March 29, 2024 | Last updated Mar 18, 2024

When Fort Robinson had walls, 1875

During his many years as curator at Fort Robinson, historian Tom Buecker used to say that visitors’ most-asked question was, “Where’s the fort?” People came expecting to see a stockade, but like most Great Plains forts, Fort Robinson lacks outer walls.

That said, the earliest known photo (1875) of what was then “Camp Robinson” shows a stockade of sorts. The buildings were surrounded by a barricade of cordwood, an improvised fortification that gradually disappeared into the camp’s stoves. Soldier Creek, dotted with tree stumps, meanders through the foreground.

Only part of this view is recognizable to present-day visitors: the bluffs, obviously, and the six houses of the original officers’ row, seen in the top right of the cordwood enclosure (and in the detail below). A new parade ground was laid out in 1887 in the upper left part of the photo above, across from where Highway 20 now divides the valley.

So why didn’t the army build permanent walls at Fort Robinson and Fort Kearny? Buecker explains in this Nebraska History Magazine article (PDF).

Fort Robinson 1875

Photo: History Nebraska RG1517-13-4

Photo: History Nebraska RG1517-13-4, detail

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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