Reed's Fort Post Office

Reed's Fort Post Office

The Reed's Fort Post Office, established in 1880, was the first post office in the area that later became Lewistown. One of the oldest buildings in Lewistown, today it is the only remaining building from Alonzo Reed's Reedsfort Homestead. Reed and his partner John Bowles ran the first trading post nearby in the Judith Basin from 1875 to 1880 and Reed was likely responsible for enticing the Metis from the Milk River area to settle in the Judith Basin in 1879. Reed's homestead, store, and post office supplanted the trading post. The Metis community that sprang up around Reedsfort, along with several early cattle and sheep men of the area was the catalyst for the growth and development of Lewistown in the early 1880s.

In addition, the post office gains significance given that it was built by Mose LaTray, a Metis carpenter, and one of nearly 300 Metis who settled on Big Spring Creek between 1879 and 1880. The Red River Metis that settled here were known for their building expertise, particularly their Red River Carts, but also as one of the few native tribes of the northern plains in the 1870s and 1880s to build and maintain permanent homes. Though their buildings were simple log cabins with little or no ornamentation, the Reed's Fort Post Office is one of a few documented Metis buildings that stand in North America and still reflects well the traditions of Metis builders and the frontier architecture of a Montana territorial post office.

The Reed's Fort Post Office clearly retains excellent overall integrity sufficient to reflect its period of significance from 1880 to 1885 when it served as Lewistown's first post office. The building still stands in its original location and the setting and feeling remains rural given that the immediate area around the post office was developed into parkland in the 1930s.

Although the Reed's Fort Post Office has been restored two times over the last 130 years, these efforts have maintained the building's integrity of design, materials, and workmanship of its original builder. The majority of the building's materials are intact, and the replacement logs and woodwork are in keeping with the original. The roof material, door and window sashes have been replaced in kind to resemble the original and appear much as they did when the post office was first photographed in a deteriorated condition in the 1920s. The restoration in 1970 used most of the original building logs with only the lower bottom logs being replaced due to rot. The corner notching was also altered in some cases in order to repair rotted areas. While some of the replacement logs and corner notching do not display the skillful notching original to Mose LaTray's workmanship, the work of his Grandson Les LaTray was executed carefully and the overall design and materials of the original building were fully retained. 

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