Sunday, March 14, 2021

Sutler's Store


I've written several times recently about birding at Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area.  But birding is only a fraction of the reasons to visit Fort Yamhill.  It's well worth your time to take a detour off the main highway on your way to Spirit Mountain Casino, or the Oregon Coast to visit this historical site. It sits on a knoll on the side of Fort Hill overlooking the Grand Ronde Valley. To get a glimpse into it's historical contribution is easily the overriding reason to stop here. It served as a US military fort for a decade in a turbulent time of forced relocation of Native Americans to the Grand Ronde Reservation.  I highly recommend the personal journals of Corporal Royal A. Bensell edited by Gunter Barth entitled "All Quiet on the Yamhill". 

In reading Bensell's journals, I was puzzled several  times about what he referred to as the Sutlers Store.  My first uninformed guess was that it was a miss-spelling of "settler", thinking it was a store either run by a settler or for the settlers' use.  As I have now come to know, a sutler, or civilian storekeeper, was a person authorized to operate a general store near a military outpost.  The Sutler's Store provided goods and supplies for the military, Native Americans and settlers.

While reading this Interpretive sign at Fort Yamhill this past week I had a personal epiphany concerning my grandfather Scott.  I heard stories in my youth of my grandfather who traveled by train from Missouri to Montana, and among many things, he sold clothing to the Indians. So, now it occurs to me that it is possible that my grandfather George Henry Scott worked as a sutler. This fits with his life later when he moved to Oregon and he and my grandmother operated a variety store in Lebanon. 

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