Montana Solo Travel USA Northwest Travels

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Missoula Montana

historical museum at fort missoula
The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula in Missoula Montana

Fort Missoula was established in 1877 by the United States Army. Anglo-settlers were moving west and the army had started building forts throughout the Northwest to help protect the settlers, who were new to the area and gathering their bearings. The area was originally inhabited by the Nez Perce, a fairly peaceful tribe, however by 1877 they were reluctantly being pushed onto a reservation, causing tension in the area. Major battles between the Nez Perce and the Army erupted in 1877 at Whitebird and Big Hole along with a previous battle in 1876 at Little Big Horn.

Fort Missoula was one of four forts to test “Bicycle Warfare” in 1888. The 25th Infantry, a unit of all African-American soldiers tested out the use of bicycles in lieu of horses, riding all over the mountainous Montana terrain. Although horses were later established as far superior the soldiers still made history by riding their bikes 1900 miles (3100 km) from Fort Missoula to St. Louis Missouri in 1897.

World War I used the fort for training and World War II stationed an alien detention center there for Japanese and Italian Americans who were imprisoned during the war. Fort Missoula remained fully fictional until 1947, two years after the end of World War II and officially became decommissioned in 2001.

Last summer I went to Missoula Montana for a dog treat show for my business Barley Baked Goods. I decided to extend my time in Missoula, taking in some breweries and checking out the local sites. One of the sites I was looking at visiting was the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. I have admitted several times on this blog that I am not much of a museum goer, however the museum had a beer exhibit. This of course peeked my interest because I love beer. You have probably heard me mention this several times on the blog 🙂

OK more than several.

When I arrived to Fort Missoula I was instantly sadden to hear that the beer exhibit had left only a few days prior to my arrival. Although it was disappointing I took the opportunity to learn more about my beloved Missoula and paid the nominal entrance fee. The museum is broken out into three sections with two downstairs sections containing the history of the area and the history of Missoula. The upstairs section was filled with pictures of Missoula architecture, mostly Victorian style homes, which is one of my most favorite styles. If you enjoy architecture I highly recommend doing a walking tour of downtown Missoula. Boomer and I did the tour a few years ago with our friend Jen and we found it to be excellent as it covered lots of Missoula history along with a wide stance of different architecture styles.

historical museum at fort missoula
Highlander Beer

Although the beer exhibit may have moved on I was still able to find some beer history, along with an old Highlander beer can from the Missoula Brewing Company. Highlander beer was the first beer to be sold in Missoula in 1910.

historical museum at fort missoula
Idaho + Montana = Love

I also found this tidbit of information interesting as I am always telling everyone how much I love Montana and how if I ever moved it would most likely be to Montana. In 1860 The Idaho Territory was created and Missoula County was part of it. I am not sure why Idaho gave it up, but shame on them.

historical museum at fort missoula
One of the original structures at the fort, the carriage house

After I had explored the history of Missoula it was time to move outside and take a walking tour of the grounds. Majority of the outside exhibits were relocated from different parts of Montana or rebuilt, with the exception of three original, still standing, structures. One of which is the Carriage House, dating back to 1880.

historical museum at fort missoula
An old schoolhouse at Fort Missoula

A walking path with number signs led me around from the Patrick Hayes homesteader home, to the Grant Creek Schoolhouse, to the St. Micheal’s Church and the Drummond Depot.

historical museum at fort missoula
Tipi Burner

Near the depot is the Forestry Interpretive Area. This area was of great interest to me as I saw a structure that I remember from my childhood and had always wondered what was inside. It was a Tipi-Burner. The Tipi-Burner use to be seen at sawmills and was used to burn waste. The use of Tipi-Burners was phased out in the 1970’s as the waste was then used to make paper.

historical museum at fort missoula
Inside the Tipi Burner

Clearly Northern Idaho was behind the times as I was born in the 80’s and still remember seeing these burners around, however I cannot confirm if they were still in use. Remember I drink a lot of beer, we are lucky when I remember something, even if it is not a full memory.

Within walking distance, or by taking a short drive, is the military housing for the fort. All of these structures are located off of museum grounds. The Officers Row, Post Headquarters, The Post Hospital and the Company Barracks lined a street looking somewhat out of place with it’s stark white buildings paired up with red Spanish tiled roofs. Because of the architectural influence it felt more like I was in Florida or California than Montana.

Fort Missoula is open year round Labor Day to Memorial Day from Tuesday – Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm (closed Mondays) and Memorial Day to Labor Day Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm. Tours of the grounds are free and the museum is $4 USD for adults. Fort Missoula is located at 3400 Captain Rawn Way.

historical museum at fort missoula

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