Fort Osage

Fort Osage (also known as Fort Clark or Fort Sibley) was part of the United States factory trading post system for the Osage Nation in the early 19th century near Sibley, Missouri.

The Osage in exchange for access to the trading post above the Missouri River in 1808 in the Treaty of Fort Clark ceded all of their lands east of the fort in Louisiana Territory effectively leaving them with a small band of territory on the extreme western border of Missouri.

The fort ceased operations in the 1820s as the Osage in subsequent treaties ceded the rest of their land in Missouri. A replica of the fort was rebuilt on the site in the 1950s.


Lewis and Clark noted of the spot in June 1804:

Also, in 1804 Pierre Chouteau of the Chouteau fur trading family and an agent for the Osage took Osage chiefs to meet President Thomas Jefferson who promised to build them a trading post.

Fort Osage was one of three forts established by the U.S. Army to establish control over the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase territories. Fort Madison was built to control trade and pacify Native Americans in the Upper Mississippi River region. Fort Belle Fontaine near St. Louis controlled the mouth of the Missouri.

In 1808 Chouteau negotiated a deal for the fort to be built for the protection of the Osage. The specific terms of the deal noted:

In order to get the protection, the Osage ceded all of Missouri east of the fort. The Great Osage were to receive $1,000 and the Little Osage were to get $500.

Fort Osage was abandoned during the War of 1812 because it was considered indefensible, and was reoccupied in 1814.

The fort was officially christened "Fort Osage" by Captain Eli Clemson who was in charge of the military garrison. It has also been informally referred to as "Fort Clark" in honor of William Clark who was in charge of Indian Affairs. It was one of the first United States military installations in Louisiana Territory became a major stopping point for visitors traveling the Missouri. Daniel Boone was to visit it in 1814.

It subsequently became known as "Fort Osage" and then was informally called "Fort Sibley" for George Sibley who succeeded Chouteau as the Osage Indian agent. Sibley's 16 year old wife held piano concerts for the mountainmen and traders that visited the Fort.

As the Osage ceded more and more of their land a new trading post at Fort Scott, Kansas was established closer to the ancestral villages near the headwaters of the Osage River near Nevada, Missouri and its Osage mission formally ended in 1822.

The fort remained a landmark on the Santa Fe Trail and by 1836 it had been totally obliterated with its pre-cut wood used for other purposes.

In the 1950s, archeologists discovered the foundations of these buildings and rebuilt the Fort as closely as they could, it now stands, overlooking the Missouri River once again. The Fort Osage school district (including Fort Osage High School), which serves northeast Independence and the surrounding area, was named after it.

Fort Osage National Historic Landmark

Currently the fort is known as Fort Osage National Historic Landmark and has been reconstructed to portray Fort Osage as it was in 1812. Living history demonstrations are given about early 19th century military and civilian life.

The Fort Osage Education Center, opened in November 2007, contains exhibits about the site's geology, 19th century natural history, the Hopewell and Osage native cultures, Lewis and Clark, Fort Osage and the Missouri River.

Fort Osage is owned and operated by Jackson County Parks and Recreation. It is open to the public Tuesday thru Sunday from 9:00am to 4:30pm year round.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via