Fort Union Association Unveils Historically Accurate Keelboat

The Fort Union Association, in partnership with the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, is thrilled to announce the acquisition of a historically-accurate, 2/3 scale keelboat named “William. H. Ashley” named after the famous frontiersmen who hastened exploration of the American West and revolutionized the fur trade by developing the rendezvous system. This significant addition to the association is a testament to our commitment to education, preservation, and immersive historical experiences.

The Fort Union Association plans to unveil the newly acquired, historically-accurate keelboat, “Wm. H. Ashley” to the public during the much-anticipated Williston Band Day festivities in May.

The fur trade of the early 1800s was defined by the extensive network of rivers that served as the lifelines of commerce. Before the age of railroads, keelboats were the workhorses of transportation, enabling fur traders to navigate the vast reaches of the Upper Missouri River System. The “Wm. H. Ashley,” inspired by these iconic vessels, embodies the spirit of adventure and enterprise that characterized this era.

Keelboats like “The Wm. H. Ashley” were ingeniously designed to haul several tons of freight through challenging river conditions, relying on the sheer exertion of their crews for propulsion. Whether harnessing the wind, navigating favorable currents, or resorting to the laborious cordele technique, or using a towline in the water. These boats played a pivotal role in the fur trade economy, facilitating the exchange of goods with Native peoples along the riverbanks.

“The Wm. H. Ashley” serves as a tangible link to a bygone era,” remarked Jeff Colburn, president Fort Union Association. “It’s not just a vessel; it’s a living testament to the ingenuity, resilience, and adventurous spirit of those who traversed the waterways in pursuit of commerce and exploration.”

Constructed with meticulous attention to historical detail, The “Wm. H. Ashley” pays homage to the craftsmanship and innovation of the past. From its angled keel for improved tracking to its pointed bow and stern, every aspect of the boat reflects the authenticity of its historical counterparts.

The legacy of the keelboat era ultimately gave way to the dominance of steamboats, marking the end of an era. However, through initiatives like “The Wm. H. Ashley,” the Fort Union Association ensures that the stories of the past continue to inspire and educate future generations.

For more information about “The Wm. H. Ashley” and upcoming events of the Fort Union Association, please visit http://www.fortuniontp.org or contact Megan Halvorson, executive director at [email protected] or call 701.572.2795.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic site is located 23 miles west of Williston, ND. No fees are required to visit the site. It is open Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

 

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