Bismarck, North Dakota   Leave a comment

Day 17, the drive to Bismarck, North Dakota, was something I’ll never forget. We drove the back roads along the Missouri River. What beautiful scenery, the whole 235 miles!

Up on a hill was an interesting cemetery with these poles sticking up. Then we figured out the poles were flag poles!

Day 18, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park houses a recreation of General George Custer’s home (since the original burnt down) and a museum with a lot of artifacts and information on the Mandan Indians and General Custer.

One very interesting fact was about Mrs. Nash, the laundress for the troops at Ft. Lincoln. Married 3 times, it wasn’t discovered until her death that she was not a she, but a man!

The ruins of On-A-Slant Village were given its name because of its slope toward the river. The Mandan Indians occupied the village from 1575 until 1781. They were an agricultural tribe and their village contained about 86 round earthlodges.

On the grounds, we toured 4 or 5 of the reconstructed earth lodges.

The Mandans were reduced from 200,000 to 2,000 in the first smallpox epidemic which caused them to abandon their village and a second epidemic reduced them to 200. They traveled north and joined other Indian tribes (they believed there is strength in numbers) so there are some Mandan Indian ancestors today.

Back at the Custer Prarie Mansion we were given a tour by a wonderful guide, who played her part well.

Once we walked passed into the mansion we were in the year 1875. She knew only about that era and it was quite fascinating to carry on a conversation with her. She was excellent and very quick-witted I might add.

Custer and his Cavalry arrived at Ft. Lincoln in 1873. Custer and his wife lived at the Fort for 2 ½ years. The first house built for them burnt down, due to a faulty brick in the fireplace, 6 months after they moved in. We toured a reconstruction of the second house.

The Custer Mansion was very stylish and kept up-to-date, even though it was in the middle of nowhere. They often entertained and when guests came to visit, they often stayed for months at a time. They were given a bedroom, as well as a closet to store their trunks.

The red curtains pictured below left were Custer’s and given to one of the enlisted men as a wedding present by the Officer who took over after Custer’s death. They were donated by a relative of the enlisted man who had them stored in their attic.

Below is General Custer’s original “field” desk. It was easily folded up and moved from camp to camp.

The Battle of Little Bighorn occurred in 1876 in Montana where the Plains Indians wiped out Custer and most of his men. In 1891, the fort was ordered abandoned. Portions of the fort have been reconstructed for tours today.

We drove up to the lookout area of the Fort, where we found the graveyard.

It was interesting to read that most of the men died of a gun shot wound from a civilian. There were a few interesting deaths, such as asphyxia as a result of intoxication, suicide by opium, frozen to death, a lot of gun shot wounds, not necessarily as a result of a battle.

Day 19, we boarded our luxury tour bus and headed off to downtown Bismarck. The North Dakota State Capitol Building is known as the “Skyscraper on the Prairie.”

The inside of the building had a lot of unusual décor and designs. Like the sculptures above the doors and elevators and the wooden wall in the backdoor corridor to the Governor’s office, which they called the “Monkey Room” because the designs in the wood are of monkey faces. Pictured below left looks like “Garfield” the cat. Even the elevator doors were interesting.

We were unable able to tour the State Supreme courtroom as they were in session. But we could see through the “soundproof glass.” Likewise, we were not able to tour the Senate or House as they were in session.

The building is 19 floors high and on the 19th floor WHAT A VIEW! Below we could see the mall where thousands gathered to make snow angels in 2002 (below left) and 2007 (below right) which won them a place in the Guinness Book of Records. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

From the top, you can see as far as 35 miles from every direction.

Across the street was the North Dakota Heritage Center, which was more like a museum.

One very interesting exhibit was called the eagle catch. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see a pair of hands grabbing the eagle as it attempts to swoop up its prey. How ingenious the Indians were when it came to hunting.

There was a lot of information on Sitting Bull in this museum. Pictured below is a dress that belonged to Sitting Bull’s daughter.

Sitting Bull’s nephew and adopted son, One Bull, fought in the Battle of Little Horn. He is pictured as a young warrior and at 87 years old.

Outside of the museum was a statute of a buffalo made out of concrete reinforcement steel bars.!

We finished our day with an ice cream social, provided for by the campground. What an great ending for a wonderful day.

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