Fort Abercrombie: Gateway to the Dakotas

Fort Abercrombie

The original Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1858, and it was the first military settlement in what would become North Dakota. Fort Abercrombie was a relic of the first transportation boom in the Dakota Territory — riverboats. Before the railroads, riverboats were one of the most efficient means of hauling cargo, and the Red River became a highway between Fort Abercrombie and Winnipeg. Due to flooding concerns, the fort was rebuilt in 1860 on higher ground, at its present location.

Fort Abercrombie

The fort was besieged by the Sioux for more than six weeks in 1862, an event that came to be known as the Dakota War of 1862. Four soldiers were killed and two wounded.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

With the frigid Dakota Territory winter approaching, the fort was abandoned as a military outpost on October 23rd, 1877. The town of Abercrombie was officially established nearly seven years later, about a half mile west.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie was largely forgotten for decades, but started to come back to life when the WPA began reconstruction of the original fort in 1939 and 1940. You can read more about the history of Fort Abercombie here.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Two reconstructed blockhouses and the original guard house now reside at The Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site. Fort Abercrombie is right on the Red River, about forty minutes south of Fargo.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Fort Abercrombie is featured in our new book, the softcover Special Edition of Ghosts of North Dakota, Volume 1.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

The Red River has shifted its track over the years and the land under part of the site was compromised. This marker provides a nice reference point for getting your bearings on the site.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media

15 Comments on “Fort Abercrombie: Gateway to the Dakotas

  1. Thanks for including Fort Abercrombie! I live in Aber and love taking pics of the blockhouses, there is a rich history here, if you’ve never visited I hope you put it on your list!

  2. I grew up in rural North Dakota and had never heard of Fort Abercrombie…that is until I competed in a preliminary pageant for the Miss America Organization and won the title of Miss Fort Abercrombie! I had the tremendous opportunity to participate in the annual Aber Days events and learned a great deal about this historical place. The pageant has since moved from Wahpeton to Montpelier, ND, but the Miss Fort Abercrombie title is still awarded. It is my hope that by continuing it, more people will be made aware of this great state treasure.

  3. I grew up in Fargo in the 1950’s. On the rare times my mother could get the car, she would pack a picnic lunch and take the five of us to Ft. Abercrombie for the day. She would sit and watch the river and we would play in the fort. I haven’t been back there since, but some of my best childhood memories are of those days.
    A few years ago I began to see T shirts with Abercrombie on them. I was amazed at how many people were visiting little Abercrombie, ND until someone told me they were from Abercrombie and Fitch!

  4. My Grandma, Laura Nesland, immigrated from Norway in 1920. MY Grandmother’s cousin, Linas Danielson, who lived in Ambercrombie, N.D. at that time, paid her passage. My husband and I , along with one of my sisters, paid a visit to Ambercrombie a little over a year ago. We visited the fort and saw the graves of Linas Danielson and other family members. We met wonderful people in the senior center. One of the gentlemen was the brother of Lenas Danielson’s daughter-inlaw. Through the daughter-inlaw , who now resides in a nursing home, in Fargo, we were able to discover much more information about Linas. We were also shown the three homes in Ambercrombie that he built. The first one would have been the house my Grandmother lived in. Two of the other gentlemen we met in the senior center that day shared memories of Linas with us. They fished with him as young boys. He apparently owned a meat market at one time and we were shown some old photos of him, one of which was taken in the meat shop. His daughter-inlaw, Thordis, told us he was a wonderful man. —Becky Schweitzer, Cle Elum, Wa.

  5. My Great Great Grandfather (Amab Dupree) was stationed there from June 10, 1865 to June 19, 1868
    He was in company D 10th US infantry, according to his military racords. I have yet to find anything from
    Fort Abercrombie with a picture of this company, aor something from there with his picture or name.
    It is a good feeling to know that the area is being restored and opened to the public.

  6. What a beautiful place. We camped there back in the late 80’s with our scout troop and I can still remember how great it was.

  7. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in Abercrombie. So many battles all of us young residents of this Famous Fort reinacted onsite. It was great. This piece of history will go on forever. I am proud to say I grew up there.

  8. I grew up in Abercrombie and thought every little town had a fort to protect them!!!!! Now, living in Arizona, people laugh at me when I say I grew up in a town with a FORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Does anyone remember “The Old Settlers Celebration” that used to be an annual event in Aber?

  10. Does anyone remember “The Old Settlers Celebration that used to be an annual event in Aber?

    • Yes I do. I recall Fritz Schneider cutting a finger short with a chain saw while trimming trees in the park. The locals all made certain the park and town were ready for visitors. The park grounds were extremely busy for this event. All involved were very proud of something to be proud of!!!

  11. i grew up near Colfax, North Dakota but I remember many fun times visiting fort Abercrombie. Our family attended “Old Settlers Days” many times and I remember the parades and costumes. I also recall buying baby chicks at Rudlangs Hatchery, probably a relative of Jim Rudlang above. In the summer on Saturday nights they would show movies in a vacant lot on Main Street after people were done grocery shopping for the week.this was back in the fifties.

  12. I grew up in Wahpeton in the 60’s and 70’s, and I clearly remember school picnics at Fort Abercrombie…. stupid boys would overrun the guard-houses and pretend to shoot people.

  13. Pingback: Why Was This Structure Built as a Fortress? -

  14. I knew Kay Rudlang. My father was from Abercrombie and I remember many summers spent in Aber and surrounding areas with family and friends. I was in Aber 5 summers ago with Cousin Donata Arnhalt Nellermoe, Jacquie Jensen Brissey and her sis Melanie Jensen Cook. Also saw Duane Kragness and Eva Adams sister and Pat and Stuart Flaa. Visited Linda Bjorke Monge and cousin Shirley Strand Ruud in Fargo. AS a child in l957 I remember the live Pageant at the Fort and the parade and costumes and horses and what fun and thousands of folks came to the 3 day event. And of course the train that used to go thru Aber each day. time has marched on so we gals went down to the Lutheran Church and it was gorgeous – kept up beautifuuly and then stopped to talk to the gentleman living in Aunt Evelyn Arnhalt Granholt Fields home on Main street next to parsonage and then down to Graveyard to see all our relatives and around the corner to Aunt Lottie and Uncle Pauls home and then on down to Aunt Viola and Uncle Clarence Strands home. Slept in all of these homes in the summers during my childhood. Fond memories for sure!
    Trying to get some of those new gray t shirts that say Fort Abercrombie on them! Need a few 2 x’s And how do I pay for them? credit card or check ??

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