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OLDEST - Post Office in Central Montana
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 47° 03.505 W 109° 25.454
12T E 619666 N 5212860
Quick Description: The first post office to be built in central Montana, the old log Reed's Fort Post Office still stands in its original location.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 6/12/2019 5:33:15 AM
Waymark Code: WM10QPH
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 6

Long Description:
First restored in the late 1930s as a Daughters of the American Revolution project, this old post office was again restored in 1970 by a local volunteer group. Though changed somewhat in appearance since it was built, the post office retains excellent overall integrity, reflecting its period of operation from 1880 to 1885 when it served as Lewistown's first post office. The post office was established here on January 6, 1881 and named Reed's Fort after its first postmaster, Alonzo S. Reed, homesteader of the land on which the post office stands.

The building's Registration Form states that it was built by one Mose LaTray, a Métis carpenter originally from the Milk River area along the Canada-U.S. border. This is one of the very few remaining Métis constructed buildings which stand in North America. Today it is maintained as a heritage site. Affixed to a boulder in front of the post office is a plaque placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution on September 17, 1931.

The post office building stands along the east side of Casino Creek Drive, less than 100 feet south of Little Casino Creek, one of two creeks named by the settlers in 1873. The explanation for the name is this:

In the fall of 1873, [Nelson] Story and [Charles W.] Hoffman had retained Peter Koch to travel north from Bozeman with a bull train of materials to "build, stock and manage" a trading post. He sited the new camp on the west side of Big Spring Creek, just north of Little Casino Creek and named it Fort Sherman. He built the first standing structures in the Judith Basin.

As Koch later related:

"A site was selected just below the mouth of Big Casino Creek, on the south bank of Big Spring Creek, and when the ox train with the goods and supplies had arrived I built there, during November and December, 1873, the first permanent houses within the Judith Basin. While waiting in idleness for the arrival of the train, the boys put in most of their time with an old deck of cards, playing casino, and we accordingly named the creek we were camped on "Big Casino" and a little spring creek just below " Little Casino," and I was much amused years after on seeing Colonel Ludlow's map that these names had been perpetuated.
From the NRHP Registration Form

Reed's Fort Post Office The Reed's Fort Post Office, established in 1880, was the first post office in the area that later became Lewistown. One of the oldest buildings in Lewistown, today it is the only remaining building from Alonzo Reed's Reedsfort Homestead. Reed and his partner John Bowles ran the first trading post nearby in the Judith Basin from 1875 to 1880 and Reed was likely responsible for enticing the Metis from the Milk River area to settle in the Judith Basin in 1879. Reed's homestead, store, and post office supplanted the trading post. The Metis community that sprang up around Reedsfort, along with several early cattle and sheep men of the area was the catalyst for the growth and development of Lewistown in the early 1880s.

In addition, the post office gains significance given that it was built by Mose LaTray, a Metis carpenter, and one of nearly 300 Metis who settled on Big Spring Creek between 1879 and 1880. The Red River Metis that settled here were known for their building expertise, particularly their Red River Carts, but also as one of the few native tribes of the northern plains in the 1870s and 1880s to build and maintain permanent homes. Though their buildings were simple log cabins with little or no ornamentation, the Reed's Fort Post Office is one of a few documented Metis buildings that stand in North America and still reflects well the traditions of Metis builders and the frontier architecture of a Montana territorial post office.

The Reed's Fort Post Office clearly retains excellent overall integrity sufficient to reflect its period of significance from 1880 to 1885 when it served as Lewistown's first post office. The building still stands in its original location and the setting and feeling remains rural given that the immediate area around the post office was developed into parkland in the 1930s...

Although the Reed's Fort Post Office has been restored two times over the last 130 years, these efforts have maintained the building's integrity of design, materials, and workmanship of its original builder. The majority of the building's materials are intact, and the replacement logs and woodwork are in keeping with the original. The roof material, door and window sashes have been replaced in kind to resemble the original and appear much as they did when the post office was first photographed in a deteriorated condition in the 1920s. The restoration in 1970 used most of the original building logs with only the lower bottom logs being replaced due to rot. The corner notching was also altered in some cases in order to repair rotted areas. While some of the replacement logs and corner notching do not display the skillful notching original to Mose LaTray's workmanship, the work of his Grandson Les LaTray was executed carefully and the overall design and materials of the original building were fully retained.
From the NRHP Registration Form


Map goes Here Photo goes Here

Department Number, Category Name, and Waymark Code:
2-Buildings • U.S. Post Offices • Reeds Fort - 59457 • WMWRD2
4-Culture • Frieze Art • Fergus County High School • WMXTWJ
6-History • American Guide Series • Reed's Fort Post Office • WMXJJB
10-Oddities • Superlatives • OLDEST - Post Office in Central Montana • WMWRD4
13-Structures • Unique Steeples • First Presbyterian Church • WMW9A9
14-Technology • Wikipedia Entries • Fergus County High School • WMXTWG
15-Multifarious • Photos Then and Now • Fergus County High School • WMXWFG


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