Facelift for Fort DiltsFriday the Welding II and III classes at Dickinson High School finished a project that the state historic society hopes can stand the test of time.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
Friday the Welding II and III classes at Dickinson High School finished a project that the state historic society hopes can stand the test of time.
The classes constructed a sign for Fort Dilts State Historic Site, which is located between Bowman and Marmarth in the southwestern-most corner of the state.
“There was a sign that was out there that had been vandalized. It was an iron or metal sign that had been put up many, many years ago,” said Ed Sahlstrom, assistant supervisor at the Chateau de Mores state historic site in Medora, adding that the new sign adds something to the site that had been lost.
“I was very pleased with it. It’s just beautiful, it’s rustic, it’s even got some of the Indian theme to it.”
Sahlstrom said DHS’ involvement in the project stemmed from him previously teaching at the school and being friends with welding instructor Rudy Privratsky.
“It was an extra project and the kids got really excited about it,” Sahlstrom said.
Privratsky said it was a good learning experience for the students because he sat back and acted as the overseer and let them do their thing.
“They thought it was a great project. Learning-wise it was great because everything was done in 3-D style,” Privratsky said. “You take and you cut the numbers out and then you make them so you can see them from every direction there is.”
The project took between four to five months, DHS senior Tyler Phelps said.
“It was pretty fun actually, it was a good experience,” Phelps said.
The little-known historic site has an interesting story behind it, Sahlstrom said.
In 1864, a group of settlers led by Capt. James Fisk of the U.S. Quartermaster Corps was surrounded by Indians on their way to meet up with the Sully Expedition in Montana.
The settlers dug in and built a sod fort 6.5-foot walls. It was named Fort Dilts after a member of the wagon train named Jefferson Dilts, who was killed and buried inside the entrenchment.
About 100 settlers and 500 animals held off a band of Hunkpapa Sioux warriors for more than a week while a few others rode to nearby Fort Rice for help.
Four hundred cavalry soldiers and 400 infantry men eventually came to their rescue.
“Just like in the movies the cavalry came, rescued them and then took them back ...,” Sahlstrom said. “It’s one of the very few times in the American west where they actually circled the wagons. You see it in the movies all the time, but very seldom did that ever happen.”
Sahlstrom said there isn’t a visitor center at the historic site, but interested parties can get information at the Chateau de Mores or the Pioneer rails Museum in Bowman, adding people should take the time to check the site out.
“If they really want to get a feel for the frontier and the 1860s out there and the Indian Wars it’s worth the trip,” Sahlstrom said.
Phelps said he’s glad to have had the opportunity to add something to the site.
“It was a good experience,” Phelps said. “I’ll be able to look back 30 years and it’ll still be in Fort Dilts’ ground.”