Reed and Bowles Trading Post

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Reed and Bowles Trading Post (1874-1880) - A fortified trading post established in 1874 near Lewistown, Fergus County, Montana. Named Reed and Bowles Trading Post after Alonzo S. Reed and John J. Bowles who were partners in the enterprise. Abandoned in 1880.

Reed and Bowles Trading Post Under Restoration 2022


Reed and Bowles Trading Post Sign

"Major" Alonzo S. Reed and John J. Bowles purchased the original Fort Sherman from Theodore Dawes after it became clear that the Crow Indians would not be relocated to the region and that the new Carroll Road would not pass near the post. Reed and Bowles dismantled Fort Sherman and floated the logs down (north) on Big Springs Creek to a point where the Carroll road crossed the creek. Reed and Bowles reconstructed some of the Fort Sherman buildings and created a new Trading Post alongside Carroll Road.

The new post also served as a stagecoach station, one of a very few along Carroll Road. It was the only station between Martinsdale and Carroll, about 150 miles.

The station buildings were enclosed in a 100' by 150' stockade with a large gate on the south end and a corral to secure the horses from Indian raids. Sources differ on the number of buildings built but it appears that at least two free-standing structures were constructed but there may have been more that were built along the stockade walls.

The post carried a variety of trade goods including guns and ammunition, blankets, and dry goods. The post traded with Indians, trappers, big game hunters, and soldiers who were only stationed in the area in the summers of 1874 and 1875. Except for the brief periods when troops were stationed at Camp Lewis there were no lawmen within the local area and Reed and Bowles were the law and they imposed their judgment at the point of a gun.

Reed and Bowles had a falling out in 1880 that culminated in a fight that saw Reed stab Bowles who was saved when a button deflected the knife. Bowles then beat Reed unconscious and left him for dead. Reed's injuries included a broken jaw and a dislocated shoulder so friends took him to Fort Benton for treatment. This event seems to have marked the end of their partnership. Reed went on to establish the Fort Reed Post Office/trading post near where the original Fort Sherman was located and he became the first postmaster of the area. In 1882 he began to dispose of his property including his ranch and the trading post. Reed sold his Ranch to Frank Day and John Toomb for $1,000 about Mar 1882. He sold the trading post on Big Spring Creek to J. E. Clegg for use as a store and Trading post about Mar 1882. Finally, he resigned as postmaster in April 1882.

Current Status

The old trading post building still exists (2022) and has undergone a restoration in 1972-1973 and is currently under restoration (Jul 2022). The site has a number of readerboards that explain the history of the site.

Reed and Bowles Trading Post Reader Board.

Location: Poor Farm Loop, Lewistown,
Fergus County, Montana.

Maps & Images

Lat: 47.087916 Long: -109.456883

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 3,851'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 476-477.
  • Miller, Don C. and Cohen, Stan B., Military & Trading Posts of Montana, 1978, Pictorial Histories, Missoula, Montana, ISBN: 0-933126-00 X, 107 pages, page 73-74.


Fortification ID:

  • MT0219 - Reed and Bowles Trading Post

Visited: 20 Jul 2022

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