From the 1850s to 1887, Fort Benton was the trade center for this region of the American and Canadian West. Like others who chose to stay when the fur trade declined, I. G. Baker (the last American Fur Company factor at the fort) turned to new endeavors. Through the 1870s and 1880s, the I. G. Baker Company was Montana’s largest mercantile enterprise. But when the company began, in 1865-1866, Baker and his brother George had only a log store along the levee. Baker’s wife joined him here in 1867, and he began to construct this home—then a two-room adobe with a sod roof. In it, Montana Territory’s acting governor Thomas F. Meagher ate his last meal before his mysterious drowning in 1867. Sometime in the next decade, two rooms to the rear were added and metal replaced the sod roof. In 1876, a second remodeling added clapboard siding, a shingle roof, and the front portico. The front room on the left became as it appears today. The mercantile Conrad family also called this building home, and it once was used as officer’s quarters for the fort.

Images

Map

1604 Front Street, Fort Benton, Montana ~ private