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Museum of Fur Trade chronicles unique historyMuseum of Fur Trade chronicles unique history

Down the Road: The museum in Chadron, Neb., details the lives and times of fur trappers and traders.

Curt Arens

June 16, 2023

2 Min Read
Lindeken Exhibit Hall at the Museum of Fur Trade near Chadron, Neb.,
ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN MEN: Lindeken Exhibit Hall at the Museum of Fur Trade near Chadron, Neb., commemorates the canoe men who moved fur trade goods and furs across the continent. Photos by Curt Arens

The Museum of Fur Trade on the east edge of Chadron, Neb., is truly a national treasure. It chronicles the lives and times of fur traders and trappers, those original mountain men, in a complete and detailed way that no other exhibit or museum could replicate.

As one of the first and largest businesses in early America, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of that fur trade industry to the country in those early days. Established in 1949, the Museum of Fur Trade was founded by Charles E. Hanson Jr., who grew up reading all he could about the West, selflessly devoting his time, money and energy for 48 years to serve as museum director, board secretary and president and publication editor. Today, the museum boasts more than 6,000 primary pieces, gathered one piece at a time.

When you enter the museum, you are greeted into the main exhibit hall, with historical objects crucial to the fur trade displayed in chronological order. You won’t want to miss “The Voyageurs” exhibit in Lindeken Exhibit Hall, beautifully commemorating the canoe men who moved the fur trade goods and furs across the continent.

Bevin B. and Maxine Bump Exhibit Hall highlights textiles as the single most important class of goods traded to American Indians, and the Museum of Fur Trade claims the most comprehensive collection in the world.

But we can’t forget about the guns. The Steerman Firearms Hall contains the largest and most complete collection of guns made specifically for Indians — such as the Northwest gun, Kentuckies, Hawken rifles, buffalo guns and many more.

Outside the main museum is a self-guided trail to highlight the history of the Bordeaux Trading Post. The museum is located on the James Bordeaux trading post location, established in 1837 as a site for the American Fur Co.

Today, the trading post has been painstakingly rebuilt to provide visitors a real-life glimpse into the days of the fur trader. The trail includes a rebuilt post, plus a warehouse, trade room, living quarters, robe press and an heirloom garden dedicated to Plains Indians.

Learn about the museum and the Bordeaux Trading Post history at furtrade.org.

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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