From the Library Archives: Fort Sherman, Reed and Bowles Trading Post, and Reedsfort by Nancy Watts

In 1873, a treaty was negotiated with the Crow Indians to give up their reservation on the Yellowstone for a reservation in the Judith Basin.  Peter Koch of Bozeman was hired to build a trading post by Nelson Story and Charles W. Hoffman (who were traders with the Crow Indians in the Gallatin valley). Koch named the trading post “Fort Sherman”.

Peter Koch wrote in his journal: “A site was selected just below the mouth of Big Casino Creek, on the south bank of Big Spring Creek. While waiting in idleness for the arrival of the [wagon] train, the boys put in most of their time with an old deck of cards, playing Casino, and we accordingly named the creek we were camped on “Big Casino” and a little spring creek just below “Little Casino” [“Big Casino Creek” flows into “Big Spring Creek” near Ash Street and “ Little Casino Creek” originates above the frog ponds].

Later Koch wrote: “The Judith Basin was at that time the finest game country I had ever seen. I killed many buffalo right here where Lewistown now stands and white-tailed deer were here in great numbers. I have killed deer in the brush along Spring Creek all through where the city now is. We were getting out timber about a mile and a half from the post up Spring Creek.” (“Fergus County Argus,” Oct. 19, 1904).

The new Crow reservation never materialized, so Peter Koch sold Fort Sherman to Theodore Dawes, who later sold it to Alonzo Reed and Jim Bowles. In 1874, they dismantled the fort and floated the logs down Big Spring Creek to lower Spring Creek and built the Reed and Bowles Trading Post. The reason they chose the lower Spring Creek area was that the new Carroll Trail was being created through this area to transfer freight from the Missouri River to Helena. They ran the trading post from 1875-1880. The Reed and Bowles Trading Post still exists at the bottom of the Joyland Road and it is now being excavated by archaeologists.

In 1880 Alonzo Reed and Jim Bowles dissolved their partnership and Reed moved back to upper Spring Creek (Reedsfort). Major Reed was appointed as the first postmaster of the Judith Basin area. He asked Mose LaTray to build a post office on Reed’s homestead, which Reed operated until August 24, 1885. In the 1880’s, the small villages of Lewistown and Reedsfort were located within ½ mile of each other. In 1931, a historical plaque was placed on a large boulder in front of the post office by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Reed and Bowles Trading Post
(lower Spring Creek)
Reedsfort Post Office
(upper Spring Creek)
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