Fort Robinson History
In 1873, the Red Cloud Agency transferred from Ft. Laramie, Wyoming to Northwest Nebraska, near Crawford. Its mission to deliver food, supplies and oversee about 13,000 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians.
Tension was high between the agency and the Indians, which led to several skirmishes. In May of 1874, to protect the agency a few soldiers built a roughshod structure, about one and a half miles west of the Red Cloud Agency, called Fort Robinson. In 1876, a signed treaty between the United States Government and the Indians, about land in South Dakota, became an issue. According to the treaty, Red Cloud Agency was to relocate to the Pine Bluffs and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota and Fort Robinson was to stay in Nebraska, and protect the entire region. The conditions of the treaty were obeyed.
At Fort Robinson, in 1877, the famous Lakota Sioux war leader Crazy Horse died while resisting arrest, further escalating tension.
In the mid-1880’s the railroad arrived and Fort Robinson became a military hub. Fort Robinson was strategically located its soldiers able to be anywhere, in the region, in a short time to suppress any rebellion. Fort Robinson didn’t have room for the number of soldiers there, so, in the late 1880’s a reconstruction project enlarged it. It became a vital western post for the military, and the railroad assured its continued importance.
The mid 1880s also brought the Ninth Calvary, an African American regiment, to Fort Robinson and through the 1890’s they were busy subduing hot spots in Pine Ridge. By 1916, the region was at peace and except for a skeleton crew that remained until the end of World War 1, in 1918, the remaining troops transferred from Fort Robinson.
From 1919 through 1943, Fort Robinson played many roles. It was a remount station responsible for training dogs, horses and pack mules, plus stocking supplies and equipment. It was an artillery range, for the Fourth Field Artillery, a camp for Civilian Conservation Corp, a hospital center and regional headquarters for the military.
Fort Robinson kept busy during World War I. Calvary units no longer rode horses and over 12,000 horses were at the fort, for the public to buy. In addition, pack mule training increased and about 10,000 mules were trained there, and the training of over 14,000 dogs, for the K-9 Corp, was accomplished. Fort Robinson, too, became a prisoner of war camp.
The military gave the fort to the U.S.D.A., in 1947, and in 1948, after serving the military for 74 years Fort Robinson was no longer military property.
A clamor by Nebraskans to retain Fort Robinson and make it a state park, began in the 1950s, but the U.S.D.A. used it until 1970. Shortly after the U.S.D.A. moved out, though, the fort became the property of the State of Nebraska.
The Fort Robinson State Park is west of Crawford and engulfs 22,000 acres. The old west comes alive in the setting and scenery at the park, and you’ll find camping, lodging and history, for your enjoyment.
The museum traces the history of Fort Robinson from 1874 to 1948. You’ll find tour books to guide you around Fort Robinson, and you can purchase books telling about the forts western and military background.
Some rate the Fort Robinson experience as the best park experience in the U.S.A. Visit and enjoy it.
Nebraska State Historical Society: “Red Cloud Agency”: nebraskahistory.org
Nebraska Legends: “Fort Robinson and the Red Cloud Agency”: Legends of America
Nebraska State Historical Society: “Fort Robinson History”: nebraskahistory.org
State Parks.com: “State Park Overview”: State Parks.com