Just 88 miles south of Kansas City, Kansas, you can find Fort Scott National Historic Site. This was originally at the far western edge of the United States. Everything beyond was unknown territory, inhabited by various Native American tribes.
This fort bears witness to the changes the country went through – westward expansion, the Civil War and later, the establishment of the railroad and interstate commerce.
When the fort was established in 1842, troops were stationed there to protect the idea of a “Permanent Indian Frontier”; a guarantee that all the land west of the Mississippi River (not including Louisiana or Arkansas) would be Indian Territory and all settlers would be banned.
Fort Scott was just one of places where the US Army was stationed, charged with keeping settlers and Native Americans apart. Eventually this idea of a permanent Indian frontier gave way under the overwhelming number of settlers. The Fort was abandoned in 1853.
Civil War Years
Fort Scott took on new life during the run up to the Civil War. The new Kansas and Nebraska Territories were central to the pro- and anti-slavery argument, since these new territories were given the right to choose which they would be.
The town of Fort Scott occupied most of the old fort buildings, and like the rest of the nation, it was divided by the concept of slavery. Flare ups of violence brought soldiers back to this area from time to time.
Later the fort became a supply base for Union soldiers. The army reoccupied many of the original buildings and built more buildings and 40 miles of fortifications. This fort offered refuge for many fleeing the war – farmers, slaves and Indians – many of whom joined the army.
After the war, railroads extended across the country. One reached Fort Scott in 1869, but was obstructed by folks who objected to the railway being built through their land. Once again the army was called in – this time protecting the railroad crews from American citizens.
The army finally abandoned Fort Scott in 1873, leaving the buildings to be torn down or deteriorate. It wasn’t until 1965 that the town of Fort Scott got funds from the National Park Service to start to restore the fort.
National Historic Site
Finally in 1978, Fort Scott became a National Historic Site administered directly by the National Park Service. The 17 acre site includes officer’s quarters, barracks, a hospital, guard house, bakery, stables and other outbuildings, laid out around the original parade ground.
Also special is the 5 acre tall grass prairie, a small sample of what once covered millions of acres of the American west. If you enjoy this, be sure to extend your Kansas visit to include Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, less than three hours away to the west, another park we enjoyed and had fun writing about.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.