Author to discuss Dakota Territory’s Historic FortsMitchell's Dakota Discovery Museum will host Omaha writer on Thursday, May 19.
Mitchell – They hosted generals, Indian chiefs and some of the most famous names of the Old West. They saw the advent of transportation from the wagon to the rail to the automobile. And day to day, they meant protection and supplies to the travelers, settlers, workers and soldiers of the region.
Omaha author Jeff Barnes introduces “The Forts of Dakota” to patrons of the Dakota Discovery Museum’s Middle Border Lecture Series on Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m. The program is a presentation of the South Dakota Humanities Council on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Dakota Territory.
The 45-minute talk covers 10 of the territory’s military posts, covering more than 150 years of Dakota history. “The Dakota forts rank among the most important in the history of the Great Plains, and all with histories tied to the Lakota Sioux nation,” said Barnes. His PowerPoint presentation includes a brief history of the posts, seldom heard tales, and many rarely seen historic images and maps.
Barnes is the author of “Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars,” available for purchase and signing after the talk. Curiosity for what happened to the forts – and how travelers can visit them today – led Barnes to drive more than 13,000 miles in writing and photographing the sites for his guide, published by Stackpole Books. The foreword of the book was written by U.S. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
“Forts of the Northern Plains” is the first comprehensive guide to the military posts of the northern Great Plains region, including Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and the eastern portions of Montana and Wyoming. In addition to a brief history and present status of each fort, the book includes historical and present-day images and photographs along with information on related reading, attractions, and contacts for the sites.
Barnes said it is quite possible that he is the only person to have visited all of these sites. Several are on military bases and restricted to the general public unless part of an organized tour. Other sites are in very remote areas of the Plains and another is now submerged under 14 feet of water.
The book has received praise from noted authors of American West history. ”A very timely, very impressive work," says Robert M. Utley, former chief historian of the National Park Service and author of Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891. "Jeff Barnes has produced a valuable combination of history and travel guide for all students of the Northern Plains Indian wars.”
A former newspaper reporter and editor, Barnes writes freelance and lives in Omaha. He is a fifth-generation Nebraskan, former chairman of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission and past marketing director of the Durham Museum in Omaha. He recently completed work on his second book, “The Great Plains Guide to Custer,” to be published in January 2012.
The Lecture Series is presented every other month and features speakers on topics pertaining to the history, art and culture of the Middle Border region. The program is free to the public and is held at the Dakota Discovery Museum, 1300 McGovern Ave, Mitchell. The Middle Border Lecture Series is made possible in part by a Speakers Bureau grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.