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n. A line of posts or stakes set in the earth as a fence or barrier; a slight fortification. An enclosure made with posts and stakes. v.t. To surround or fortify with sharpened posts fixed in the ground; to protect by means of a stockade. — Webster, 1882

After breakfast we began the construction of a stockade. It was located near the center of the main park and close to the bank of a small stream known as French Creek. – David Aken, Pioneers of the Black Hills, 1920

Stockades have been in use since ancient times, to keep people and/or animals either in or out of an enclosed area. A stockade was one of the easiest fortresses to build as long as there was available timber, being nothing more than sharpened logs or boards buried in the ground and protruding above-ground like a picket fence. It could be as large or as small as was needed.

One famous stockade mentioned in These Happy Golden Years was built and occupied by Thomas Quiner, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s uncle. In 1874, he was part of the Gordon party, independent seekers of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota following General George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 expedition. Tom Quiner and 26 others left Sioux City, Iowa, in late 1874, in clear defiance of a law stating that the Black Hills was Indian land and not to be invaded. The party suffered hardships, but arrived in the Black Hills in late 1874, and they built a stockade in which to store their provisions and defend their position if necessary. In April of the following year, soldiers came to remove the members of the party. The following recounts the building of their stockade:

After breakfast we began the construction of a stockade. It was located near the center of the main park and close to the bank of a small stream known as French Creek. It was a fine location for a construction of this kind, being on a smooth flat about 400 yards from the nearest timber or point of rock. The stockade was 80 feet square in the clear, with bastions at each corner, so that those on the inside could shoot along the outside wall from either corner. It was made by digging a ditch four feet deep and standing pine logs on end. These logs were smooth and straight and were from 12 to 14 inches in diameter at the small end, and when completed stood 12 feet above the ground, while on the inside smaller timbers were fitted in the cracks and held to their places by double ribs firmly pinned on. A double gate made of 10 inch hewn timber opened on the side toward the creek, being the south side. Two rows of postholes completed a fortification behind the walls of which we felt quite secure and almost invincible.

…As soon as the stockade was completed most of the messes were reorganized—those going together or forming a company that experience had shown to be the most congenial companions, and best fitted to work together to the best advantage, and in the most agreeable manner. Each mess built its own cabin and six good, substantial houses were built during the extreme cold weather inside the stockade. Each had a good fireplace, made of stone, laid in mud. The roofing was made by splitting a log about a foot in diameter and hollowing each of these halves out like a trough. A course of these were laid out over the roof, with the hollow side up. Then another course was reversed, covering the jointings. Grass and mud were used to stop up all cracks. A couple of the messes went so far as to make puncheon floors, while others were content with Mother Earth. No nails were used in the entire construction of the stockade or cabins. – David Aken, Pioneers of the Black Hills or Gordon’s Stockade Party of 1874 (Milwaukee, privately published, 1920): 111-115.

In Little House on the Prairie, there is talk of building a stockade in which to protect the settlers (historically, squatters) on the Osage Diminished Reserve (see Chapter 23, “Indian War Cry”). The Ingalls family had arrived during a period of great unrest among the Indians, during negotiations to relinquish their holdings in the area so that the land might be opened for preemption. Of course, Little House on the Prairie ends with both the Osages and the squatters being forced from the land. There was no stockade built, since waiting until there was a threat of attack left no time in which to build one, and anticipating unrest by building a stockade would have been tempting fate.

In Little Town on the Prairie, Carrie and Laura pretend that the firecrackers they hear from the window of Pa’s store building during the Fourth of July celebration are guns, and that they are in a fort. After a bit of discussion, Laura suggests that they imagine they are “with Daniel Boone in Kentucky, and this is a log stockade.” (See Chapter 8, “Fourth of July”) Laura’s own history book contains little about Daniel Boone, just that “Kentucky was at first considered a part of Virginia, and was explored before the Revolution by the famous hunter and pioneer, Daniel Boone.” — Edward Taylor, A Model History : A Brief Account of the American People, for Schools (Chicago: George Sherwood and Company, 1878): 144.

Following an 1775 treaty with the Cherokee Indians relinquishing land between the Ohio River, the Cumberland Mountains, the Cumberland River, and the Kentucky River, Daniel Boone and a group of explorers pushed forward to the Kentucky River despite being attacked repeatedly by Indians. He built a log stockade fort which took the name of Boonesborough, and he lived here from 1775 until 1779. It was the first town in Kentucky, yet was eventually abandoned. Today it is the site of Fort Boonesborough State Park.


stockade (LHP 23; LTP 8; THGY 13) – Replica of the Gordon Stockade at Custer State Park in South Dakota is located off Highway 16A just inside the park’s west entrance.