The small trading post is named for James Bordeaux, who was active in the fur trade in the vicinity of Fort Laramie beginning in the 1830s. Built by Bordeaux in 1846, the post served the Sioux Indians of northwestern Nebraska who brought buffalo robes, furs, and ponies to trade for beads, blankets, guns, and whiskey. A memorable incident occurred at the post in 1849 when a Crow war party attacked and raided Bordeaux’s horse herd. The pursuing Sioux party intercepted the Crow raiders and engaged in a major battle near a dramatic natural landmark in northwest Nebraska that now bears the name Crow Butte.
Bordeaux maintained the trading post until 1872 at which time it passed into the hands of Francis Boucher, another trader, who occupied the post for the next four years. His activities included smuggling arms and ammunition to the Indians who had been resisting the government in the years following the Civil War. In 1876 he was caught by army troopers and put out of business. By the time homesteaders and the railroad arrived in the mid-1880s the post on Bordeaux Creek was abandoned and in ruins.
The site includes two reconstructed buildings: a combined trading room and living quarters (28 x 13 feet) and a small warehouse (13 x 7 feet). Reconstruction in 1955 was based upon extensive archaeological investigations and eyewitness descriptions of the original trading post. Careful rebuilding of the main structure included walls aligned with the original, vertical members made to match the original posts and reset in the original postholes, and fireplace hearthstones and threshold stones left in their original locations. Other construction details include hand-hewn log walls and a low-pitched gable roof covered with sod. The main building is recessed into the ground up to the eaves. The earth slopes away from the building on the southwest corner, allowing for an entrance and several windows.
Because of the quality of the reconstruction the Bordeaux Trading Post remains as a vestige of early Nebraska history. The Bordeaux Trading Post shares its site with the nearby Museum of the Fur Trade. The extensive collections of the museum reveal the vast array of objects involved in the long period of trade with the native people.
Kolberg, Persijs, “Bordeaux (James) Trading Post,” Dawes County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1971. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.