hh20q.htm =c@8" =c BDGt &H &Ȥ %~ (D =c@ 'KTEXTR*ch#Xmdu NPS Historical Handbook: Fort Laramie

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The Homesteaders Take Over

In June 1890, the military reservation of some 35,000 acres was turned over to the Department of the Interior and opened to homesteading. John Hunton was appointed custodian of the abandoned military reservation for the General Land Office. He first came to Fort Laramie in 1867 to work for the sutler. Later, he became a ranch operator, and in 1888 he succeeded John London as post trader. Hunton was a major buyer at the final auction and managed to homestead the northwest side of the old parade grounds of the fort, continuing to operate the sutler's store briefly, and living next door in the former officers' quarters for nearly 30 years.

Another of the major purchasers at the auction was one Joe Wilde, who also homesteaded part of the fort grounds, including the commissary storehouse and the cavalry barracks. He converted the buildings into a combination hotel, dance hall, and saloon and operated them as a social center for North Platte Valley residents for over 25 years. The west end of the parade grounds and the site of the old adobe trading post which the Army had demolished in 1862 was homesteaded by the widow of Thomas Sandercock, a civilian engineer at the fort, who made her home in the officers' quarters which had been built in 1870.

A dozen or more buildings used by these civilian owners were preserved with some alterations; but the bulk of the buildings were soon dismantled for lumber by their purchasers, and the old fort became a part of many a ranch home, homestead shack, or barn.

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