Fort Belmont (Civil War)
Though both had a lifespan of ten years or less (circ. 1857-1865), and have left behind almost no traces of their existence, the town and “fort” of Belmont hold a fascinating place in the county’s history. The sites were centered near the crossroads of trail lines leading from Humboldt to Eureka and Neosho Falls to Coyville/Fort Rowe, though today one best orients oneself by visiting the corner at Kanza Road and 70th Road southwest of Yates Center near the “new” reservoir. Keep in mind the reservoir did not exist at that time, and the key water source was Big Sandy Creek.
Though the area is essentially empty today save Belmont cemetery at the corner of Kanza Road and 80th Road, at the height of its existence, Belmont townsite featured a blacksmith shop, tavern, general store, post office, hotel, stage barn, Indian agency, and more. The town itself, somewhat akin to early county seats Kalida and Defiance, had around six hundred residents and more than twenty cabins. Using satellite imagery, via Google Earth, for example, one can still see the faint outline of the racetrack/parade grounds where soldiers and native people would race their horses.
As to the “fort” area itself, rather than a series of buildings manned by official Union army soldiers (like at Fort Scott), think instead of a few modest cabins and perhaps tents, which if necessary, could have been staffed by local frontier militiamen to prevent incursions by Confederate-supported militia from Missouri. Likely few if any people ever stayed there very long, as militiamen had homes nearby.
The “fort” proper was an earthen embankment with logs situated on top of it, about four feet high, with an ovular shape about two hundred feet across, which also served as a horse corral. According to H.J. Gregory, “It was built of long pens filled with dirt, and the pens were arranged in a circle with a house in the center.” Nearby along the creek, a spring was walled up with rocks that one can still find today.
Though it is sometimes claimed that the town and/or fort were destroyed by Quantrill’s raiders – pro-slavery Confederate militiamen who sacked Lawrence and murdered many of its citizens – there exists little to no evidence for this ever happening; destruction by fire is a more likely cause. Other contributing factors include: dispersal of the local militia, removal of the Indian agency, and the smallpox epidemic. The post office and general store remained for a while thereafter.