Tour 2015 – Day 36: Fort Belmont

The early buildings moved to Fort Belmont as a museum, with the townsite in the distance.
The early buildings moved to Fort Belmont as a museum, with the townsite in the distance.

Since we arrived a day early, we had time in the morning to explore.  We toured the Fort Belmont replica a few years ago when we were here, but decided to spend a bit more time.  The displays haven’t changed much, but we enjoyed revisiting the pioneer artifacts.  The grounds has an early settler home that evolved from a one-room house, rooms added as they had money and time, often after the children had grown.  The exhibits include an intact country church, a scale replica mill, blacksmith shop, sod house, and a log cabin, in addition to the “Fort” part, a tower and palisade for defense against the indigenous people who resented the European invasion.

Replica; territorial fort.
Replica; territorial fort.

Of course, we had to visit the coffee shop downtown, a crowded gathering place on a Friday morning, full of friendly people and serving great coffee and pastries.  Several of the old stores have been converted into second-hand consignment shops, such as Chosen’s Clothing and the Ben Franklin.  Unlike some towns, Jackson has not emptied out into a strip mall and Wal-Mart at the edge of town: the freeway arrived early, making larger retail centers like Mankato and Sioux Falls close enough for weekend shopping trips.  Stores selling items needed day-to-day continued to thrive, while furniture and clothing outlets disappeared.

;Two-harness loom, ca. 1860.  The block sheaves were set up for a 4-shaft counterbalance, but this one only ever had two.
;Two-harness loom, ca. 1860. The block sheaves were set up for a 4-shaft counterbalance, but this one only ever had two.

One of the fascinations of the Fort Belmont museum, of course, were the various looms used by the pioneers, ranging from a fairly modern 4-shaft counterbalance to a large pin loom for weaving small rugs, and the large 2-shaft rug loom shown above. We don’t consider hand-weaving to be a lost art, but we noted that the curators of the museum misidentified some of the tools, guessing at their possible use. None of the looms had been restored to working order, either–most of the artifacts were left “as found” to preserve as much authenticity as possible–restoration requires knowledge, the right materials, and time. we did enjoy the “hands-on” replica hand-made toys and games in the main exhibit hall, however.

Finally, we checked into the B&B and then checked out the park where our family gathering will take place, making a meal of odds and ends of crumbs in our travel stores, and then turned in early to rest up for the weekend activities.