Would you hire on to wash clothes for $19.50?

fort buford laundress

For 19.5 soldiers.

A month.




What we learned about Fort Buford history at the Encampment Reenactment

Once a year, Fort Buford hosts the popular encampment. It’s a successful learning experience. This year, we learned what it took for soldier to keep their uniforms clean – up to military regs of the 1860s.

Fort Buford was one of the far-reaching outposts the Army maintained for about 30 years.  Its mission to protect transportation on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. 

Unofficially, it became a barrier to protect Hidatsa from the Sioux.  In the end, it was the place where Hunkpapa Sioux Sitting Bull surrendered when he returned from self-exile in Canada.

Fort Buford History is really bigger and more important than many people realize.  So the role of the washerwomen was vital to the development of the U.S.

ND tourism features the Fort as one of the top places to visit in NW North Dakota.  Click here to read about it. Today, it’s just a short throw from the Missouri and Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center. It’s a peaceful visit anytime you head this direction.

We like to visit and write about Fort Buford history — like the murder and suicide that happened at the Fort. 

It was a job for tough laundresses.

The laundresses worked near the banks of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, at the confluence. So first, it meant hauling enough water to wash uniforms.  Then heating the water and scrubbing by hand.

The Army required uniforms to be washed at least every 10 days. Hmmm…wool uniforms. 10 days. I wonder just how stinky they got.

One of the reenactors, told us how labor-intensive the job was — and distasteful.  Soldiers at Ft. Buford contracted diseases just as at any other frontier fort. Imagine washing a soldier’s underwear.  First soaked overnight, then it had to be boiled for 2 hours.  Then wrung out and dried.

Click this link and she tells the story in this video we shot with her for a Facebook Live: https://fb.watch/6H9SVpn5Uz/

Plenty to see about Fort Buford history

We stayed at the laundresses tent for a bit, then wandered over to the field officers’ quarters to get thoroughly wowed by the 1880 wooden Climax Camera.

1880 Climax camera used primarily in its latter days to shoot long distance, and architecture.

It still works, and the owners are preparing to outfit an attachment so they can use it with a modern camera.

Outside we stopped by a tent that demonstrates what became the National Weather Service.  This station linked western Montana to Bismarck, thanks to the dedication of General Hazen. The telegraph and weather station alerted trains of weather they may encounter hundreds of miles away — either direction — another key story about Fort Buford history.

It was a hot day – one in which I was glad I was not wearing a wool uniform. 


But I sure was glad to find the free campground and picnic ground to cool off before heading home.

Picnic on a hot day at Fort Buford






Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Badlands Open?

Yes. They never close except for wildfire emergencies.  The Badlands is where hundreds of ranch families live and work.  

Where are the Badlands ?

The geological formation of the Badlands runs along the Little Missouri River from the extreme southwestern corner of North Dakota, north to Killdeer and Mandaree where it empties into the Missouri River at the Little Missouri State Park.

Where can I see photographs of the Badlands?

In person, the Western Edge Bookstore in Medora has photographs for sale. You’ll also find our photographs at the Long X Visitor Center (Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County) in Watford City, ND.   Red River Coffee Company in Fargo, ND carries may of our photographs, with more Bison related items in stock soon!  On line, Mykuhls.com has thousands of images from the Badlands. Both places sell images of the Badlands.

Are you ready for a road trip.  The drive to Fort Buford and Fort Union is a great mini-vacation — all for the price of a tank of gas.

What happens when you subscribe to this blog?

We like road trips, and this week, we’re preparing another suggested road trip to take you to the Badlands on a road reminiscent of the 1950s.  Subscribe and you’ll be the first to know when that Road Trip idea is ready for you.