Backstory and Context
Robidoux Trading Post is a historical
recreation of Antoine Robidoux’s trading post that served travelers on the
Oregon Trail as they passed through the Wildcat Hills. Born September 22, 1794,
to parents Joseph Robidoux II and Catherine Rolet, Antoine Robidoux was the third
of six brothers. Joseph II first came to America from Quebec via the Great
Lakes and settled in St. Louis in 1771. Joseph was a true frontiersman who
raised his sons to follow in his footsteps, all of whom were involved in the
family fur-trapping business. In 1826 the Robidoux family acquired permits from the
US government giving them permission to legally trap and trade in the western
territories. After acquiring these permits, the family began operating all over
the American West, having licenses in what are now Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, New
Mexico, Arizona, and California. Antoine was at one point a resident of Santa
Fe, and was even granted Mexican citizenship. If you were traveling
west during the gold rush, you were likely to run into one of the Robidoux men
as they had set up shop all along the trail. Joseph even founded St. Joseph,
Missouri. Traveler Alonzo Delano described St. Joseph as “a town of all
men, mules and tents” after passing through in 1849. The family was well known
for their close relations with Native Americans; many of the Robidoux men
married Native American women, including Antoine. Antoine was married to a
Sioux Indian named Papan. Baptism records suggest Antoine had three to five
children with Papan while living in the Robidoux Pass region.
In 1849 Antoine Robidoux acquired the proper licensing to move his operation from Fort Laramie to a location near present day Scottsbluff. Located in the Wildcat Hills, the area is near notable landmarks such as Chimney Rock and the Scottsbluff Monument. It is surrounded by an abundance of cedar and pine trees. The first route used by emigrants cut through a gap in these hills now known as Robidoux Pass. Robidoux was not the first trapper to travel these lands. This was a common route that followed alongside the North Platte River commonly used by other trappers and missionaries traveling west through the Rockies. It was here, just east of the gap, that Robidoux built the first of two trading posts.
This location was strategically chosen for the proximity to many freshwater springs, great quality grass for grazing, and easy access to plenty of cedar and pine trees, not to mention the business that would come from the vast number of emigrants traveling west during this period. The springs were considered by some to be the best water on the road to California and Oregon. Robidoux Post was the first "white" establishment travelers saw after Fort Kearny; they had journeyed around 300 miles with nothing but prairie in front of them. Upon reaching the pass, emigrants would be greeted with a first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains, Laramie Peak.
Often there were anywhere from 500 to 1000 Sioux Indians camping in the pass. This was no surprise as Antoine was known for living and traveling with the Sioux for over ten years. In June of 1849 Charles Darwin had dinner and stayed with Antoine Robidoux at the Scottsbluff post. During his stay Darwin came to learn that Antoine, up until the spring of 1849, had spent what he believed to be was thirteen years living with the Sioux Indians. Darwin also was intrigued by Antoine’s marital status saying he had taken a Sioux spouse he considered a “perfect queen of the wilderness," but also kept the company of two Lakota women during the time of his visit. Darwin also took note of Antoine’s illiteracy, specifically the misspelling of his own last name referencing a sign that read “Tin ware by A. Robidous.”
The services that Robidoux offered to travelers
included blacksmith work, shoeing horses, wagon repairs, and the trade of
necessities and whiskey.
In 1851, Mitchell Pass, an alternative route for travelers, opened and became
the preferred route of travel for those heading west. The military, telegraph
companies, and even the Pony Express years later used Mitchell Pass when
traveling through the region.
The post was soon after abandoned by the Robidoux outfit. This is when the
second trading post was built about one mile south of the original post in
Carter Canyon. This post is believed to have been exclusively
for Indian trade, particularly beaver hides and buffalo robes. This
trading post was reconstructed in 1992.
The reconstruction of the post was a group effort that was made possible thanks to contributions from Goldie and Rupert Bigsby who own the land, Joe R. Seacrest of The Lincoln Foundation, Western Publishing Company out of North Platte, and The Scottsbluff Star Herald. In 1993 Simon Herbert began the reconstruction of Robidoux Post number two. The location of the original site was determined by an analysis of surface remains and emigrant journals. No photos were taken of the post, but one traveler, Heinrich Mollhausen, did make a sketch. This sketch however, was lost in a fire in San Francisco. Fortunately, a photo was taken of the sketch and on that photo Herbert based his reconstruction. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 17, 1992, and construction finished in 1993. In 2016 many members of the Gering and Scottsbluff community came together and helped to make repairs and clean up the post. Despite the remote location of the Post, it is a great representation of what life would have been like for a traveler stopping on their way west.
 Simon Herbert, Preliminary Study for the Reconstruction of the Robidoux Trading Post Carter Canyon, Nebraska.
 Earl R.Harris, Gering Courier, July 21, 1961.
 Celinda E. Himes Diary, June 17, 1849
 Celinda E. Himes Diary, June 17, 1849.
 Will Bagley, With Golden Visions Bright Before Them: Trails to the Mining West,
 Celinda E. Himes Diary, June 17, 1849.
 William Case,“Recollections of His Trip Across the Plains in 1844.”
 Herbert, Preliminary Study.
Bagley, Will. With Golden Visions Bright Before Them: Trails to the Mining West, 1849-1852. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.
Case, William M. “Recollections of His Trip Across the Plains in 1844.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 1 (n.d.): 269–295.
Celinda E. Himes Diary, June 17, 1849, Paul and Helen Henderson Collection, Legacy of the Plains Museum, Gering, Nebraska
Harris, Earl R. “Robidoux-The First Settler in This Area.” Gering Courier(Gering), July 21, 1961
Herbert, Simon. Preliminary Study for the Reconstruction of the Robidoux Trading Post Carter Canyon, Nebraska. Simon Herbert Preservation Services Architectural Preservation and Restoration, Tucson Arizona, 1992.
Holl, Connor L. "Photos of Robidoux Post". March 16, 2018. Personal Collection
James Frear Diary, May 29, 1853, Paul and Helen Henderson Collection, Legacy of the Plains Museum, Gering, Nebraska
Mood, Fulmer. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 58, no. 4 (1955): 570-71. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30241912.
Payne, Clarence. "Locate Site of Ancient Blacksmith Shop." Scottsbluff Star(Scottsbluff), October 16, 1913.
Sutton, Allan. “From Chimney Rock to Fort Laramie.” Historic Traveler 3, no. 3 (March 1997): 36.
Willoughby, Robert J. The Brothers Robidoux and the Opening of the American West. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2012.