#Lookback: Ft. Washakie, Camp Brown & Camp Auger

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

The Wind River Reservation was created on July 3rd, 1868, through an agreement between the United States government and Chief Washakie of the Eastern Shoshone. As a part of the agreement, the Eastern Shoshone wanted military protection from their traditional enemies. As a result, Camp Auger was established on June 28th, 1869. The camp was named after Brigadier General Christopher C. Auger who has negotiated the agreement on behalf of the United States government. Camp Auger was located where Lander, Wyoming, is currently located.

Later, Camp Auger was renamed to Camp Brown on March 28th, 1870. The name change was made in honor of Captain Frederick H. Brown and the 18th United States Infantry after the Fetterman Fight which took place on December 21st, 1866, near Fort Phil Kearny. The Fetterman Fight was a battle fought between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and the United States Government as a part of the Red Cloud’s War. The Red Cloud’s War was a fight over control of north-central Wyoming.

In 1871, a new site for Camp Brown was selected closer to the Indian Agency which had been established in 1869, by Indian Agent Mann. This decision was made by Captain Robert A. Torrey and the 13th Infantry after they assumed command of Camp Brown. Before the new post could be established, there were a few raids took place in May 1871. The new military post was officially established on June 26th, 1871. The new location was on the right bank of the Little Wind River, opposite of the confluence with the North Fork River.

Some material for the new post was salvaged from the old Camp Brown and moved to the new site. In addition, adobe bricks were created by Cottrell, Downey, and Hart. Additional lumber was supplied by John Ariloney from his sawmill located at Mill Creek. Originally, the new Camp Brown consisted of barracks and several other smaller buildings, including a stable and corral. In 1872, a large storehouse and a hospital were added. Also, in 1872, a vegetable garden was established that was irrigated through a system of ditches connected to the Little Wind River. In 1873, a second officers’ quarters were constructed to accommodate Lieutenant Robertson’s Cavalry who were stationed at Camp Brown. All these buildings were built around a square parade ground and an infantry drill ground.

Although Camp Brown was established originally to protect the Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation, very little fighting took place near the camp. In April 1972, one boy was killed when a group of Native Americans raided the post. In August of 1873, livestock herds at the Indian Agency and at neighboring ranches were raided. In 1874, the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho has a series of raids on the Eastern Shoshone. As a result, Captain A.E. Bates, a detachment of the 13th Infantry, and 160 Eastern Shoshone responded to the raids. A group of Cheyenne and Arapaho camped ninety miles from Camp Brown were attacked by Captain A.E. Bates and the Eastern Shoshone. The skirmish killed 30 people and wounded 26.

In 1876, some Shoshone scouts from the Wind River Reservation participated in the Battle of the Rosebud in Montana Territory, which was a battle fought during the Great Sioux War of 1876 (also known as the Black Hills War). This war was fought due to the United States Government’s desire to obtain ownership of the Black Hills where gold has been discovered by settlers. In 1877, Shoshone scouts also participated in the Nez Perce War. The Nez Perce War was a conflict between the United States Government and allies against the Nez Perce and a small band of Palouse after they resisted being moved to a reservation.

On December 30th, 1878, the military post underwent another name change to honor the leader of the Eastern Shoshone, Chief Washakie. Daily life at Fort Washakie was typical for an isolated military fort in the frontier. There was very little contact between residents with the outside world. During the summer months, the mail arrived at the fort every five days. In the winter, snowstorms often delayed service for three to five weeks. The hot springs located two miles to the east of Fort Washakie was where enlisted men went to bathe once a week. A quote from Caroline Frey Winne, a wife of an enlisted man, sums up life at Fort Washakie; “I don’t write many letters either for there is literally nothing to write about. I doubt if ever on the frontier it would be possible to find a post where there was so little to interest even the garrison and nothing to interest anyone outside.”

President Chester A. Arthur stopped in Fort Washakie on his way to Yellowstone and the Tetons in 1883. From 1879 to 1881 many new buildings were constructed at Fort Washakie under the command of Lieutenant Homer W. Wheeler. These buildings included: a large storehouse, guardhouse, stables, and an administration building. Lumber for these buildings was cut at the sawmill at the post. One hundred trees around the parade ground were also planted during this period. Another major construction period took place at Fort Washakie around 1885. Locally quarried sandstone buildings were constructed using standard military plans that were forwarded from the Department of Missouri, which was the command center for the United States Army in the west during the 19th century. The land allotted to Fort Washakie was expanded under an executive order from President Grover Cleveland on May 26th, 1887.

More buildings were added to Fort Washakie in the 1890s to the early 1900s. These buildings included a stone barrack building built in 1893-1894, an adobe garage constructed sometime between 1881 to 1893, and a stone calvary stable built between 1905 to 1907.

In 1906, orders were issued to the abandonment of Fort Washakie were issued by the United States Military. However, these orders were revoked, and the military remained open for three more years. On March 30th, 1909, the military officially abandoned Fort Washakie and ownership was transferred to the Department of the Interior.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

March 21st at the Riverton Museum 2-4 pm, “Build Your Own Telegraph” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop

Children’s Exploration Series

April 9th-16th at the Pioneer Museum 7 pm, “Wyoming Outlaws by Ray Maple”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 11th at the Riverton Museum 9-5 pm, “2nd Annual Easter Egg Hunt”

April 16th at the Riverton Museum 6:30 pm, “Family Documents, Book & Artifact Preservation”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 18th at the Pioneer Museum 1 pm, “Sheep Shearing Day”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series


Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.