the sally port rose the guard tower 25 feet above the ground. The flag pole rose another 36 feet.

Fort Stevenson

The purpose of Fort Stevenson was to protect the Three Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), protect mail routes from Fort Rice to Fort Buford, protect emigrant trains to Montana and serve as a river supply base for Fort Totten. Although the fort never received any direct attacks, surviving on the lonely prairie proved to be a difficult assignment for the infantry soldiers. Once the river froze the post became isolated as transportation along the river ceased.

In August of 1867 General de Trobriand, took command of Fort Stevenson and served at the fort until April of 1869. The General kept a journal recording some of the best firsthand accounts of military life on the Dakota Frontier which has been published under the title Military Life in Dakota.

In 1883 the fort was abandoned by the military and the buildings were used as the Fort Berthold Indian School for the Three Tribes until 1894. In 1897 the buildings were sold at public auction and used by local homesteaders on their farms.

In 1993 the Fort Stevenson Foundation formed with a desire to preserve the history of the fort. One of the primary objectives was the reconstruction of the guardhouse. Thanks to the Foundation funds were secured and the guardhouse was reconstructed in 2002. Today the guardhouse functions as a research library and museum, telling the story of the fort.

The original site of Fort Stevenson now lies under the waters of Lake Sakakawea, two and one-half miles southwest of the state park that proudly bears its name.

Fort Stevenson State Park is located 3 miles south of Garrison, ND.