WILLISTON, N.D. - Richard Stenberg, Associate Professor of History & Political Science at Williston State College co-authored an article with retired Fort Union Park Ranger Randy Kane that appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly.
For the past twenty-one years, Stenberg has been an active park ranger at Fort Union over the summer months. Stenberg researches and prepares scripts for volunteers to reenact The Last Bell Tour, an annual Living History event conducted by Fort Union. The article, "The Boldest Man that was ever on the Missouri: A Reassessment of Alexander Harvey and his Role in the Upper Missouri Fur Trade" was inspired by a reenactment.
"Over ten years ago, we reenacted when Alexander Harvey shot and killed Isadore Sandoval at Fort Union," Stenberg recalled. "This reenactment raised a lot of questions of who Harvey was and I began to dig."
Fort Union's extensive library provided many answers about Harvey when Stenberg's days as a ranger were slow. Unbeknownst to Stenberg, this reenactment had also piqued the interest of Kane, who was also researching Harvey in the Upper Missouri Fur Trade.
"Instead of trying to work against each other to see who could get published first, we decided to throw our resources together," Stenberg explained. "Without Kane, this article would not be where it is today."
After eighteen seasons together at Fort Union, Kane retired in 2010 and now volunteers at the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska.
"Kane had the availability and time to continue his research with resources not available to me," Stenberg stated. "The Museum of the Fur Trade has a remarkable library, and Kane even reached out to the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis for additional materials."
The Museum of the Fur Trade's Primary Historian and Quarterly Editor, James Hanson, suggested publishing Stenberg and Kane's article in their quarterly magazine. Typically comprising three or four separate articles, the Fall 2015 issue was dedicated entirely to Stenberg and Kane's research of Alexander Harvey.
"For the past forty to fifty years, America's frontier history has been kind of kicked to the side. Often it is not politically correct, but there is true scholarship that has yet to be done on the fur trade," Stenberg noted. "A lot of people have this notion that the fur trade was a bunch of long-haired buckskin-clad beaded guys that rode horses and hunted beavers. Not that that didn't happen, but there is a lot that went on before, during, and after that needs to be explained."
Alexander Harvey was something of a hot head. Though some of his techniques were considered drastic, without his approaches, according to Stenberg and Kane, Harvey would have not been successful. He gave his former employer, the American Fur Company, a run for its money.
"Our research shows the type of personality that is needed to exist to be successful in the fur trade. It called for men and women of fortitude," Stenberg said. "The longer I work at Fort Union I am just struck by how far these really traders were willing to go to make a profit. Harvey is just another case."
Stenberg and Kane's article, "The Boldest Man that was ever on the Missouri: A Reassessment of Alexander Harvey and his Role in the Upper Missouri Fur Trade," is available through the Museum of the Fur Trade. Please visit www.furtrade.org for more information about Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly or the Museum of the Fur Trade. Copies also will be made available at Fort Union.
This Spring 2016, Stenberg will discuss the some of the fur trade in his North Dakota Geography class, sign up today, spots are still available. With enough interest, a specialty class could be created at WSC specifically on the fur trade. If interested, please reach out to WSC.
For more information about the Upper Missouri Fur Trade,
please contact Richard Stenberg at 701.774.4264.
For any information regarding WSC, please visit www.willistonstate.edu,
call 1.888.863.9455, or stop by 1410 University Avenue, Williston, ND.