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Fort Missoula Museum, Missoula

#2 of 8 in Museums in Missoula
Natural History Museum · History Museum
Fort Missoula was established as a permanent military post in 1877 and built in response to requests of local townspeople and settlers for protection in the event of conflict with western Montana Indian tribes. It was intended as a major outpost for the region; however, area residents also were quite aware of the payroll, contracts, and employment opportunities Fort Missoula would provide. Fort Missoula never had walls; rather, it was an "open fort," a design common for posts located west of the Mississippi. Open forts required troops to take the offensive and actively patrol the areas to which they were assigned.

Construction had barely begun when the Company Commander, Captain Charles Rawn, received orders to halt the advance of a group of non-treaty Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce, led by Chiefs Joseph, Looking Glass and others, simply went around the soldiers' hastily-constructed earth and log barricade in Lolo Canyon (later called "Fort Fizzle") and escaped up the Bitterroot Valley.

The black 25th Infantry arrived at Fort Missoula in May 1888. See 25th Infantry to learn more.

The efforts of Congressman Joseph Dixon of Missoula led to the appropriation of $1 million in 1904 to remodel Fort Missoula. A modern complex of concrete buildings with red tile roofs was constructed between 1908 and 1914, including a new Officer's Row, barracks, and Post Hospital.

The fort was used as a military training center during World War I, but was almost abandoned by 1921. However, it was designated as the Northwest Regional Headquarters for the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933.

Fort Missoula was turned over to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization in 1941 for use as an alien detention center for non-military Italian and Japanese-American men. See Alien Detention for more information.

The camp was used as a prison for military personnel accused of military crimes and other personnel awaiting court-martial following World War II. After the post was decommissioned in 1947, many of the buildings were sold, dismantled, and removed from the site. The majority of the land is now in the hands of non-military agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Missoula County (including the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula).
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Fort Missoula Museum reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
144 reviews
  • Spent 2.5 hours exploring the grounds here. The museum has a decent collection of fort history. The military exhibits however were extremely dense and difficult to digest due to information overload.....  more »
  • We spent the day here and didn’t get to see everything. This is so well presented that we couldn’t possibly see everything. The main building wasn’t open, either because of virus or maybe too early....  more »
  • Unique aspect of Missoula history. Lots to see. The outside walking tour was fun. Nice to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
  • We very nice small Museum clearly in the growing phase. Inside the building were lots of well-done exhibits of local area history just like you're hoping to see. Plan to spend at least an hour in the main building before I'm going outside to the lumber and Equipment exhibits. They have a forest service observation tower that was moved when it was abandoned and set up here. A shay locomotive that it looks like they're thinking about firing up judging by the work, lots of interesting logging cranes and other tractor equipment from the 1900s 1950s all available to walk through look at it up close to without interference. They have a railroad Depot display with a model train layout, a demonstration lumbermill that they actually operate and lots of other outdoor displays plan to spend a couple hours Outdoors as well as the hour indoors. For a town this size this is a great museum and if you're into this while worth the stop. Just around the corner is a military museum for the area as well so you can spend nearly a day here without leaving.

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